City Trying To Save Flood Wall

Wheeling City Manager Robert Herron said he has asked the demolition contractor razing the 145-year-old Gene Long Community Center on Wheeling Island to try to save a portion of the building on which high water marks from various floods in the city’s history are recorded.

After hearing from a number of residents interested in preserving the condemned building’s most prominent feature, Herron met Friday with City Engineer Conrad Slanina and Edgco Inc. owner Bruce Edge to discuss the matter.

“They’re going to try to save the corner of the building where the flood gauge is and where the arch is,” Herron said during Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

The vacant building, which has served at various times as a pharmacy, grocery store, bar and community gathering spot before the Long family donated it to the city a few years ago, had fallen into disrepair. Following an unsuccessful attempt to sell the building, City Council voted in December to tear it down.

According to Herron, the Wheeling National Heritage Area Corp. supports the effort and has agreed to foot the bill if any additional costs are incurred in preserving the flood wall.

“I will stress there are no guarantees the contractor will be able to leave the flood wall intact,” he cautioned.

Council also heard first reading of an ordinance calling for a 15-percent increase in the city’s property tax levy that supports the Ohio Valley Regional Transportation Authority. The replacement levy would fund the bus service from July 1, 2015, when the existing levy is set to expire, through June 30, 2018.

McKenzie stressed that OVRTA is asking for the 15-percent increase from each of the communities it serves to offset increased operating costs, and the city is merely putting the issue on the ballot at the authority’s request.

The new levy would result in an annual property tax increase of about $6 for a home assessed at $100,000. If council approves the measure at its next meeting, the levy – which requires a 60-percent majority for passage – would go on the ballot at the May 13 primary election.

McKenzie pointed out Benwood recently approved putting a levy on the ballot that only calls for a 5 percent increase, and asked whether Wheeling would end up picking up the slack. Herron – who serves on the OVRTA board – said that would not be the case, noting Wheeling already contributes the lion’s share of the authority’s budget because it is the largest community served. He added the Benwood matter is expected to be a topic of discussion during an OVRTA meeting planned for this afternoon.

Wheeling’s levy generates slightly more than $1 million for OVRTA, while the increased levy would bring in slightly more than $1.2 million. OVRTA Executive Director Tom Hvizdos has said the authority will be operating at a deficit by 2017 at its current funding level.