Benwood to Build Community Center at Park Site

Benwood residents will soon say goodbye to the turtle, whale and other creatures at Benwood City Park as city officials plan to eliminate the miniature golf course there and build a community center in its place.

Work has already begun to move dirt and create a 150-spot parking lot for the facility on the opposite side of the W.Va. 2 on-ramp opposite the park, said Police Chief Frank Longwell. The city has a 100-year lease with the West Virginia Department of Transportation to utilize the lot for parking purposes only.

Visitors will walk across the off-ramp to the park to attend events, and landscaping will be placed in the area to improve the look of the entrance to Center Benwood, according to Longwell.

Longwell also serves as the city’s development director, and he credited the tax revenue generated by Benwood’s strong industrial base for resulting in a $776,000 surplus in the city’s budget for the last fiscal year. The money has been used to establish a rainy day fund and make improvements in the city.

Recent months have seen the Benwood City Building get exterior upgrades. Streets have been paved, dilapidated buildings taken down and two additional employees were hired for upkeep at the park. Last year, employees received a $500 bonus, and this year they received a $1 an hour across the board raise.

“It get downs to what the U.S. government should be doing – focusing on industry,” he said. “We got away from manufacturing, and that cost jobs. When everybody is working, government makes out.”

And Benwood has a history of being an industrial town, according to Longwell.

“We don’t get too upset when we see a truck on our roads, or someone is making noise in the industrial park,” he said. “We work well with our neighbors.”

Longwell said he has seen many lean days in Benwood during his 30 years as chief, and that makes he and other city officials hesitate before authorizing expenditures even though the city is now on solid financial footing.

“You have to get the biggest bang for the buck,” he said. “Just because you have surpluses doesn’t mean you go crazy.”