Council to Vote On Loan for Field

WHEELING – Dirt should soon be moving on the $3.3 million East Wheeling J.B. Chambers Recreation Park if City Council approves a number of related measures Tuesday, including a loan of up to $1.15 million to help cover construction costs.

Council’s noon meeting will take place in the first-floor council chambers at the City-County Building, 1500 Chapline St.

The city has sought private donations for the project, and at last count, officials still needed to raise $200,000 to $300,000 to fully fund construction, according to Mayor Andy McKenzie. Some already-pledged contributions will be paid in annual installments – that’s where the loan will come in, allowing Wheeling to pay its contractor, low-bidder James White Construction of Weirton, and retire the loan with donations as they are received, he said.

Council also will vote on a resolution to transfer $42,619 in unspent federal Community Development Block funds originally earmarked for building demolition to the East Wheeling project. While the $1.52 million contract for the artificial turf field was within the city’s budget, the $561,000 playground contract – bid separately because the city plans to use federal Community Development Block Grant money to build it – exceeded what council originally had set aside in its CDBG budget.

In addition to the $2.08 million in construction contracts, Wheeling already has spent $1.2 million on property acquisition, project design and demolition, bringing the overall estimated tally to almost $3.3 million.

Provided work begins later this month as anticipated, officials believe the park will be finished before winter.

Plans for the facility include the lighted, artificial turf field which will be suitable for football, soccer, lacrosse and softball. The playground will feature restrooms, a variety of new equipment built over a protective surface and two basketball courts, also lighted.

City leaders first revealed those plans three summers ago. When that announcement was made, the city already had purchased most of the property on the block – but still faced a months-long fight with several property owners, including then-councilman James Tiu, who refused to sell.

While Tiu eventually settled with the city, three others contested the city’s right to use eminent domain to seize their properties. Now-retired Circuit Judge Arthur Recht sided with Wheeling officials, clearing the way for the city to level the block last summer.

Major donors to the project announced thus far include the J.B. Chambers Foundation, Wheeling Hospital, the Albert Schenk III and Kathleen H. Schenk Charitable Trust, the Bordas & Bordas law firm and the Roy and Dorothy Chambers Foundation.