Winter Cools Project’s Progress

WHEELING – The arrival of winter weather cooled progress on the J.B. Chambers Recreation Park in East Wheeling, as City Manager Robert Herron said work on the project likely now will stretch into May.

When city leaders awarded construction contracts for the park in August, they hoped work on the $3.3 million project would be complete by the end of this year. However, Herron said the artificial turf field cannot be installed in sub-40-degree weather, so that will have to wait until spring.

Cold weather will not halt work at the site entirely, however. According to Herron, site leveling and work on the drainage system that will run under the field will continue through the winter.

Herron said he anticipates installation of restroom facilities in March. Delivery of lighting structures for the park also was delayed due to lack of availability, and Herron also expects those to arrive in March.

During a City Council meeting this week, Vice Mayor Eugene Fahey asked Herron where things stand on adding a crosswalk across 16th Street to make it safer for pedestrians walking to the park. The stretch of 16th Street that passes the site is considered a state road, thus painting a crosswalk would be the West Virginia Division of Highways’ responsibility.

Herron said discussions with the DOH have yet to take place, but he assured Fahey the issue would be addressed before the park opens.

Wheeling leaders first announced the park project three and a half years ago, declaring their intent to clear an entire block largely occupied by vacant and dilapidated houses. Not all the properties were vacant, however, and a few property owners fought a losing court battle to prevent the city from taking their homes via eminent domain.

The city’s construction contracts with James White Construction of Weirton total about $2.08 million, and the city previously spent about $1.2 million on design, property acquisition and demolition, bringing the park’s total price tag to about $3.3 million.

Thus far, city officials have identified $1.81 million in outside funding sources for the project, including $1.25 million in private donations and $560,000 from its federal Community Development Block Grant. The city also took out a $1.15 million loan for the project in order to get construction started, pending additional donations and the arrival of some contributions which were pledged over a number of years.

Mayor Andy McKenzie previously said it’s his goal for the project to be funded entirely with private donations.