Heritage Port User Fee Pondered by Wheeling City Council

City council to consider measure

Photo by Casey Junkins Wheeling City Council is considering imposing a fee on event organizers for using Heritage Port.

WHEELING — Organizers of the Wheeling Vintage Raceboat Regatta, Heritage Music BluesFest, Ohio Valley BBQ Rib and Chicken Cook-Off and similar events may soon have to pay $500 per day to use Heritage Port, as city officials consider instituting fees for the venue.

“The fee would go back into maintaining Heritage Port. We have a wonderful waterfront, and we need to be able to keep it up to date,” Councilman Dave Palmer said.

During a recent meeting of the city’s Rules Committee attended by all members of council, officials discussed the possibility of charging event organizers for using the port area. This charge would be in addition to the costs promoters pay the city to provide water, electricity and trash collection services.

“The goal is not to be punitive. We certainly don’t want to discourage anyone from using it,” Mayor Glenn Elliott said. “This is about generating funds to put some money back into the port.”

The Heritage Port amphitheater and surrounding area opened in the early 2000s on the spot the Wharf Parking Garage once occupied. Elliott, Palmer and Vice Mayor Chad Thalman said the venue is showing age.

“It is getting older,” Thalman said. “Right now, the taxpayers are paying for maintenance at Heritage Port. The whole idea of charging festivals is to create funding for maintenance.”

Information Thalman provided shows Charleston, Huntington, Morgantown and Point Pleasant charge fees for those who hold events at public venues. These fees range from a low of $350 per day to a high of $800 per day.

Elliott said his idea would be to charge anywhere from $350-$500 per day, while Thalman mentioned the $500 figure.

“I think this is a worthwhile discussion. My concern is that the fee would have to be fair and equitable,” Palmer said.

Thalman emphasized the preliminary nature of the discussions.

“Most of the festivals charge the vendors who set up. The city, right now, is not getting any of that,” Thalman said.

Council will convene at noon Tuesday on the first floor of the City-County Building at 1500 Chapline St. The meeting will begin with a public hearing regarding plans to sell up to $10 million in tax increment financing bonds to assist Alecto Healthcare Services with the operation of Ohio Valley Medical Center.

City leaders have said they likely will not sell the full $10 million in TIF bonds the proposed ordinance would authorize, as they have said the total amount likely would be closer to $5 million. Officials said they plan to use as much as $1.5 million to demolish the former demolish the former nurses’ residence at OVMC, along with as much as $2 million for upgrades and new elevators at the Center Wheeling parking garage.

TIF allows governments to perform improvements to a property by accessing the money that will result from the property’s increase in value.

The city plans eventually to transfer ownership of the garage to the Area Development Corp., which is a nonprofit entity that Wheeling uses to facilitate property deals. The ADC will then lease the 830-space garage to Alecto for $1 per year.

Additionally, the city will use funds toward the demolition of the former nurses’ residence at OVMC, as city leaders said Alecto plans to construct a new building on this site.

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