Ohio County Securing Wheeling Police Station

Photo by Casey Junkins Those entering the City-County Building on Chapline Street in Wheeling during the day must pass through a metal detector.

WHEELING — Ohio County officials plan to spend $175,000 to install a new entrance in the City-County Building for the Wheeling Police Department — an entrance that city officials say they didn’t ask for and don’t really know anything about.

The new entrance is planned by the Ohio County Commission, which owns the building and leases space within the nearly 60-year-old structure to the city. Commissioner Orphy Klempa said the new entrance would allow the main doors at the Chapline Street entrance to be locked after business hours. The doors currently remain open after 5 p.m. to allow access to the Wheeling Police Department.

However, the city is working on a plan to ask voters to spend $15 million for a new public safety building in downtown to house the Wheeling police and fire departments. If that happens, the space currently occupied by the police department could, eventually, be vacated.

“I really don’t know much about the city’s plans for a new building. If they vacate the space, we’ll find a use for it,” Klempa said.

City Manager Robert Herron said Wheeling pays $195,000 per year to rent all the space that it uses at the City-County Building.

Klempa said a new entrance would better secure the City-County Building.

“We’ll give it a separate door,” Klempa said of the police department. “That way, the public can still access the department while we secure the rest of the building.”

On evenings when either the city or county holds a meeting, Klempa said the regular entrance would remain open. Otherwise, the main building will be closed after regular business hours.

Klempa said the cost of the project will be about $175,000. He said $100,000 of this will come from a West Virginia Courthouse Facilities Improvement Authority grant, while the remainder will come from county funds.

“It will start this year, sometime. Once we receive the grant dollars, we’ll put it out to bid,” Klempa said.

Herron said late Thursday he is not familiar with the specifics of the county’s plans to change the entrance to the police department.

“We appreciate the security that the county provides for our offices. Any additional security will be a plus,” Herron said.

Meanwhile, city officials are hoping voters approve a levy during the November election to fund the $15 million public safety building for the north end of downtown Wheeling. According to Mayor Glenn Elliott and Vice Mayor Chad Thalman, the current police station lacks in these areas: compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act; adequate bathroom facilities; training space; adequate space for meetings or evidence storage; enough storage space for riot gear and firearms; functional and secure rooms to conduct interviews with video and audio recording; sufficient room for desks and work areas; a locker room and workout area; a lunch room; and a secure area for parking cruisers.

Even if voters approve the new building this year, Herron said it would “years” before the city vacates the current police department.