Wheeling Back to Square One on Funding Public Safety Building

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WHEELING — Mayor Glenn Elliott said the city will look at alternative funding mechanisms and solutions to public safety facilities issues following the defeat of a $22 million levy in Tuesday’s election.

Elliott addressed the issue Wednesday at the start of a meeting of Wheeling City Council, and said the city would not give up on the idea of improving facilities for Wheeling’s police and fire departments. He later indicated he may bring before council the idea of a city “user fee” to fund new facilities.

The levy needed 60 percent approval of voters under West Virginia law. In Tuesday’s general election, it received 53 percent of the vote, capturing 5,060 votes in favor, and 4,337 against, according to Tuesday night totals.

“We haven’t given up on this issue,” Elliott told council members Wednesday. “We have to regroup and figure out what the next best options are. Despite the vote, deficiencies in the buildings still remain. They don’t go away.

“We’re going to keep working at it to figure out the next best solution,” he said. “I think the fact a clear majority of residents spoke out in favor of this is something we have to look at going forward.”

After the meeting, Elliott said the city has two alternatives to consider.

One of those would be finding another location for the severely undersized police department facility, and considering improvements to fire stations at a later time.

The second option would be to look at alternative mechanisms for funding a new public safety building, such as implementing a user fee in the city. This fee would be charged to those who work in the city, but who aren’t city residents.

This could be done by an act of council and would not require a voter referendum, Elliott explained. Most larger cities in West Virginia have such a fee, he said.

In other matters, council unanimously passed a motion supporting Hershel “Woody” Williams Medal of Honor Foundation Gold Star Families Memorial Monument. The statue pays tribute to families who lost a loved one at war.

Williams — a West Virginian and a Medal of Honor winner from World War II — approached Wheeling officials this summer about erecting one of the monuments in Wheeling at Heritage Port, according to Elliott.

Each monument costs about $50,000, he said. Williams asked the city of Wheeling to contribute $10,000 for the statue, and Ohio County commissioners have agreed to match that with another $10,000.

Greg Smith and C.J. Kaiser of the Wheeling Landmarks Commission presented two Wheeling property owners with plaques designating their properties as having historical value. Those were given to Rose Humway, owner of the property at 1625 Wood St., and Jeremy Alvarado, owner of 749, 751 and 753 Main St.

Christine Schessler, an architect with McKinley & Associates, was approved by council to be the newest member of the Wheeling Planning Commission. Schessler designed the Wheeling Island fire station, City Manager Robert Herron told council.

Herron said the city had plans to pave 44 streets this fall, and so far 19 of the projects have been completed. He expects the remainder to be finished by Thanksgiving.

A pedestrian bridge for the area near Wheeling Jesuit University is being manufactured, and should be delivered within the next two weeks, Herron said.

“We’re on pace to finish the project by the end of the year,” he told council.

It also was announced during the meeting that Councilman Brian Wilson became a father for the first time last week, and so did Councilman Ty Thorngate in recent months. City officials contributed toward gift certificates that were presented to each at Wednesday’s council meeting.