Wheeling City Leaders Respond To Criticism of Garage Plans

WHEELING — City officials maintain they are being transparent about plans to construct a new parking garage downtown after hearing criticism on the matter at this week’s council meeting.

Mayor Glenn Elliott and other city officials said any decisions regarding the planned parking garage, which would accompany the rehabilitation of the former Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel headquarters and be located across Market Street, will be voted on by city council and involve a public hearing.

During the meeting’s public comment period, Wheeling resident Jerry Jacobs said that, based on a draft memorandum of understanding he obtained from the city, he believes the planned parking garage would be a burden to taxpayers.

“I respectfully request that you, mayor, and the city council take no further action on this MOU since it’s not in the interest of the taxpayers of the city of Wheeling,” Jacobs said at the meeting.

City Manager Robert Herron said the memorandum Jacobs referred to is not accurate or up-to-date. The document is a draft, dated November 2018, and has several blank spaces.

“It’s already changed,” Herron said of the document. “It’s a work in progress.”

Earlier in January, the city completed interviews with six architectural and engineering firms with proposals for a parking structure that would be built on current parking lots between 1145 Main St. and 1145 Market St., adjacent to the Robinson Law Offices.

Construction of the structure is expected to cost $22,000 per parking space, Herron said, though the number of spaces is yet to be finalized.

At the meeting, Jacobs posed several questions to council, such as why plans for the structure haven’t been discussed with the public, how much income would go to the lots’ landowners and how the structure would benefit taxpayers.

“Taxpayers need to know what’s going on, and I don’t feel that’s the case,” Jacobs said.

Herron said any memorandum of understanding would have to be approved by an ordinance through council and any lease involving the city and the lots’ property owners would have to be approved by an ordinance and a public hearing.

“Every one of those questions that he asked would be addressed before we vote on them,” Elliott said. “They’re all fair questions.”

Elliott added that the city doesn’t negotiate property acquisitions in public. However, it’s not yet clear if the city would acquire the property where the garage is planned to be built or lease the property.

“We have public hearings about everything,” Councilwoman Wendy Scatterday said. “It’s not like something’s been done. Nothing’s been done.”

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