Time a Factor On Garage Plan

Wheeling City Council members had little choice but to suspend City Manager Robert Herron indefinitely, in view of the driving under the influence charge against him. But taking him out of the office intensifies the pressure they already were under regarding major initiatives council has been considering.

Herron was charged with DUI after he was involved in a traffic accident Saturday night, while driving a city vehicle. After meeting behind closed doors for more than three hours Monday evening, council voted to suspend him indefinitely, without pay.

Then, council named Fire Chief Larry Helms as acting city manager.

Helms will do a good job, we are confident. But he steps into the position with a handicap: He is not Robert Herron.

By that we mean there is no way Helms has the knowledge Herron possesses regarding proposals for a new public safety building and a new parking garage in downtown Wheeling. Herron has been looking into alternatives to provide improved facilities for the police and fire departments. He also has been involved in the proposal to build an $11 million parking garage downtown.

Simply because Helms has not been doing the city manager’s job, he is not “in the loop” on some important matters.

Mayor Glenn Elliott probably can fill in many of the blanks because of his intensive involvement in both the public safety and garage proposals. Unavoidably, however, Helms faces a steep learning curve.

Time is a factor, too. Just a week ago, council members were told a plan to remodel the old Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel building for use as residential space hinges, at least in part, on a city commitment to build that parking garage. During that meeting, a representative of the company planning to renovate the structure said crews would be ready to begin work in about six weeks.

Getting a proposal for the garage together, then airing it publicly, will be more difficult because of Herron’s absence. Clearly, however, that is the most time-sensitive item on city officials’ plate. It will need to be their overriding priority during the next few weeks.

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