Be Realistic About Wheeling’s Future

ditor, News-Register:

Regarding the formation of a citizens panel to assist the Wheeling Planning Commission with the formulation of a Wheeling master plan (The Wheeling Intelligencer, Feb. 4), I first suggest to the commissioners and the panel that they set aside any fond memories they may have of Wheeling during the days of their youth, if they were raised in Wheeling, and if a commissioner or panel member were not raised in Wheeling, I urge you to not be influenced by some of the glory day stories you will probably hear, because those days are long gone, never to return.

The commission, once formed, must first take a present-day inventory of the assets that Wheeling possesses, i.e., what is available that would draw new businesses to the city and what can be done to enhance those assets considering the current economic condition of the city. At this point in time all the hopes and dreams of the commission must be set aside and the reality of the current days’ situation must be brutally assessed.

The obvious assets of the city are 1) The Ohio River, 2) The Interstate Highway, 3) The Ohio County Airport, 4) The Ohio County School system, 5) Oglebay and Wheeling Parks, and 6) to a lesser degree, The Race Track and Casino, and the Capitol Theatre.

On the other side of the ledger the commission must honestly confront the liabilities of the city, i.e., those things that would discourage businesses or families from moving to the city, or for that matter, staying in the city if they are already there.

The obvious liabilities of the city are as follows: 1) the vacant structures, both commercial and residential that blight the city, 2) the antiquated infrastructure, 3) the strong labor union influence that discourages outsiders from moving in, 4) an aged population, 5) a limited workforce, 6) the city and state tax structure, and 7) the overall shabby and rundown appearance of the city.

There are two other important factors that must be considered realistically. First is the topography of the area, i.e., the lay of the land, and second, the fact that Wheeling, because of extreme short sightedness, no longer has a “downtown” retail area.

Some who are interested in government and the salvation of Wheeling and Ohio County may recall that in 2007 there was a movement bantered about concerning metro government, which is the unification of the Ohio County and Wheeling governments into a single governing body. This idea at the time scared local politicians and the idea died of neglect. I offer that if a planning commission were really a sincere planning commission, a public panel would be formed to reopen discussion on the issue of unification and, ignoring the fear mongering of the politicians, it would soon be realized that this is an idea whose time has come.

I will be forwarding my thoughts on both the assets and the liabilities of Wheeling to the Planning Commission, and the Wheeling newspapers, recognizing that neither wish to hear anything from me, but persist I will, because just as Tony Bennett left his heart in San Francisco, I left mine in Wheeling.

William H. Hefner

Palm City, Fla.