Officers of the organization vowed Tuesday to become advocates for Wheeling Heights residents who stand to lose their homes if the West Virginia Division of Highways decides to remove the trouble-laden tunnel.
Several residents spoke out at a meeting of the Upper Ohio Valley Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People held at Macedonia Baptist Church in Wheeling.
Mary Ondeck said she loves her neighborhood and there is only one way she intends to leave.
“How do you relocate 50 families?” she said. “I’m not going anywhere until they carry me out. We are a community up there, and we will band together to stop this plan.”
Carroll Adams voiced displeasure at the lack of communication between neighborhood residents and the involved state officials.
“Everybody up there is left hanging, waiting for an answer from Charleston,” he said, noting he also is concerned for younger people who have invested money to buy their homes. “They will never get out of them the money they have in them.”
Mark Garrett said those who live on Wheeling Heights and the NAACP should work as a group on the issue.
“You have more strength as a group,” he said. “I encourage you to stick together.”
Chapter Vice President Rod Lee said he talked with an official of WVDOH’s District 6 and was told the open cut may not be feasible.
“He said the open cut seems unrealistic, but he does not have the last say,” Lee said, adding he intends to invite WVDOH officials to a chapter meeting to further discuss options for tunnel repair or replacement.
Some residents said their questions remained unanswered after a March 2 meeting at Wheeling Heights was attended by members of the state Legislature.
“That meeting was held for political advancement,” Lee said, promising the group the local NAACP chapter will get involved.
“We will support you in whatever you want us to do,” Lee said. “If necessary, we will fight tooth and nail with those in power.”
Chapter President Ronald Scott Jr. said, “We will pursue whatever you want us to pursue.”
Scott said the chapter’s mission is to be an advocate with the people rather to advocate for them.
“We will be a funnel to bring all involved together,” he said.
Prior to the tunnel discussion, Secretary Rhonda West reported about a career workshop to be held Monday at the YMCA on Chapline Street.
“We will have a session from noon until 1:30 p.m. for students and from 6 to 7:30 p.m. for adults,” she said. “We hope to help them with interviewing skills, resume building, cover letter techniques and professionalism tactics.”
West said the chapter also is planning an April job fair at West Virginia Northern Community College.
“We don’t have the dates for that yet,” she said. “We plan to bring in area businesses and connect them with potential employees.”
Photo by Fred Connors
Attending a Tuesday meeting of the Upper Ohio Valley Chapter of the NAACP is a group of residents from the Wheeling Heights neighborhood, located above the Wheeling Tunnel. Most said they oppose removal of the tunnel to make way for an open cut through the hill.