By SCOTT McCLOSKEY
Despite an uncertain national economy, 2011 continues to be a "standout" year for capital improvements in the small city of Benwood, according to city leaders.
Photo by Scott McCloskey
Benwood Mayor Ed Kuca, left, and Police Chief Frank Longwell, who both co-chair the community’s economic development committee, look over the front of one of four abandoned structures in the city that are scheduled for demolition as part of the community’s capital improvement and beautification projects.
Police Chief Frank Longwell and Mayor Ed Kuca, who both co-chair the community's economic development committee, agree that the industries in the city - a coal mine, a metal recycling plant, a talcum powder plant and others - combined with recent growth of smaller business in the community are providing a solid tax base, allowing city leaders to move forward with a variety of initiatives.
"With the recession and that ... a lot of projects are put on hold. ... Fortunately, Benwood is totally the opposite. We see a lot of growth in our business district. Our city financially - we're going to close the books June 30 with a healthy surplus, and we're actually putting hundreds of thousands of dollars back into infrastructure and our city," said Longwell.
"A lot of these places are expanding, and we get B&O tax off of building permits and construction costs. We have seen an enormous amount of cash flow, especially on the Consol belt line and all the associated construction work," Longwell added. "This all means tax dollars for the city, and we spend our money wisely ... and we are really conservative on spending and we try to get the biggest bang for our buck."
According to Longwell, the city has gone the extra mile this year to invest back into the community's infrastructure. While several projects are already complete, others are either ongoing or scheduled in the coming months. Some of the projects include: the repaving of nine city streets at a cost of $51,000, the demolition of four abandoned structures, the completion of a new sidewalk along Roosevelt Avenue funded with a $68,000 Department of Transportation Grant, spraying the city's flood wall for weed and tree control and the continuation of the city's water improvement project.
The water project consists of painting the water tower in south Benwood, the installation of 52 new water shut-off valves throughout the city, the replacement of waterlines in several sections of the city and two new water pumps. The installation of the new water shut-off valves will make it much easier for city crews to "isolate water stoppage to residents" anytime a major break occurs, according to Longwell.
Kuca said there are a few more businesses planning to locate in Benwood, and "the future of the city looks really great." He said there are at least two new businesses that will be locating in the business district in the near future, and he agreed with Longwell that there is "no wasteful spending" by the city.
"We have a big announcement that we plan on making here shortly ... ," Longwell said. "We did land a sizable tenant in the industrial park."
He said officials have been working for years to develop the industrial park in hopes of attracting more tenants to that location.
"We really feel that once you get one place there with an American flag flying, it will be like a domino effect," he said, noting that every year the city tries to put a portion of its budget back into the city's infrastructure and maintenance. However, this year they decided to go that "extra mile."
Longwell said another project the city continues to improve on is the Benwood City Park and the community's beautification project.
"We believe that the Benwood facility - from the ballfields, to the pool, to the golf course - looks the best that it has in probably the past 10 years," Longwell added.
He said the golf course recently received a few renovations and updates. "We really went the extra mile this year, and our pool is in A-one shape."
"What we're really stepping up is the beautification throughout the city," said Longwell.