WHEELING - Duane Ellis is back from his 2008 loss in the race for the 3rd Ward City Council seat, but to his disappointment, it turns out he's running again for some of the same reasons.
When he ran against incumbent Robert "Herk" Henry and hopefuls Chris Hamm and Edwin "Ted" Maxwell four years ago, the primary discussion points were the repairs needed at the Ark Avenue playground in Mozart and the demolition of the 1100 block of Main and Market streets in downtown.
"Those were the issues in 2008 (and in) 2012, those are still the issues," Ellis said. "(Henry is) just coasting his way through."
Ellis said he has supported the 1100 block demolition, which started last year, and criticized Henry for the lack of action at the playground.
"If I was 'Herk' and I won, that playground is what I'd get on first," Ellis said.
The playground first entered the public eye in 2007 when Hamm and several residents hoped to fix it up. Since then, the area had been leveled but has not been redeveloped.
Ellis said he is also a proponent of getting more small businesses back into the downtown area. In response to the Wheeling Nailers hockey team going to sale, he said the city administration should have done more to offer incentives to the owners for them to stay, keeping the team's effect on nearby businesses in mind.
However, he criticized comments from other council hopefuls who want to abolish or lessen the business and occupation tax, which has been said to be a deterrent for new businesses.
"How can they cut the B&O tax?" Ellis said, noting it is one of the city's largest revenue builders. "If you cut it, you have to get it somewhere else."
He added the Downtown Business District Enhancement Tax Credit, which drops the tax for the first four years, is enough to attract businesses.
As for the 3rd Ward, he said he believes more initiative should be taken to market Center and South Wheeling because of the number of open lots available for expansion opportunities.
In response to several structure fires in his ward in the last several years, he said the owners of burned buildings should be charged double in vacant structure fees to push for faster reaction to demolish and make the neighborhood more marketable. He pointed to an apartment building in the 2300 block of Chapline Street that caught fire Oct. 31, 2010, and remained standing for nearly a year.
In a separate issue, Ellis said he wants to explore the possibility of alternate means to finance $36 million worth of water treatment plant improvements that would lessen the burden on residents. Pending a decision from the West Virginia Public Service Commission, water customers could see an 80 percent rate increase to pay for the plant.
"Twelve years ago, we were told (the plant is) old," he said. "(The improvements) should have started 10 years ago. The ghosts of councilmen past (are at fault) on that."
Per state PSC guidelines, however, utility improvements must be financed with revenue from customers' bills, but Ellis said he would like to appeal against the rule.