WHEELING - Wheeling City Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to increase residential garbage collection rates by $1.50 per month and to delay voting on a proposed stop sign that has caused controversy in the Pleasanton area.
Those votes also were among the final to be cast by Councilmen Vernon Seals and James Tiu, who were participating in their final meeting as council members before their terms in office end June 30. Both men chose not to run for another term in last month's municipal election, and both received heartfelt goodbyes from colleagues and constituents Tuesday night.
No residents spoke during a public hearing on the rate increase, which City Manager Robert Herron said is necessary to offset increasing costs and replenish the city's garbage truck replacement fund. The city projects garbage fee collections of $1.8 million for the current fiscal year which ends June 30, and with the monthly per-customer fee jumping from $13 to $14.50, that figure is expected to increase to about $1.92 million for the 2012-13 fiscal year.
Photo by Ian Hicks
Wheeling Councilmen Vernon Seals, left, and James Tiu prepare to enjoy a celebratory slice of cake, which has each man’s edible photo on it, after participating in their final meeting as council members. Both men chose not to seek another term in May’s municipal election.
During a Finance Committee meeting held prior to the regular council meeting, Councilman Robert "Herk" Henry said he spoke with a resident who doesn't oppose the rate increase but would like to see garbage collectors neatly place his garbage cans back onto the sidewalk rather than throwing them into the yard or the street. Herron said the city encourages sanitation workers "to be as gentle as they can" with garbage cans and he would follow up on any future complaints.
In other business, council voted to table an ordinance calling for stop signs on Valley View Avenue at its intersection with Biltmore Avenue and Betty Street after council members said they wanted more time to study the issue. City officials on Tuesday heard from three residents of that street - two in favor of the plan and one against - before voting to wait until July 3 to decide the matter.
Council concluded business by recognizing Seals and Tiu for their service to the city. Both men received plaques bearing proclamations in their honor, and Seals - who has served on council since 1988 - received a framed collage of photos depicting all six administrations with which he's served.
"Now I can figure out who all the troublemakers were," he joked.
In his time on council, Seals, who is chairman of the Finance Committee, has overseen numerous projects, including a new Wheeling Island fire station, upgrades to the Wheeling Island Marina and Bridge Park, new playground equipment in his ward and numerous infrastructure projects.
McKenzie said Seals' passion for the city and his ward are unquestioned, and his presence in city government will be missed.
"I always knew if you said it, you meant it. ... I didn't always like it, but I knew it was true," McKenzie told Seals.
Seals said he's been fascinated by politics since he was young, and he's looking forward to spending more time with family members who have been a constant source of support during his years on council.
"I'll do anything for the city of Wheeling. ... I truly hope I have made a difference," said Seals.
Tiu, who was elected to represent the 4th Ward in 2008, said he's moving from one form of public service to another, having taken a job with the Public Defender's Office about six months ago. He said he will bring the same energy to that position as he did to his duties on council.
"It was a privilege to serve the members of the ward. ... It's been a blessing," said Tiu.
During his term on council, Tiu pushed for council to approve construction of an updated water treatment plant, which is expected to be complete by summer 2014.
McKenzie said Tiu's work ethic, integrity and willingness to challenge conventional thinking were valuable assets to the city's leadership.
"James always brought a different perspective. ... I think each piece of legislation we've done the last four years is better because of it," McKenzie said.