WHEELING - City officials' years-long pursuit of the former Howard's Diamond Center in the downtown appears to be over, with City Council set to approve an agreement to acquire the vacant building for $58,815.
City Council will hear first reading of an ordinance authorizing City Manager Robert Herron to sign the agreement during its meeting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the City-County Building, when they also hold a public hearing concerning the proposed federal Community Development Block Grant budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year and vote on a number of other items, including raising ambulance fees, setting property tax levy rates and annexing a portion of Glen Hollin Drive.
The former jewelry store - which was still open downtown at the time City Council was acquiring most of the properties - is one of three buildings on the block the city could not reach agreements to purchase several years ago. But in 2010, the jewelry store moved to The Highlands retail development, and in October 2012, the city's demolition contractor, Dore and Associates of Bay City, Mich., severely damaged the building during demolition of the adjacent structure. That led to a federal lawsuit between the Posins and their insurance company which dragged on for nearly a year before the parties settled in late February.
The property was appraised at $68,200 in 2008, and its most recent assessed value is $29,700, according to the Ohio County Assessor's Office. Using the typical 60-percent standard of assessed value versus appraised value, that would translate to an appraised value of about $49,600.
Herron said he's satisfied with the deal, and he hopes to have a cost estimate for demolition by the time council votes on the purchase agreement on May 6.
"Prior to the accident we were negotiating the purchase of that building. This price was in range of what we were negotiating," he said. "We're glad to get this resolved."
Thursday's signing of the proposed purchase agreement by the Posin family, which owns the 1125 Market St. building, brings to a close a saga that dates back several years to the administration of former Mayor Nick Sparachane, which began the process of purchasing property in the 1100 block of Main and Market streets using tax increment financing. In 2011, council under Mayor Andy McKenzie's first administration made the decision to tear the structures down to create open space for future development.
Herron said the city is not actively negotiating with the other two businesses remaining in the 1100 block, Panda Chinese Kitchen and Vocelli Pizza.
Among the items up for a vote Tuesday is the municipal levy rate for the 2014-15 fiscal year. The proposed total rates per $100 of assessed value remain the same as last year and include: 15.6 cents for Class I property, 31.2 cents for Class II property and 62.4 cents for Class III and IV property. This includes the regular municipal levy, the Wheeling Park Commission levy, municipal bond levy and Ohio Valley Regional Transportation Authority levy. The total could change, however if voters approve a 15-percent increase in the OVRTA levy during the May 6 primary election.
Meanwhile, the city is proposing to increase its fees for ambulance service to $500 for basic life support, $650 for advanced life support and $10 per mile from the current $350, $450 and $7 per mile, respectively. The fee hike is expected to generate about $300,000 in additional revenue each year.