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City Council to Discuss Public Safety Building

WHEELING — City officials will talk about new options to expand space for Wheeling’s police and fire departments today at a Wheeling City Council committee meeting.

Council’s three-member Public Safety Committee will meet at 5 p.m. for a “discussion on public safety building,” according to the meeting’s agenda.

Since February, city staff has worked to consider alternative properties for a new public safety building.

City Manager Robert Herron said previously that staff would present a recommendation to council in July or early August.

Last year, the city proposed a $22 million structure that would house both departments, which are in need of more space. A tax levy to fund the project failed to gain the 60 percent of votes needed to pass in November.

In the following months, city officials expressed a desire to still pursue the building given the majority of voters who were in favor of the project. Officials discussed funding the structure through enacting a user fee, a weekly tax on workers in the city.

The city began considering alternative and less costly plans for a public safety building starting in February at the recommendation of Councilman Dave Palmer. In June, Herron said he wouldn’t yet comment on where some of the alternatives are located.

The new plans to build a public safety building will cost less than the original design, which would have cost around $19 million to build, Herron said previously.

The Public Safety Committee is comprised of Palmer as chairman, Councilman Ken Imer as vice chairman and Councilwoman Melindsa Koslik as the third member.

On Tuesday, the full City Council will consider passing a Drug House Ordinance, designed to target properties with evidence of illegal drug activity and other crimes.

If passed, the ordinance would allow the city to file abatement orders on people who own “drug and gang houses, houses of prostitution and other disorderly houses.” Abatement would typically result in eviction, Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger said previously.

According to the ordinance, houses can be deemed a public nuisance if they are used in connection with two or more offenses within a 12-month period or if the connected offense is punishable by imprisonment by a year or more.

Council will also consider two spending ordinances for asbestos abatement and demolition of 14 properties around the city. If passed, the city would pay the company Edgco Inc. about $169,000 for the work.

The city tears down vacant, derelict structures in instances where “the public’s health and safety are at risk and there is no other recourse,” according to Wheeling’s Division of Building Code Services. The city doesn’t take possession of the property but will place a lien against it for the cost of demolition.

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