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Wheeling Council Begins New Term, Accepts Nominations to Committees

New members of Wheeling City Council took part in their first official meeting on Tuesday. From left are newcomers to council Ben Seidler, Rosemary Ketchum and Jerry Sklavounakis, from left, along with City Manager Robert Herron.

WHEELING — Members of Wheeling City Council accepted their nominations to various committees and boards Tuesday during their first regular council meeting of their new four-year terms in office.

Marking the first meeting since taking their oaths of office last week, the new Wheeling City Council met in-person at the City-County Building on Tuesday afternoon. It was only the second meeting to take place in-person since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Before that, all council meetings held since the beginning of April had been conducted online and broadcast virtually over the city’s official Facebook page.

All city leaders on hand and visitors entering the City-County Building were required to wear face coverings, as has been recommended by local health officials and just this week issued in an executive order by Gov. Jim Justice for those visiting or working inside public or private buildings.

It was the first meeting for new council members Ben Seidler, Rosemary Ketchum and Jerry Sklavounakis, all of whom were welcomed by returning council members Chad Thalman, Ty Thorngate and Dave Palmer, along with Mayor Glenn Elliott. Each of the new council members took an opportunity to speak briefly about their goals for the city.

“I’d just like to say it’s an honor to represent the residents of Wheeling Island, North Wheeling, the northern part of the downtown, Fulton and lower Glenwood,” Seidler said. “It’s always been a priority of mine to work on cleaning up our neighborhoods, and I’m looking forward to working with members of council and Mr. (City Manger Robert) Herron to accomplish that.”

Among new pieces of legislation introduced on Tuesday was a first reading on an ordinance authorizing the city manager to expend funds in the amount of $522,540 with M&G Architects and Engineers of Wheeling for design services for the Valley Professional Building construction to a new police headquarters and initial design for a new fire station at the former city of the Ohio Valley Medical Center property, which was recently acquired by the city.

“I know the OVMC project is very important, and I’m very excited to get to work on that with you guys,” Seidler added. “I would just request that we don’t lose focus on our other priorities and commitments as we’re also moving along with that project.”

Ketchum took the opportunity during her first council meeting to share gratitude for people working on the front lines in the battle against COVID-19.

“You are saving lives and healing people across the state of West Virginia every day, and we are forever indebted to you,” Ketchum said. “I’m also grateful for the governor’s decision yesterday to mandate mask wearing. It is an essential and potentially life-saving practice, and I hope we all begin to adapt.”

Ketchum said she was privileged to be serving on council and getting an opportunity to shape the future of the Friendly City. She also noted that the nation is in the midst of a civil rights uprising that is demanding social justice and a reform of old systems that are outdated and do not work for everyone in the community.

“It is incumbent on our city government to reexamine and reform our own institution so that we can lead the charge in promoting justice and equality unconditionally with not just our words but our actions,” Ketchum said. “I’m eager to spend the next four years working with this team to build a comprehensive, holistic and community-based solutions that help our city embrace our 21st Century world. Our task is not easy, but I know we’re ready to do the work.”

Sklavounakis said he was driven by purpose when he sought a seat on Wheeling City Council, and one of the main purposes was to protect and improve the city’s neighborhoods.

“One of my main focuses will be on capital improvements in our neighborhoods, specifically the storm water and sewer separation project,” Sklavounakis said. “Wheeling is an old city with an old infrastructure that needs to be addressed.”

According to Sklavounakis, the mayor and all members of city council have agreed that the city’s long-term sewer separation project and related flooding issues for residents in certain neighborhoods should be high on the city’s list of priorities.

“They are probably the most complex, time consuming and expensive projects our city is facing,” he said. “One of my fellow members of council remarked to me that the money we’re spending on the Public Safety Building is a drop in the bucket compared to the money we’re spending on sewer separation projects.”

One project for the Woodsdale area, a major sewer separation project near Chicken Neck Hill, was set to go out to bid today with bids opening in August, construction beginning around October and completion anticipated one year later. Overall, the city’s long-term plan identifies more than $150 million worth of sewer separation projects that are being addressed in phases all across the city over the course of decades.

Elliott noted that since it was the first meeting of the new city council term, nominations of council members to different committees was in order. The mayor made recommendations, and members of council unanimously approved them.

Thalman will continue to serve in the role as vice mayor.

Nominations to council committees included:

* Development — Elliott, chair; Thalman, vice-chair; Thorngate, member.

* Finance — Palmer, chair; Thorngate, vice-chair; Thalman, member.

* Health and Recreation — Ketchum, chair; Thalman, vice-chair; Seidler, member.

* Promotions and Public Relations — Thorngate, chair; Ketchum, vice-chair; Sklavounakis, member.

* Public Safety — Seidler, chair; Palmer, vice-chair; Ketchum, member.

* Public Works — Sklavounakis, chair; Seidler, vice-chair; Thorngate, member.

* Rules — Thalman, chair; Sklavounakis, vice-chair; Palmer, member.

Under nominations to other boards and agencies, city council representation will be by:

* Ketchum on the Wheeling Arts & Cultural Commission, Centre Market Commission and Ohio Valley Regional Transportation Authority Board.

* Thorngate on the Historic Landmarks Commission

* Palmer on the Greater Wheeling Sports & Entertainment Authority Board and the Wheeling Planning Commission.

* Thalman on the Wheeling-Ohio County Board of Health

* Sklavounakis on the Wheeling Hall of Fame Board

* Seidler on the Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation

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