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Wheeling Officials to Direct $500K Toward Demolitions

Herron

WHEELING — The city of Wheeling will invest a half a million dollars this fiscal year to demolish dilapidated structures on its raze or repair list, members of the Finance Committee of Council decided on Tuesday.

Separate from action initiated Tuesday to clean up a sprawling warehouse property on 19th Street, the measure for new demolitions creates one of the biggest clean-up efforts the city has seen in any fiscal year. Funding for the demolitions comes indirectly by way of Wheeling’s successful request for reimbursement for expenses related to COVID-19.

It was announced last week that Wheeling’s application to the state for federal CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act funding for municipalities had been approved so far for the months of March and April, as well as the month of May. An application for reimbursement for pandemic-related expenses for the month of June is being submitted, with approvals to be determined on a monthly basis.

So far, Wheeling has been approved for around $3 million in CARES Act funding for expenses it has incurred. The state of West Virginia is distributing $200 million in CARES Act relief for municipalities across the state as part of its overall $1.2 billion federal CARES Act relief package.

“But for the COVID-19 experience we’ve had since mid-March, the estimated cash carryover for the general fund would have been in the range of $500,000 this year,” Wheeling City Manager Robert Herron told members of the Finance Committee of Council on Tuesday.

“Obviously, as council knows, the city is receiving reimbursement for expenses associated with COVID-19 from the state through the federal government. Based on the estimated cash carryover — had it not been for the pandemic — of $500,000, we’re recommending that $500,000 of the reimbursement be put towards a city-wide demolition contract for fiscal year 2020-2021.”

Finance Committee members agreed and approved the recommendation.

This funding allocation will have a tremendous impact on properties that have gone through the violation, citation and court action process to end up the city’s current raze or repair list, officials said.

“It will be significant,” Herron said. “To kind of put it into perspective, the demolition contract that we’re under now is in the $400,000 range. That is the largest by far that we’ve had for a city-wide demolition. But typically, it’s $150,000 a year.

So $500,000 will make a significant impact on the dilapidated structure list that we currently have.

Councilman Ty Thorngate, vice-chairman of the Finance committee, noted that a bulk of those being torn down are in Wards 2 and 3.

Councilman Ben Seidler had previously noted that out of the 50 structures on Wheeling’s current raze or repair list, 24 of them were in Ward 2 and another 20 were in Ward 3.

“I just want to show some appreciation to city staff,” Mayor Glenn Elliott said, noting that staffers kept close track of pandemic-related expenses that recently were approved for reimbursement. “A lot of effort goes into putting together those applications, and that money is of course very much needed, not only to keep the city moving forward but also to help us invest and prepare for the future as well and to deal with all of the shortcomings from the lost revenues and lost activities.”

Also during the Finance Committee meeting Tuesday, officials discussed the 2020-2021 allocation of sales tax capital improvement funds and moved to make a sizable investment in paving for the fiscal year.

“As part of the budget process, typically the sales tax RCIP (Restricted Capital Improvement Program) account, which generally accounts for about $800,000 a year is part of the appropriation process in March,” the city manager said. “But because of COVID-19 and the uncertainty as far as how that would affect city finances, that decision was delayed until now.”

There is $800,000 that will be in the sales tax Restricted Capital Improvement Program Fund that has not been allocated, Herron said, recommending that the entire $800,000 be allocated toward paving of streets and alleys for fiscal year 2020-21. The committee approved the recommendation.

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