City of Wheeling Mulls Stimulus Spending
WHEELING — The newly resurrected Mayor’s Advisory Commission on Economic and Industrial Development is expected to gather today for its second substantive meeting — and its first in-person meeting — since the revived group became active late last year.
The commission is scheduled to meet at 2 p.m. today in council chambers inside the City-County Building on Chapline Street in downtown Wheeling. While most members of the commission are expected to attend in-person, Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott said some members may still participate virtually if they are unable to attend in-person.
After an array of local business leaders were appointed to serve on the commission last year, an organizational meeting was held in December, and the first full meeting of the panel took place virtually in January. The advisory commission is expected to meet at least on a quarterly basis during the year to keep lines of communication open between city government and the local business community and help smoothly pave the way for future economic development.
“The city is going to be coming into a significant amount of money here in the near future,” Mayor Glenn Elliott said Monday, noting that the city has been earmarked $29.51 million from the latest federal economic stimulus bill, the American Rescue Plan, and other governmental entities have as well. “We’re still waiting for regulations to be released that will guide us on how these funds can be spent, and until we have those guidelines, we’re obviously not going to commit to anything. But at this point, we can at least see if there are any city-based or even regional plans we can get behind.”
Elliott noted that a key purpose for the advisory commission is to share and explore ideas, and having discussions on how best to invest federal funding like the award from the American Rescue Plan is key to a healthy public-private planning partnership.
“We need to think big,” the mayor said, noting that the stimulus package is just one avenue of funding in the pipeline that is likely to be followed by future allocations through a new federal infrastructure bill that is in the works and other federal earmarks. “I have some ideas, but I look forward to hearing some other perspectives. What are our ‘asks’ going to be heading into this new context?”
The advisory commission is also expected to revisit topics from its last meeting, which focused largely on ideas centered around waterfront development and activities in the city. The group is also expected to discuss any requirements in the city or the state that could be perceived as obstacles that slow or prevent economic development.
“If there are any gripes, I want to hear from the business community to find out what they are and figure out if there is anything we can do to address them,” Elliott said. “Whether that’s a zoning issue, parking issue, tap-in fees (which the mayor stressed are not controlled by the city) or other factors that may deter people from investing in Wheeling, we need to get it all out in the open.”
Wheeling City Manager Robert Herron is also expected to provide a report during the meeting, and each member of the commission will be able to provide remarks, as well.
Members of the Mayor’s Advisory Commission on Economic and Industrial Development include Erikka Storch, president of the Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce and member of the West Virginia House of Delegates; Craig O’Leary of the Regional Economic Development Partnership; Missy Ashmore of Kennen & Kennen Realtors; Kayleen Clough of the Fitzsimmons Foundation; Kevin Duffin of Belmont Carson Petroleum, owner of the Flatiron Building on Main Street; Barry Allen of the Ziegenfelder Co.; and David H. McKinley of McKinley-Carter Wealth Management.
Additionally, representing the city on the commission are the mayor and city manager, along with fellow Development Committee of Council members, Vice Mayor Chad Thalman and Councilman Ty Thorngate.
The city of Wheeling’s current charter that was drafted in 1991 allows the mayor to appoint members to an Advisory Commission on Economic and Industrial Development, but the panel had not been active in Wheeling since the 1990s, officials said.