Cutting Cost Of New Facility

Wheeling City Council members seem to have decided to proceed with construction of a new public safety building. Last week, by a 5-1 vote, they approved collection of a $2-per-week — $104 a year — “service fee” to be paid by people who work within city limits. Half the proceeds are to go to the new building, with the remainder set aside for infrastructure projects.

A revenue stream is in place, or will be in January, for the new building.

That does not mean city officials are off the hook regarding how much the facility will cost. Every effort should be made to hold the price tag down. It is clear that, to date, every effort has not been made.

Council members have heard a proposal that $14.5 million be spent on the building and that it would be erected on a 19th Street lot now occupied by a ramshackle warehouse.

Under that plan, the building’s owner would receive more than $500,000 (to go to a charitable foundation of his choosing). Another $1.5 million would be spent to tear down the warehouse and prepare the ground for new construction.

After we and others questioned the wisdom of spending $2 million in that way, city officials including Mayor Glenn Elliott said they were exploring other site options.

Not everyone on council agrees with the plan. Councilman Ken Imer voted against the service fee. Citing the announcement that Ohio Valley Medical Center will close and about 900 employees there will lose their jobs, he said he worries now is not the time to proceed. He is right.

Councilwoman Wendy Scatterday, who was unable to be present for the service fee vote, has expressed concern, too. She is right to question whether enough has been done to hold down municipal spending.

Both Scatterday and Imer are right — and they reflect the thinking of many Wheeling residents and business owners.

If city officials’ calculations are correct, the new fee will provide enough revenue to cover a $14.5 million building. That does not mean the full amount should be, or needs to be, spent.

Really serious efforts need to be made to provide adequate facilities for Wheeling police and firefighters at the lowest cost possible.

Officials at all levels of government have a tendency to spend every dime on which they can lay their hands — then shove those hands even deeper into the pockets of working men and women.

It is incumbent upon city officials to prove to those they serve that such an attitude does not prevail here in Wheeling. They have not done that yet.

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