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Limit Taxpayers’ Support for Project

Wheeling taxpayers already have sunk at least $295,000 into dilapidated buildings in the 1400 block of Market Street. City government can ill afford to spend more money there without assurances the investment will pay off.

In 2015-16, under two different mayors and city councils, municipal officials spent $295,000 buying four buildings in the 1400 block. Since then, sections of some of the structures have collapsed into an alley at the rear of the properties.

As Mayor Glenn Elliott noted last week, city officials had no luck in finding anyone to buy the buildings, or even redevelop the lots, until recently. Now an Arizona couple, Ryan and Nikki Stoker, have offered to take the structures off the city’s hands. Council members have agreed to transfer the properties for a nominal sum.

The Stokers plan to invest $500,000 to $600,000 of their own money in repairing the buildings. If they meet “benchmarks” set for progress in the work, the city may be willing to help them with an amount of money equal to what it would have cost to demolish the structures, Elliott has said.

Meeting “benchmarks” for progress may not be enough. Before plowing more money into the buildings, city officials should insist on reasonable assurances the repair and remodeling work will be completed.

Leaving Wheeling taxpayers stuck with a half-finished restoration project that could cost even more money is a prospect no one involved should consider acceptable.

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