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Stop Spending On Old Buildings

Since 2015, before the current mayor and city council took office, Wheeling officials have been pouring money into four old buildings in the 1400 block of Market Street. It is time, one way or the other, to stop.

Buildings at 1425, 1429, 1433 and 1437 Market Street were purchased by the city in 2015 and 2016 at a total cost of $295,000. Since then, the dilapidated structures have continued to deteriorate. In 2017, part of one of them collapsed, requiring the city to spend about $25,000 for demolition of the rear of one building.

It had been hoped someone would buy and rehabilitate the structures. Years have passed with no one willing to undertake that, however.

Then, earlier this year, an Arizona couple, Ryan and Nikki Stoker, expressed interest. They hope to repair the structures, using upper floors as residential spaces. First floors would be for commercial use.

Wheeling officials decided a structured agreement whereby the city would, in effect, give the buildings to the Stokers might be the only hope of preserving the structures’ architecture.

Under the agreement, if the Stokers meet certain benchmarks for repairing the buildings, the city would help. That aid would involve the city covering the cost of some roof repairs, up to an amount that otherwise would have been needed to raze the buildings.

Then, last week, came the news that in advance of transferring ownership, the city already has plowed another $49,000 into the structures. It was used for repairs to the rear of 1437 Market Street.

Taxpayers cannot afford to continue spending money on the buildings. Any agreement with the Stokers needs to be an ironclad one with specific dates and targets for repairs included. A maximum amount of city funds for use on the roofs, if the Stokers meet benchmarks, should be specified.

Wheeling has too many other needs for money to continue spending it on the Market Street structures without realistic expectations they can be saved — at little or no additional cost to taxpayers.

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