Wellsburg talks sidewalks, City Hall repairs

WELLSBURG – A $164,000 state grant received for replacement of brick sidewalks downtown and repairs needed for City Hall, including the possible removal of the clock tower, were among matters discussed by Wellsburg City Council Tuesday.

Mayor Sue Simonetti said she and other city officials were in Charleston Monday to accept the Transportation Enhancement grant from the West Virginia Department of Transportation. It was one of 36 projects in the state awarded more than $7 million in federal and state funds.

Another recipient was the Panhandle Trail in Weirton and Colliers, which received $100,000.

Mayor Sue Simonetti, who obtained the grant, said it will be used to restore the brick sidewalk along Charles Street from Seventh to Eighth streets. Simonetti earlier secured another grant in the same amount to restore sidewalks on Charles Street from Sixth to Seventh streets and the brick sections of the town square and to add crosswalks, benches and trash cans to the square.

She hopes to secure another grant for a section along Charles Street from Eighth to Ninth streets, the last segment of brick sidewalk in the city’s downtown business district, which has become uneven in areas.

Each of the two grants requires a $41,000 local match. Simonetti said $25,500 has been set aside from money donated by Chesapeake Energy and other funds. In addition, Land Planning and Design Associates, a Sterling, Va. firm hired to plan the restoration, has agreed to assist in seeking other funds.

The firm was hired because it designed the square in the early 1980s as part of a downtown revitalization project.

Simonetti said she hopes the current effort will help to attract new businesses and visitors to the city.

In other business, City Manager Mark Henne said the city’s finance and property committees met with McKinley and Associates to discuss the Wheeling engineering firm’s assessment of City Hall.

Henne said among concerns raised was the building’s clock tower, which he said is at risk of falling from the building. He said removing the tower will be a priority, but replacing it may take a backseat to other concerns, including areas where rain is leaking into the building and an antiquated electrical system.

Fourth Ward Councilman Jeff Tarr said making the building handicap-accessible also should be a priority, and Henne agreed.

Henne said council will need to set priorities after McKinley and Associates has provided estimates for the various repairs and improvements.

He added the changes also must comply with the state Historic Landmarks Commission, as was done with the recent installation of new windows for the building through a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Third Ward Councilman Randy Fletcher asked why the city must consult the commission if the project isn’t being funded by preservation funds.

Henne said the city may want to pursue such funds, and Simonetti said the city must abide by the commission’s conditions because City Hall is part of a Historic District on the state’s Register of Historic Places.

In other business:

Council agreed to pay Yost Excavating of Wellsburg $4,495 for building a new retaining wall along Union Avenue last week. Henne said he ordered the work as an emergency measure to address a slipping hillside that threatened a residence below it.

A few council members expressed concerns about whether the wall will be a permanent fix to the problem, noting it replaces one built there earlier, and the condition of the narrow road, which is traveled by a garbage truck and other large vehicles.

Henne said he will approach the private garbage hauler serving the city about using a smaller truck and look into longer term solutions to the situation, such as diverting drainage there.

Henne said the city’s redevelopment authority will seek money from the Appalachian Regional Commission for a comprehensive plan to rehabilitate brownfields, former industrial and commercial sites where environmental cleanups may be needed, for new development.

Ryan Weld, the redevelopment board’s chairman, said the group welcomes public input regarding the future of the Brooke Glass property, which occupies about 2 acres on Sixth Street. The city has been awarded two $5,000 grants to assess and improve the site.

The board meets at noon on the second Tuesday of each month at City Hall.

Henne said crews with Yost Excavating have begun demolishing the city’s former water plant at a cost of about $20,000. He said the building’s roof was at risk of collapsing if the city didn’t act to remove the structure.

Second Ward Councilman Paul T. Billiard said U.S. and state flags outside City Hall and at Central Park should be taken down at night if they are not properly lighted. Henne said there are plans to install lights for them, but until then, the flags will be lowered at night.

(Scott can be contacted at wscott@heraldstaronline.com)