Follansbee talks election, lights

FOLLANSBEE – Possible elimination of the city’s primary election and efforts to restore lighting along Main Street were among several issues discussed Monday by Follansbee City Council.

City Clerk David Kurcina asked whether the city can eliminate the primary election, noting there are no races in this year’s election that involve more than two candidates, so all will advance from the April 2 primary election to the June 11 general election.

Kurcina said it often is difficult to get poll workers, though he has hired sufficient workers for this year’s primary, and eliminating the first election would save the city about $5,500.

Election expenses include legal ads required by the state and ballots as well as pay for poll workers.

Citing similar concerns, Wellsburg City Council has voted to eliminate its primary election.

City Attorney Michael Gaudio said faithful voters like being able to vote twice and the primary election gives candidates an idea of their level of support and an opportunity to campaign harder for the general election.

But he added he also understands the budgetary concern.

Gaudio said the city, pending permission from the state Secretary of State’s office, might try holding an early vote period during which residents could cast votes at the Follansbee City Building instead of a primary election.

He noted a growing number of Brooke County voters cast their ballots early in last year’s national, state and county elections.

City Manager John DeStefano noted Morgantown is among communities whose residents have cast mail-in ballots instead of voting in person through a pilot program of the Secretary of State’s office.

Through the same program, Bethany has offered early voting through mail-in ballots while continuing to hold its general election at Bethany Town Hall.

He said city officials also could gauge residents’ opinions by putting the elimination of future primary elections on ballots in this year’s general election.

Council took no action on the matter during Monday’s meeting, which was its monthly work session.

In other business, DeStefano told council crews with MonPower worked Friday and Saturday to restore light to streetlights on the west side of Main Street (state Route 2) except the parking lot for Vito’s 2 and on the east side from Hood’s Pharmacy to the Allegheny Street intersection.

DeStefano said the work included repairing a blown fuse that hadn’t been detected because it powered a vacant building nearby. He said further repairs to the city’s underground electricity lines may be made by dropping a 200-amp service and it may not require digging up conduits and wires, which was expected to be a costly venture.

It’s not been determined whether the city or utility company will assume the cost for the repairs, however.

DeStefano said he has learned a large amount of power was needed to light the snowflakes hung from streetlights at Christmas. He said to remedy that, Steve Mitchell, the city’s public works director, and his crews have replaced their bulbs with light-emitting diode bulbs, which are more energy-efficient.

DeStefano said the snowflakes also look very nice with the LED lights.

In other business:

DeStefano said the West Virginia Division of Highways, has made plans to install a drain at the foot of the hill between Allegheny Street and Blosser Lane, where runoff from the street and adjacent hillside have resulted in flooding during heavy rainfall.

He said Paul Hicks, an engineer with the state Division of Highways, has suggested to further alleviate flooding, the city could create a 40-foot trench along the lane’s north side to divert the runoff into the creek.

DeStefano said while the state will install the drain near Allegheny Street, the other work will fall to the city, if council chooses to pursue it. Council authorized DeStefano to seek an estimate for it.

Fifth Ward Councilman Tom Ludewig, who co-chairs the Follansbee Community Days Committee, said the group seeks $13,000 for an 18-minute fireworks display planned to cap off the festival.

Council is expected to consider the request at next Monday’s meeting.

In related business, City Police Chief John Schwertfeger said the state Division of Highways has given permission for city police to override the traffic signal at Follansbee Plaza so they may direct pedestrians from there across state Route 2 to the festival at the Follansbee Park and Community House parking lot.