Brooke denies annexation

WELLSBURG – The Brooke County Commission has denied a request to extend the village of Windsor Heights to include sections of state Route 2 and Airport Road.

Commissioner Norma Tarr on Tuesday moved to approve the annexation, saying it would provide needed police coverage on Route 2 at the county’s south end through the Windsor Heights Police Department.

“If it saves just one life, it’s worth it,” she said.

But her motion died for lack of a second.

Commissioner Tim Ennis said he’s heard from residents of Windsor Heights who oppose the move.

“Their concern was it would take police protection from (the village of ) Windsor Heights and move it somewhere else,” he said.

Commissioner Jim And-reozzi agreed, saying village officials stated Windsor Heights officers work no more than five hours a day and dividing them between the hilltop community and the roadways below wouldn’t benefit village residents.

Under state code, Windsor Heights officials may appeal to the local circuit court.

It’s not known if village officials will pursue that. None attended Tuesday’s meeting.

Village officials had approached the commission about approving the minor boundary adjustment, which would have included state Route 2 from the village to the county’s southern border, Airport Road to Girtys Point Road and the foot of Windy Hill Road, which leads to the hilltop community.

Village Solicitor Quan Lee said the village sought to extend coverage by its part-time police department to nearby roads and sought only to annex them and not any homes.

But the commission received a petition in opposition from about 30 Short Creek residents, many of whom believed the annexation was the first step toward adding their property to the village’s boundaries.

Some residents said they already have public sewer and water service and coverage by fire departments through mutual aid agreements and would gain little from being incorporated by Windsor Heights.

Some critics of the annexation said village officials were attempting to establish “a speed trap” along the highway to generate revenue for its police department.

The department was begun in recent years with a $10,000 state grant used to purchase its cruiser and funded largely with the village’s portion of state revenue collected from limited video lottery casinos.

Lee and other village officials said if drivers are speeding, they should be stopped for the public’s safety and it doesn’t matter if that’s done by State Police, the sheriff’s department or village police.

Windsor Heights Police Chief Ulrich Utt said adding the highway to his department’s coverage area would make it more eligible for grants.

In other business, the commission heard from resident Ron Sebeck, who asked it to address a vacant house on Neville Street in Follansbee neighboring the home of his son and his family.

Sebeck said loose material on the house’s exterior contains asbestos, a known carcinogen he believes is being released into the air. He added the grass is so high, it’s become a refuge for feral cats and raccoons, posing a threat to his granddaughter.

The commissioners said the house isn’t in their jurisdiction, but Andreozzi, a former Follansbee councilman and current resident, offered to help him in filing a dilapidated structure complaint there.

He said he also will arrange for the county’s dog warden to trap the cats and raccoons there.

In recent years Brooke County has adopted an ordinance against dilapidated structures in those unincorporated areas under its jurisdiction. Recently it was awarded a $20,900 state grant to assist in their removal following a legal process involving notification to the property owner, that person’s right to appeal and a lien being placed on the property by the commission.

But the commissioners have lamented the money will only cover so many properties.

The commission also approved the hiring of Leesa Melching and Marla Armstrong as dispatchers for the county’s emergency 911 center.

It also was advised terms for two seats on the county museum and cultural center board will expire this month.

The commission agreed to accept letters of interest in the seats, including from those who currently hold them, through the office of County Clerk Sylvia Benzo over the next two weeks.