Wellsburg considers town square project

WELLSBURG – Wellsburg Council on Tuesday asked an engineer behind the Wellsburg cityscape project to limit his focus on the town square, citing budget limitations and impending repairs to City Hall.

Gabe Hays of Hays Landscape Architecture Studio of St. Clairsville, Ohio, told council funds secured by the city for the project will support restoration of the brick sidewalks along Charles Street from Sixth to Seventh streets, addition of a small park overlooking the Ohio River at what is now the parking lot for city and Brooke County employees and improvements to just half of the town square.

The city was awarded a $160,000 grant, to be matched with $40,000 in city funds, to repair or replace cracked concrete areas on the square and restore its brick walkways, which have shifted since the square was built in 1985. Plans also were made to restore the sidewalks along Charles Street from Sixth to Seventh streets.

Hays said the money could be stretched farther by patching the concrete instead of replacing it, but several council members said they preferred the focus be on more permanent repairs to the square. He agreed to return to council for estimates of the cost to replace or patch the concrete.

City Manager Mark Henne noted state funds have been secured for sidewalks on other blocks of Charles Street and suggested the city could seek permission to use them to do the block adjacent to the town square first.

Plans also include removing the trees and islands along Charles Street, with the exception of those at the corners. Hays said the islands hinder drainage along the street, causing storm drains to become clogged and the trees have outgrown them.

There also has been talk of replacing trees on the square with one or more trees surrounded by more natural landscaping, possibly along the sides so fire trucks could be driven easily onto the square if needed.

Hays said the brick square was built on concrete so it will support the trucks’ weight.

A few council members expressed concern about the use of local taxes for the project. Second Ward Councilmen Paul T. Billiard and Brian Tennant said they aren’t convinced it will help boost the city’s downtown business district.

Billiard and several others said the city’s first priority should be repairing City Hall.

Earlier this year the city advertised for a consultant to plan repairs and renovations that included replacing the clock tower, which is believed to be the source of leaks into the building, and the addition of a handicap-accessible entrance.

Henne said the bids came in too high. He said temporary repairs will be explored to see the building through the winter.

In related business, council moved to table plans to seek a federal grant to improve the Eighth Street Wharf, citing the same budgetary concerns.

Council also:

Approved the $4,955 installation by Green Acres Contracting of Scottdale, Pa. of 300 feet of guardrail to divide Pleasant Avenue from a trench created for a storm drain. Both Henne and Billiard have expressed concern about vehicles veering into the trench.

Approved the first reading of an ordinance raising filing fees for candidates for all city offices by $10. As a result, candidates for police chief and collector-treasurer will pay $40, candidates for mayor and city clerk will pay $30 and candidates for council seats will pay $20.

Agreed to amend an ordinance holding property owners responsible for their sidewalks to more specifically state they are responsible for clearing ice and snow from them. It states property owners must see that ice or snow that forms on the sidewalks must be cleared by 11 a.m. of that day.

Penalties for the violation are a fine up to $500, 30 days in jail or both.

Though he voted for the ordinance, 3rd Ward Councilman Randy Fletcher said he believed city police lack the manpower to enforce it.

He also questioned whether city crews have been able to ensure all sidewalks along city property are clear.

The amendment will require a second reading before it’s adopted.

Referred back to the city’s ordinance committee a proposed ordinance prohibiting dogs from the city’s Central Park and other parks when organizers of events request it.

First Ward Councilman Bruce Hunter noted no provision was made for guide dogs.

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