Brooke levies could be on May ballots

WELLSBURG – Brooke County voters could be asked to consider renewal of two longtime county levies when they cast ballots in the May 13 primary election.

Brooke County Commissioner Tim Ennis said Tuesday he and his fellow county commissioners are considering putting the county’s fire and ambulance excess levies on the ballots then to avoid the cost of a special election.

“If we can save the taxpayers some money, I think we should try to do it,” he said.

County Clerk Sylvia Benzo said the cost for a special election is about $40,000. She noted the two levies have been on ballots in regular and special elections over the years.

Ennis said the county commission has been fortunate to have had voters’ support for both levies for many years. But, he said plans are being made to include them on the primary ballot so that they may be revisited in the general election should they fail in May.

Ballots in May also will include candidates for seats representing West Virginia in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, seats representing the region in state Senate and House of Delegates and a seat on the county commission that must be held by a resident of the Weirton District, among other offices.

The filing period for candidates runs Monday through Jan. 25.

Benzo reminded the commissioners they must file papers at the state level for the levies to appear on the ballots.

The commissioners made plans to meet with heads of departments and agencies funded by the levies to determine their current needs.

The fire levy currently generates $335,995 per year, which is divided equally among the Beech Bottom, Bethany, Bethany Pike, Colliers, Follansbee, Franklin Community, Hooverson Heights, McKinleyville, Weirton, Wellsburg and Windsor Heights fire departments.

The ambulance excess levy raises $718,553 per year. The amount is divided in varying amounts among the Brooke County, Bethany and Weirton ambulance services; Brooke County Health Department; Brooke County Public Library and Follansbee Branch Library; Brooke County Parks and Recreation Commission, which operates Brooke Hills Park; Brooke County West Virginia University Extension Service office; Brooke County Committee on Aging, which operates the Brooke County Senior Center; Healthways Inc., including operation of the Brooke County Opportunity Center and costs for mental hygiene proceedings; the Mary H. Weir Public Library and a fund reserved for courthouse repairs.

The two five-year levies were last approved in 2009.

In other business:

Barb Zimnox, a community development specialist with the Brooke-Hancock-Jefferson Metropolitan Planning Commission, told the commission Thrasher Engineering has completed designs for the extension of sewer lines to 89 homes in the Louise-Cross Creek area.

She said the Brooke County Public Service District will pursue easements needed for the extension through its new attorney, Christopher Scheetz.

On Tuesday local representatives to the state Legislature accepted a $700,000 Small Cities Block Grant awarded for the project, which includes the community of Louise, Latimer Avenue, Bosley Run and Black’s Hollow.

State Sens. Jack Yost, D-Wellsburg, and Rocky Fitzsimmons, D-Wheeling, and state Delegates Phil Diserio, D-Brooke, and Randy Swartzmiller and Ronnie Jones, both D-Hancock, were on hand for the presentation.

Zimnox noted the $2.2 million project is the second phase of a larger one that included the extension of sewer lines to Eldersville Road, Mahan Lane and Bruin Drive.

The first phase was funded by a $9.8 million grant through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency because concerns were raised about raw sewage from residents’ overtaxed septic systems reaching streams in the area.

The commission organized for 2014, appointing Ennis commission president and Jim Andreozzi president pro-temp and they and commissioner Norma Tarr to the same boards on which they served last year.

Ennis was appointed to the county emergency services board and planning commission and Brooke County Committee on Aging.

Tarr was appointed to the county board of health and economic development authority, Brooke-Hancock-Jefferson Metropolitan Planning Commission and Brooke County West Virginia University Extension Service committee.

Andreozzi was appointed to the park and recreation commission, West Virginia Workforce Investment Board, Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle, Northern Panhandle Home Consortium, which oversees the First-Time Homebuyers program; and Top of West Virginia Convention and Visitors Bureau.

All three will serve on the museum and library boards and local emergency planning commission.

Scheduled fiduciary hearings, at which matters involving estates, for the first Tuesdays of each month at 10:30 a.m. and board of equalization hearings, in which property owners may appeal property assessments, by appointment from Feb. 3 to 17.

Received letters of interest from Dave McCombs and Mike Donohue, both of Wellsburg, in a vacant seat on the park board. The commission tabled filling the seat until a future meeting.

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