Bethany sewer line concern continues

BETHANY- Bethany town officials are proceeding with plans to replace a broken sewer line that has caused several potholes on Main Street and have approved the first reading for an ordinance establishing a hotel tax.

Mayor Jay Eisenhauer told Bethany Council Wednesday the state Department of Transportation has indicated it won’t pay for the section of street to be paved.

He said though the street is part of state Route 67, state officials’ position is there are limited funds for paving and the potholes were caused by the damaged sewer line.

“The line is 50 years old and needs replaced. Everything else is an effect of that,” he said.

Councilman Pat Sutherland said some drivers are veering into the opposing lane to avoid the potholes and he’s concerned an accident will occur.

Town crews have been patching the holes.

Eisenhauer said re-pavement of that section of the street will be included in the project to replace the 510 foot section of line. Fortunately, the road’s east lane should not be affected, as plans call for crews to cut through the west lane from the center line, he said.

Eisenhauer said installing a new line at another location was considered but found not to be cost-effective.

He said engineers with Cerrone Associates of Wheeling are determining the cost for the project, though early estimates put it at between $150,000 and $200,000.

Eisenhauer said the town will need to take a loan or sell bonds to support the repairs and a rate increase is anticipated. He noted a public hearing will be held before it’s implemented.

Also on Wednesday, council approved the first reading of an ordinance establishing a hotel occupancy tax for the town. The ordinance is slated to undergo a second reading and if approved, will be implemented on July 1.

If approved, the town would receive 6 percent from the amount paid for each room at Bethany College’s Mountainside Conference Center and any other hotel that may operate in Bethany in the future.

Under state law, the tax must be applied to customers’ bills, though some, such as representatives of government entities there on government business, would be exempt.

Noting a portion of the tax must be used to promote tourism, Eisenhauer said 3 percent of the tax will go to either a town board that may be established to promote tourism or the existing Top of West Virginia Convention and Visitors Bureau, which promotes tourism in Hancock and Brooke counties.

Eisenhauer said town officials haven’t decided if they want to establish a town tourism board.

He said plans call for the remaining 3 percent to be used for fairs, festivals and other s1pecial events aimed at attracting visitors to the town. There are plans to present movies on summer weekends at Bethany Park and to bring back the town’s annual community picnic, among other things, he said.

“We’re just trying to create more things to do in town,” Eisenhauer said, adding the two also may partner with communities to present events benefiting both.

Council also amended an ordinance prohibiting gambling in the town to allow video lottery businesses. Eisenhauer said because the businesses are permitted by the state, the town can’t prohibit them from operating there.

In other business:

Council approved the hiring of John Kyle as the town’s prosecutor. Kyle will be paid $100 per hour to represent the town at municipal court hearings held about nine times a year.

He will replace Joseph Barki III, who was appointed prosecutor by council after a number of individuals appearing in municipal court brought attorneys with them.

A former U.S. Marine and Ohio County sheriff’s deputy, Kyle practices law in Wheeling and serves as assistant Brooke County prosecutor under Barki.

Council discussed people parking against the flow of traffic on Main and other streets, creating a risk of accidents when they turn back onto the street. It was noted other municipalities, including Weirton and Follansbee, have ordinances against it.

Eisenhauer appointed the following residents to the town’s landmarks commission: Linda Chivers, Bill Hicks, Rebecca Rose, Caroline Walsh and Jay Tye.

The mayor said the new board will seek grants for the preservation of historic landmarks in the town.

Eisenhauer said part of a $7,000 state grant secured for the town’s community center will be used to install air conditioning there. He said about $6,700 of the grant was used for a generator and a transfer switch for it.

The generator may be used if the center is needed as an emergency shelter, he noted.

Eisenhauer said the community center has been rented a great deal since the town converted the former bays of the town’s fire department into a social hall with new flooring, walls, lighting and other accommodations.

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