Weirton seeks Brooke’s transit support

WELLSBURG – The Brooke County Commission was asked Tuesday to provide additional financial support for the Weirton Transit Corp.

Making an appeal to the commissioners were Kevin Beynon, the public transportation service’s manager; Weirton Mayor George Kondik and several WTC riders.

Kondik noted the commission has allocated $5,000 for the WTC in recent years and expressed thanks for that support.

But he asked the commissioners to consider providing an additional $5,000 to help the agency meet rising costs and increased demand. He noted the Hancock County Commission has allocated $15,000 for the agency.

Beynon said ridership has risen from about 26,000 to about 54,000 over the last six years and was up 969 riders in March from March 2013.

He said 47 percent of the riders are from the Brooke County section of Weirton.

Kondik said many riders are seniors from Freedom Place Apartments and use the service to go to Weirton Medical Center, Wal-Mart and other Brooke County businesses.

Beynon said state funding for public transportation services has been eliminated and federal funds have gone largely to agencies serving rural areas.

He said WTC drivers have taken cuts in benefits to help reduce costs and are working hard to keep up with the increased demand. He confirmed he also has driven for the agency when needed.

Beynon said he would like to add drivers and buses but lacks the funds.

Tim Ennis, the commission’s president, said money allocated to the WTC now comes from the county’s economic development fund, which was established with in lieu of tax payments from Pennsylvania Fashions – now known as rue21 – the first business at the Three Springs Industrial Park.

About $30,000 from the fund also goes to the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle, he said, with not much left.

“We’re looking to see where our numbers are on that (the fund) and we’ll get back to you soon,” Ennis said.

County Commissioner Jim Andreozzi said Brooke County’s current economic picture is more grim than Hancock County’s. He noted the commission and commissions before it have cut the county budget from $9 million to $6 million over the last few years.

He said if additional funds aren’t available, the commission will try to help the WTC in other ways.

County Commissioner Norma Tarr said the commission “should look deep and hard for the money (for the WTC) because this is important to our seniors.”

In other business, the commission heard from Rhonda Stubbs, executive director of A Child’s Place Court-Appointed Special Advocates; who announced the nonprofit group has found a permanent location: the former Tri-State Medical Supply on Main Street in Follansbee.

Stubbs said its owner, J.J. Bernabei, has agreed to sell the building to CASA for $8,000, 20 percent of its value, through a flexible payment schedule. She noted the Tri-State Medical Group, of which Bernabei is president, has been a long-time corporate sponsor of the group.

Unable to pay the rent at its former Wellsburg office, since December it has been operating at the former Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel credit union trailer in Beech Bottom through the arrangement of the BDC, its owner.

Stubbs said the BDC and others helped her to seek more central locations for the program, which trains volunteers to represent the interests of children involved in abuse and neglect cases in Brooke and Hancock counties.

She thanked the commission for allowing it to store records and materials in the former county museum during the transition.

At the request of Stubbs and Jim Pennebaker, executive director of Comfort House Child Advocacy Center; the commission proclaimed April Child Abuse Awareness Month.

Comfort House assists law enforcement officers and staff with the state Division of Child Protective Services in interviewing children suspected of being physically abused.

The two groups will team for a candlelight vigil to be held at 7 p.m. April 28 on the Wellsburg Town Square.

The commission also heard from Evelyn Leas, who said the Brooke County Public Service District plans to remove pine trees on her mother’s property on Eldersville Road to accommodate the extension of a sewer line.

Leas said because the land is sloped, she is concerned removing the trees will cause erosion. She added there also are plans to put several manholes on the property.

The commission agreed to ask the Brooke County PSD to address her concerns.

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