Wellsburg discusses docks, sidewalks

WELLSBURG – Replacement of boat docks at the 12th Street boat ramp and of brick sidewalks on the Town Square and along three blocks along Charles Street were among issues discussed by Wellsburg Council Tuesday.

City Manager Mark Henne said he’d arranged for the docks to be removed because they had deteriorated during the icy winter, arranged for someone to transport them away and advertised for new ones.

But Henne’s plans met some snags. First Ward Councilman Mike Mitchell suggested some hardware on the docks could be worth more than $1,000, so Henne arranged for the docks to be returned and council agreed to hold a public auction for the material.

City Attorney Bill Cipriani said concerns also arose when bids were sought for the new docks because Merco Marine, a local manufacturer of docks, provided the specifications for them while also submitting a bid.

Cipriani said he doesn’t believe Merco’s intention was to create specifications in its favor but it created the appearance of an unfair advantage, which violates a city ordinance designed to ensure competitive bidding.

He added the state Ethics Commission ruled against such practice in a similar situation.

Jon Meriwether, vice president and founder of Merco Marine, said he created the bid specs to aid city officials, who didn’t seem sure about what they wanted, and to ensure the city would receive durable docks.

He said the docks he described wouldn’t be difficult for another dock manufacturer to produce.

But council agreed to seek bids again, this time making a general request for bids for several 20 foot long sections of dock.

Second Ward Councilman Paul T. Billiard said because the docks likely won’t be built until after summer, it would be wise to store them until after winter.

In related business, Mayor Sue Simonetti, Henne and council members thanked Meriwether for lending and installing 140 feet of docks for the wharf at no cost to the city and in time for Wellsburg’s 4th of July festivities, including the Anything That Floats Race.

Meriwether said the docks will be there only temporarily because they were produced for regattas of which Merco is a sponsor and are needed for such an event in a couple of weeks.

It wasn’t the first time Merco has aided the city. In 2011 the company donated a 7-by-24-foot dock for the boat ramp.

The dock issue spurred some ideas about what could be done on the city’s riverfront in the future.

Billiard said more than 20 years ago a group of volunteers built a dock for the Sixth Street Wharf using materials donated by Merco.

Fourth Ward Councilman Charlie Harris suggested the city could enter into a partnership with a business that could assume responsibility for maintaining the docks and storing them in winter.

Meriwether said years ago he suggested the city pursue a marina and city officials could imitate the success of multiple marinas developed in Pittsburgh.

In other business, council agreed to employ HDR Engineering of Weirton to plan the renovations to brick sidewalks along Charles Street from Seventh to Ninth streets. Hays Landscape Architecture Studio of St. Clairsville has been hired to plan renovations to the Town Square and the brick walks along Charles Street from Sixth to Seventh streets.

Both projects are intended to correct brick that has become broken and uneven. Renovations to the Town Square also are expected to include trees and garbage cans.

Simonetti said the city will provide $82,000 toward the $160,000 project, with the remainder funded with state grants.

Following the meeting, Simonetti said to raise the city’s portion, she hasn’t ruled out having property owners along the street contribute to the cost for the section of sidewalk in front of their properties.

Council was nearly split on the project, with 4th Ward Council member Harris and Della Serevicz, 1st Ward Councilman Bruce Hunter and 3rd Ward Councilman Tom R. Diserio supporting it and 1st Ward Councilman Mike Mitchell and 2nd Ward Councilmen Billiard and Brian Tennant against.

Simonetti said repairing the Town Square and sidewalks would help to attract businesses and people to the city’s downtown business district, a position supported by the four who voted for the project.

Mitchell, Billiard and Tennant said the city’s contribution could be better spent elsewhere. Billiard said other steps, such as pursuing the removal of dilapidated structures, should be taken first to improve the area’s appearance.

Diserio said, “But you’ve got to start somewhere and we’re already into this project.”

Council also agreed to seek bids for the paving of four streets in each of the city’s four wards. Henne said it’s unlikely the city can afford to pave all of them, but council will be asked to prioritize them based on the cost and need.

Henne said streets deemed to be most in need were submitted by the city property committee. He said efforts will be made to repair others as much as possible.