Thirty million allocated for sports complex

WHEELING — Multiple artificial turf fields large enough for football or soccer, as well as basketball courts and a fitness center, may come to The Highlands because the Ohio County Development Authority approved selling up to $30 million worth of bonds for a new sports complex on Tuesday.

Ohio County Commissioner Randy Wharton, who also serves as president of the development authority, and county Administrator Greg Stewart emphasized the preliminary nature of the project. They said the exact scope of the indoor/outdoor complex has yet to be determined, although they said it is not designed to compete with facilities in the city of Wheeling.

“It could end up looking very different from what we have right now,” Stewart said. “We want to have another meeting to discuss that.”

During the Tuesday development authority meeting, members unanimously approved selling up to $30 million worth of bonds to fund the project. The preliminary lease agreement — to be signed between the development authority and the county commission — states hotel/motel tax collections will be “sufficient to pay the debt service” on the bonds.

Along with Wharton, Commissioners Tim McCormick and Orphy Klempa are members of the development authority. Although all three county commissioners are members of the authority, the two entities are officially separate. The agreement states the authority owns the property in question, but will lease it to the commission for a price that is yet to be determined.

Earlier this year, county leaders confirmed architects and engineers were studying plans for such a complex, most likely to be located in the area beyond Marquee Cinemas. The lease states the site will feature basketball and volleyball courts, batting cages, a fitness center and a family entertainment center, along with both indoor and outdoor artificial turf fields.

Stewart said the facility will be “designed with youth and family activities in mind.”

“There is clearly a need for a facility like this in this region,” Ohio County Solicitor Donald Tennant added.

Stewart and Wharton said they did not have an estimate on when construction would begin or when the complex would be available for use.

After the development authority meeting, county commissioners held their regular session. Wharton, McCormick and Klempa unanimously approved spending $550,000 for 10 new equipped vehicles for the Ohio County Sheriff’s Office. Stewart said eight of the vehicles are Ford Explorers, with the other two being Ford Taurus models.

“Typically, we can get four to five years out of each one,” Stewart said of the patrol vehicles. “We try to give the deputies the best possible equipment to help them do their jobs.”

Commissioners also voted to spend $22,600 for a new X-ray machine to be used at the entrance to the City-County Building, 1500 Chapline St., Wheeling. Those entering the building during the day are asked to allow any materials they are carrying to pass through the machine for inspection. Sheriff Tom Howard said he will relocate the current machine for use elsewhere, possibly in the annex building on 16th Street which houses his department.

Officials also voted to seek bids to digitize the records in Circuit Clerk Brenda Miller’s office. Commissioners then decided to pay the county’s annual Ohio Valley Regional Transportation Authority bus system dues of $500.

The commission’s next meeting is set for 6 p.m. Nov. 7 on the second floor of the City-County Building, 1500 Chapline St., Wheeling. The development authority is not scheduled to meet again until 5 p.m Dec. 5 in the same location.

(Junkins can be contacted at