WEIRTON - If all goes as planned, Weirton city officials soon will be using federal hazard mitigation funds to eliminate flood damage to private properties on the creek side of Willow Street.
At Thursday's meeting, the Weirton Finance Committee recommended that city council accept a Federal Emergency Management Agency hazard mitigation grant for the project, which will allow them to acquire a number of flood-prone properties from their current owners and return them to green space. The city would then be responsible for routine maintenance, and under no circumstances could homes ever again be built on properties acquired with the grant money.
City Manager Valerie Means said the grant, which they applied for several years ago, is funded in its entirety by federal and state government; no local match is required.
"(Homeowners) will be given an offer, the city would have to acquire the property and then award the contract" for demolition, she said. "It becomes green space, they cannot be built on again."
Means said the city will have three years, "until 2015, to complete the entire project the purchases, demolition and all that."
She said the city can offer the appraised value of the homes. Owners may reject the offer, but under FEMA rules doing so isn't without penalty.
"If they go through the process and decline, it will never be offered again," she said.
Both the police and fire chiefs have inquired about the possibility of using any to-be-demolished properties for training, but Means said she will have to find out if that's allowed by the grant agencies.
The committee, meanwhile, also recommended that Means be authorized to retain the services of an attorney to prepare the required legal documents for the transfer of any of the Willow Street properties to the city.
In other business, the committee recommended council approve:
Purchase of fitness equipment for the Gilson Avenue fire station, allowing firefighters there to comply with on-the-job fitness training requirements by two agencies without leaving their district unattended.
A firefighter safety class that would, among other things, train firefighters to use their power of smell to help gauge whether it's safe to enter a burning building.
Annual aerial service inspection of the fire department's tower trucks.
Purchase two Rapid Intervention Team packs for the fire department, which would provide an emergency air supply in the event a firefighters is trapped in a burning building.
Plans for additional landscaping services for a portion of the Three Springs Drive enhancement project.
Committee members noted two bids had been received, but one lacked all of the necessary documentation.
Renewal of the city's financial contribution to the Business Development Corporation of the Northern Panhandle.
Means said the annual contribution comes from the city's economic development fund and brings with it two seats on the BDC board.
Purchase six personal computers for various departments.
The Finance Committee also recommended council approve the purchase of new duty pistols for city police, with Police Chief Bruce Marshall pointing out they'd be trading in weapons more than a decade old.
(Harris can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)