COVID relief, policy for property use before Wellsburg Council

WELLSBURG — Wellsburg Council members had a full agenda Tuesday that included a proposal for use of federal pandemic relief funds awarded to the city and pending ordinances for community use of city property and the care of dogs in extreme weather.

Alex Weld, a member of the city’s urban redevelopment authority, suggested council could allocate about $160,000, about a tenth of more than $1 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds, to hire an independent grant writer to seek money for various projects.

Weld noted the projects could include repairs and improvements to infrastructure and efforts to spur economic development and redevelopment of vacant properties.

The volunteer redevelopment board was formed specifically for the latter purpose. In recent months the group has pursued acquisition of three buildings near Charles Street with the possible goal of restoring them for future use, but funding has been a concern.

Following the meeting, City Manager Steve Maguschak said he and other city officials haven’t received clear direction on how the federal funds may be used.

“Until we get some guidance, we are not making definite plans,” he said.

In related business, council voted 7-1 to adopt a policy that would prohibit individuals or groups from holding events on city property if the county is designated red for its number of COVID-19 cases, the health department has found the county’s positivity rate is at 9 percent or more, or a state of emergency has been declared by the governor.

It states the policy would be enforced by the city police chief, who under the city charter is Wellsburg’s public health officer, and violations would be “deemed a health hazard and public nuisance.”

City Solicitor Ryan Weld said he must draft a formal ordinance for the policy, so its first reading can be considered by council at its May 11 meeting.

Concerns had been raised by some on council about the city’s responsibility in approving such events during the pandemic and who should be responsible for consulting public health officials. The policy was supported by 1st Ward Councilmen Jack Kins and Danny Dudley, 2nd Ward Council members Paul T. Billiard and Mary Margaret Rosso, 3rd Ward Councilmen Randy Fletcher and Tom Gaudio and 4th Ward Councilwoman Della Serevicz.

It was opposed by 4th Ward Councilman Charlie Harris, who said approval or denial of such events should be determined by council, not the local health department, and conditions for the county alone don’t reflect those of neighboring areas whose residents also may attend them.

Council unanimously supported a proposed ordinance prohibiting dogs from being left outside in extreme weather.

It states dogs may not be tethered or otherwise kept outside for more than 30 minutes when the temperature is 90 degrees Fahrenheit or greater or 32 degrees Fahrenheit or less; and during thunderstorms, hail, tornadoes, floods or other severe weather conditions.

It adds, “Depending on size, breed and overall health of the dog upon inspection, the final judgment pertaining to its safety is up to the dog warden and/or law enforcement officers.”

The ordinance was suggested by area resident Carri Welsh, who has encouraged other local governments to adopt it.

Weld said he will need to adapt it to the city’s ordinance format so its first reading also may be considered on May 11.

Council also approved two expenses for the police department: about $41,000 for a sport utility vehicle, with police equipment, from Tri-Star Motors of Blairsville, Pa., and $3,840 for the annual maintenance of 16 radios obtained by the Brooke County Commission.

The commission has asked all emergency departments to cover the annual maintenance agreement for radios it purchased for the county’s police and emergency departments through an agreement with the Ohio County Commission.

Also on Tuesday, council:

• Authorized Brianna Ferguson, a Brooke High School student, to beautify and add educational and other signs along the city’s Yankee Trail for her senior year community service project.

• Granted requests by the Eagle Employees Federal Credit Union to use the Fourth Ward Park for its annual meeting, by Wellsburg United Methodist Church to hold a National Day of Prayer service at noon May 6 on the Town Square, and Brooke Hills Free Methodist Church to hold special worship services June 4-6 at a city park.

The last approval is contingent upon the services being planned for Central Park, as there was some question of the location.

(Scott can be contacted at wscott@heraldstaronline.com.)


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