Weirton closer to getting pool study funds

WEIRTON _ The Marland Heights Community Association is a signature away from having the money it needs for a study that would help pinpoint the cost to restore a historic swimming pool, City Council was told Monday.

The group recently was awarded $15,000 from the state historic preservation fund to pay for the Phase I study and is ready to send out letters for proposals. Before they can get the money, however, the MHCA and the city, its governmental “pass-through” sponsor, must sign a contract with the state Historic Commission.

City officials balked at signing on the dotted line without assurances that they wouldn’t be on the hook for costs associated with the project, including the $6,000 in local matching funds required by the state.

The contract they were asked to sign “had language I’ve never seen,” said Mayor George Kondik. “We’re just being cautious with taxpayer money.”

MHCA member Dave Marston, however, assured council they’ve raised more than enough money to cover the $6,000 local match and said the group is more than willing to take responsibility for it and for any other fees that might be associated with it. He said they’d been asked to have their attorney draft a document to that effect, which Marston said they hope to have in city hands today.

But Marston also said they have to move quickly. The signed contract was originally due in Charleston Monday but, due to the confusion, state officials extended the deadline until April 22.

“We’re just hoping for assurances from the city tonight that you’ll sign it by the 22nd so we don’t lose the grant,” he said.

In other action, council heard the first reading of an ordinance that would amend the city charter to allow the city clerk position to be permanent rather than appointed but pulled three other charter-related ordinances from the agenda pending further discussion: a proposal to modify election dates; the proposed consolidation of polling sites and a measure which would have given the city manager the ability to spend up to $5,000 without council’s prior approval and would have allowed them to spend up to $10,000 without going through the competitive bid process.

Charter changes require two readings in addition to a public hearing. If an objection is raised at any point in the process, the issues would have to go on the election ballot

Ward 4 Councilman George Ash suggested giving the proposed competitive bid benchmark more consideration, saying he was concerned that the higher amount would leave small business owners out in the cold and would like time to more fully consider the ramifications.

As it now stands, local businesses enjoy a 5 percent bid preference.

“If we raise the bid (threshold) up to $10,000 or more, a lot of businesses in this town won’t have a chance to win a bid,” he said. “They won’t have a chance to get anything at all.”

He also suggested that before changing election dates and polling sites, they should first meet with the Brooke and Hancock county clerks.

Council, meanwhile, passed the first reading of a zoning change that will allow the aging congregation of Resurrection Lutheran Church, located at the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and Cove Road, to more easily sell its property.

The zoning change would give the entire property a C-2 Regional Commercial designation.

“Changing the zoning would help us market the property,” said Linda Leonard, president of the church council.

She said real estate agents have told the congregation there’s very little chance another church would buy the property, or that anyone would want to build homes on the portion of the property currently zoned residential.

“We have to close our doors within the next year,” she said. “We’re too old and too poor to keep the church running, and we have no young people to take over.”

Council also passed the first reading of an ordinance requesting a handicapped parking sign be installed at 416 South 17th Street, and a resolution placing a lien against a property on Gullet Lane slated for demolition.

The meeting was punctuated by a lengthy closed-door session to discuss union negotiations and city property.