New election to be held for park levy

NEW CUMBERLAND – Residents of New Cumberland will have to vote again on the city’s park board levy because it didn’t receive enough votes in May.

City Council on Monday scheduled a special election for the park board levy for Jan. 18. The election is required because the levy passed by a 56 percent majority in the May 14 municipal election, and state law requires excess levies to pass by a 60 percent majority, City Clerk Tammy Jenkins said.

Mayor Linda McNeil said she was “dismayed” when she learned that the election was not considered legal by state standards.

The levy is the primary source of revenue for the New Cumberland Park Board, which oversees New Cumberland City Park, the Community Center, the Eden Valley ballfield and tennis courts and the South Chester Street park.

The levy, a tax on real and personal property, generates more than $42,000 a year toward the park board budget. Residents renewed the levy by a vote of 120-93 in May, but the margin of victory did not reach 60 percent, Jenkins said.

Jenkins said the city was informed of the matter in recent correspondence from Deputy State Auditor Ora Ash. The current levy expires on June 30. If it is renewed in January, it will expire on June 30, 2018.

Also Monday, council agreed to join the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle, the recognized economic development authority for Hancock and Brooke counties.

McNeil said she hopes the BDC membership will lead to economic development opportunities for New Cumberland.

BDC Executive Director Patrick Ford, who, with BDC board member Joe Paolo, addressed City Council on Monday, said New Cumberland’s membership will qualify it for financial and technical assistance.

“A lot of these smaller towns lack the technical resources and in-house staff to plan how to address these issues. We can give them that added capacity to develop an (economic development) plan,” Ford said. “There are a number of ways that their active participation in the BDC will add value to the community.”

Ford said New Cumberland may qualify for, among other things, grant money to pay for the demolition or rehabilitation of dilapidated properties. Such funding would come from the Northern West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center, which helped the city of Chester remediate the old Taylor, Smith and Taylor pottery site.

Ford said New Cumberland has a lot to offer business prospects looking for developable land and people looking for a place to live in Hancock County.

“They have rail that goes through their community, they have water and they have state Route 2. They have three critical transportation links that we think can be an asset in getting their community on the radar of business and industry prospects,” Ford said.

“Something more needs to be done to identify New Cumberland as a place for people to live who might work in other areas in the region,” he said.

Other small communities that belong to the BDC are Bethany and Beech Bottom, both in Brooke County. Membership dues are $1,500 a year, and City Council will have to appoint a representative to the BDC board, Ford said.

In other business, council:

Approved an ordinance that designates all parks within the city as drug-free zones.

Agreed to solicit bids for a project to make improvements to the entrance of New Cumberland Municipal Building. The city has an $8,000 matching grant to pay for the improvements.

Set trick-or-treat hours from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Oct. 31.

Established a policy that requires all checks drawn on the city account with First Choice America Community Federal Credit Union be signed by the mayor and two council members.