Wellsburg officials move forward with projects

WELLSBURG – Steps to repair City Hall and refurbish the brick sidewalks along Charles Street were among matters before City Council on Tuesday.

Council named HDR Inc. of Weirton as its first choice as engineer for the restoration of brick sidewalks along Charles Street from Seventh to Eighth streets. The city has secured a $164,000 grant from the West Virginia Department of Transportation and committed a $41,000 local match for the project.

HDR was one of three engineering firms WVDOT officials said had been approved, through a competitive selection process, to serve as on-call consultants for projects in WVDOT’s Streetscape program.

Mayor Sue Simonetti told council it could seek proposals from engineers on its own, but the state’s selection process would help to expedite the project. She noted the engineer may decline to accept the project for various reasons, such as other commitments.

The section of sidewalk is among brick walks along Charles Street the city has secured state funds to restore loose and broken bricks.

A major part of the effort is the restoration of the city’s town square using a $366,000 grant and $80,000 match from the city.

Simonetti said engineering designs for the town square project have been submitted to the state by the Hays Landscape Architecture Studio of St. Clairsville for WVDOT’s approval.

She hopes work on the square can begin next spring.

In related business, City Manager Mark Henne said he’s put on hold plans to remove City Hall’s clock tower, which has been cited as the source of leaks into the building. He said instead he will employ an electrician in removing electrical wiring in the tower in an effort to determine if the problem can be corrected without removing it.

In other business:

Council voted 4-3 on the second reading of an ordinance requiring property owners to keep sidewalks in front of their homes or businesses clean and free “from any obstruction or other hazard.”

It calls for the city manager or street superintendent to notify those who fail to do that will have at least one day to correct the problem. After that, either city official may arrange for the sidewalk to be cleared and charge the property owner for the cost.

Supporting the ordinance were 1st Ward Councilmen Bruce Hunter and Mike Mitchell and 2nd Ward Councilmen Brian Tennant and Paul T. Billiard. Opposing were 4th Ward Council members Charlie Harris and Della Serevicz and 3rd Ward Councilman Randy Fletcher.

Third Ward Councilman Tom R. Diserio didn’t attend.

Harris said he supports it but believes it should specifically cite snow, which had spurred the ordinance’s development. Serevicz said an older ordinance sufficiently addresses the problem.

Simonetti said she will continue to accept letters of interest from residents interested in serving on a committee to review the city’s charter, which governs the city’s operations.

Established in 1887, the charter last was updated in 1996.

Letters of interest should be send to the mayor at 70 Town Square, Wellsburg, WV 26070, or mayorsimonetti@comcast.net.

Council granted C.H.A.N.G.E. Inc. permission to distribute free lunches to children from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. weekdays from June 9 through Aug. 1. The community action agency has acquired federal funds to provide lunches to any children at parks and other sites in Brooke and Hancock counties.

Last year it operated the program at the city’s 4th Ward Park, but Billiard suggested the 1st Ward Park would be a better site because it has restrooms and is handicap-accessible.

Council agreed to seek a $7,178 extension grant from the West Virginia Development Office for a light post with flood lights for the Betty Carr Recreation Site.

Simonetti said bids will be sought soon.

In related business, Billiard said a temporary fence will be installed on the north side of the park near Fourth Street until a permanent one can be installed to address concerns by officials with the Northern Panhandle Head Start program, which uses the park.

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