WELLLSBURG - The Brooke County Commission on Tuesday agreed to drop the Veterans Memorial Bridge lighting project and to form a task force to consider establishing a county administrator.
County Commissioners Tim Ennis and Norma Tarr voted against pursuing decorative lighting for the bridge, citing concerns about the county being stuck with the full cost to power them if other entities involved withdrew support.
The Brooke-Hancock-Jefferson Metropolitan Planning Commission had secured $240,000 from the state of Ohio, and a local match was to be provided with $160,000 from the Charles M. and Thelma M. Pugliese Foundation. But the project stalled with a proposed agreement that called for the county commissions of Brooke, Hancock and Jefferson counties and the cities of Follansbee, Steubenville and Weirton to contribute to the cost of power and maintain the lights.
Tarr said the agreement would have allowed any of the parties to withdraw with 30 days' notice, which could leave Brooke County stuck with the bill. She added the project was initiated in 2007, before many of the parties were faced with economic difficulties.
Ennis said, "I was disappointed not to see it i through to fruition, but I understand the county commission doesn't want to be saddled with the expense when times are tough."
Ennis said he has learned it costs $3,500 per month to power lights on the refurbished Market Street Bridge "so it would have cost at least that much" for those on the Veterans Memorial Bridge.
Ennis, the commission's newest member, earlier this year noted the positive reaction by many to the Market Street Bridge's lights and suggested lighting the Veterans Memorial Bridge might boost tourism. But he said Tuesday it was time to move on since the grant for the project expires soon and the commission would have to seek an extension.
Commission President Marty Bartz didn't attend the meeting but said earlier he'd prefer instead to invest funds to improve roads or the extension of water and sewer lines.
The matter also came up at Wednesday's meeting of the Brooke-Hancock-Jefferson Metropolitan Planning Commission. Jefferson County Commissioner Tom Graham had suggested parties interested in lighting the bridge meet with the Brooke County Commission, not knowing its decision on Tuesday.
In other business, the commission agreed to form a task force to consider the pros and cons of establishing a county administrator.
"A county administrator would do the job city managers currently do for the cities. He or she would be like the business manager for the county," Ennis said.
"A good county administrator could save the county thousands of dollars in savings and could bring in thousands of dollars in grants as well," he added.
Ennis said Hancock, Ohio and Marshall counties and other West Virginia counties have administrators.
Brooke County once had a county administrator - Bob Riccelli, who served in the position for a few years in the late 1990s before becoming economic development director of Weirton.
Ennis said each of the commissioners will be asked to appoint three members to the task force, which he sees as a mix of residents and county officials.
He hopes that after weighing the pros and cons, they will make a recommendation to the commission in February, after newly elected Commissioner Jim Andreozzi has begun his term.