WELLSBURG - City Council has moved forward with efforts to repair and renovate City Hall, starting with areas it considers a top priority because they present a hazard or contribute to the building's deterioration.
At a special meeting Wednesday, council authorized McKinley and Associates of Wheeling to draw up bid specifications for several repairs, including removal of the clock tower.
City Manager Mark Henne said the tower has been found to be a source of leaks into the building as well as an area of the roof's slate tile and its gutters.
Both he and Mayor Sue Simonetti stressed funds will be sought to restore the tower, but it's a costly project that will be tabled until the city can secure the needed funds and after it's pursued more pressing matters.
Henne said for the tower he will seek public and private grants that may be available for historic preservation efforts. The building is part of the city's historic district on the state's Register of Historic Places.
Council meanwhile authorized Henne to seek a loan for the removal of the tower, which Simonetti said has deteriorated to the point holes can be punched into the wood, and for repairs to the roof and gutters, improvements to the electrical system and some minor duct work.
Michael Betsch, an architect with McKinley and Associates, said a preliminary estimate for the work is $36,000.
Henne said once the tower is removed, the four steel beams supporting it will be covered temporarily with something that's aesthetically pleasing, not merely a tarp or cloth cover, until the tower can be rebuilt.
Henne said plaster walls damaged by water in the stairwell and basement also need repaired. But he agreed with 2nd Ward Councilman Ron Michaux, who said such repairs should be delayed until the sources of the leaks have been addressed to prevent the city from "spending money twice for the same repairs."
A planned second phase for City Hall's renovation involves making it handicap-accessible, a move long discussed by the current council and previous ones.
Council authorized McKinley and Associates to draw up designs for a handicap-accessible ramp to the front or rear of the building. Betsch is expected to present them at the city finance committee's next meeting at 6 p.m. on Feb. 26.
Handicap-accessible restrooms and an elevator to the second floor also have been discussed, though the elevator is considered an especially expensive endeavor.
In recent years a chairlift was added to the winding stairwell to the second floor so handicapped people could attend council's meetings.
Last year the building's windows were replaced to make it more energy-efficient. The project was funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.