By Steve Novotney
“Those who wish to be heard.”
It’s always the last item on every agenda for Wheeling’s city council meetings.
And it will be there again for tomorrow’s regularly scheduled meeting at 5:30 p.m. in the council’s chambers inside the City-County Building at 1500 Chapline Street in downtown Wheeling.
Anyone wishing to address the mayor and council members must register to do so at least 15 minutes before the beginning of the meeting. Once you are at the podium, you will have three minutes to say what you would like to say.
Some citizens take advantage of the opportunity. Several residents of Wheeling Island have requested an increased amount of attention from law enforcement. North Wheeling residents have wondered aloud if city officials can detour truck traffic away from W.Va. Route 2. Elm Grove folks have sought traffic relief at the Kruger Street-U.S. 40 intersection.
But far too often, no one steps up, and the people remain silent. Why? Some say they are not sure about what topics to address.
Need some assistance from someone who makes his living by paying attention?
Whatever happened to the downtown façade program?
- The last word about this program concerned the former Crone’s story and an impending lawsuit over payback. Was the program scrapped after that? If so, why? If not, how does a downtown business apply these days?
Whatever happened with the new-business-in-downtown B&O tax abatement program?
- This program was started during the Nick Sparachane Administration and included a 100 percent B&O Tax abatement for new downtown businesses and a 50 percent abatement for existing businesses. Is this program still active?
Whatever happened to the charter review idea communicated by the mayor soon after he was elected to his first term?
- When first elected, a review of the city’s Charter was high on Mayor Andy McKenzie’s priority list, but Wheeling residents haven’t heard much about that process for the past six years. Is it still on the mayor’s agenda? If not, why not?
What are the plans for the monies made via the partnership with the Wheeling Park Commission for the drilling activity under Oglebay Resort?
- The drilling process and pipeline construction continue, and only one well is producing and earning the park and the city money, but in the future the collected cash will grow significantly. How will these funds benefit Wheeling residents in the future?
Beyond the announced renovations at Wesbanco Arena (video board, new seats, and front façade build-out), what other ideas are on the table for enhancing the fan experience?
- The new scoreboard, new seats, and the new façade will be great improvements, but what about budgeting, “risk capital” so management can begin booking more entertainment? For the most part, the staff simply waits for the phone to ring to schedule events, but if they had the chance to pay for and promote bands, etc., the civic center could return to a “destination location.”
Housing in Wheeling is an issue, so why isn’t rebuilding the Manchester Bridge that used to link the East Wheeling and Morningside/Clator neighborhoods a consideration?
- Rock Point Road? Know where it is? Many people do not, and that’s because the Manchester Bridge was demolished and never replaced as planned several years ago, and now that area seems to have been forgotten during the search for developable land for new housing.
Can the relationship between the city of Wheeling and the Division of Highways be improved so the many announced projects actually take place – and in a timely fashion?
- The U.S. 40-Kruger Street intersection? The bridge systems east of Wheeling Tunnel? The Wheeling Suspension Bridge? All of these projects are on the schedule, but they have been on the DOH’s schedule for years now. How can Wheeling’s government work to improve this situation for Friendly City residents?
What specific infrastructure improvement projects will funded by the new sales tax implemented back on Oct. 1?
- We know about the project involving the bridges leading to the Peninsula Street Industrial Park, but what about after those are complete?
What efforts have been made by Wheeling officials to address the new, federal flood insurance laws?
- The potential for development along downtown Wheeling’s waterfront and in Centre Market is dwindling because of the federal government’s new mandates concerning flood insurance policies issued by the National Flood Insurance Program. Have city officials held conversations with the federal lawmakers representing the Friendly City? If so, how recently? Has the time arrived for city officials to bang that drum again?
And what is the council’s process for considering what local citizens address or offer suggestions during this time period on the agenda?
- This agenda item is recorded in the meeting minutes by City Clerk Janice Jones, but at what point are the words of the people considered by council members and the mayor?
Mayor Andy McKenzie is a nice man, and every single member of council is most pleasant and open to conversation. They are a very proactive bunch, and residents have benefited from their refusal to “kick the can” down to future generations.
But they can’t think of everything. No one can. But the people can certainly help.
feature photo by Steve Novotney