WHEELING, W.Va. — Following a 2019 year with plenty of headline news in Wheeling, Mayor Glenn Elliott said there are plenty of opinions on the state of the city. His thoughts are the city is strong and ready for the future.
“Are we experiencing a winter of despair or a spring of hope? It depends on who you ask,” Elliott said.
“But because I am standing before you today and happen to have a microphone, I am going to state for the record that I believe the future of our city looks very bright and the state of the city looks very strong.”
In his speech, Elliott laid out the “three legs of the state of the city stool” that included the economy, people who comprise of the city and the collective feelings for the future of Wheeling.
Elliott said the economy around town is strong and the proof is in the tax revenues. He stated that at last week’s city council meeting, City Manager Bob Herron presented a report on the first seven months of the fiscal year, which began July 2019.
“By comparison to the same time last year, we saw a significant increase in revenue from the city’s B&O taxes, sales taxes, and building permit fees,” Elliott said.
When addressing the second leg of his “state of the city stool” the feelings of future of the city, he responded to an op-ed written in the Wheeling Intelligencer.
The piece asked the mayor to address the topics of the proposed Public Safety Building, redevelopment of the Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Building and the downtown “streetscape” project.
The construction of a Public Safety Building to house the city’s police and fire departments was one of the most talked-about stories in the past year for the city, along with the status of Wheeling University, Ohio Valley Medical Center closing, the Suspension Bridge closed to vehicular traffic, overhaul of Interstate-70 and a new user fee.
The fee was installed at the beginning of 2020 in part to pay for the $14.5 million safety building, which was voted down in a levy in the 2018 election, and to pay for infrastructure such as roads.
Elliott said the city is waiting on the final results from a full Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessment report on the property at 19th and Jacob Streets, and also see if the city is successful in its request for federal Brownsfield Assistance Center help.
“They cannot discuss Downtown without reminding you how amazing it used to be. They see the closing of OVMC as a harbinger of dark times ahead,” Elliott said of the “pessimists around the city.”
“They decry the condition of our state roads and current traffic detours. And the only thing that seems to bother them more than any of this is the notion of their City government spending their tax dollars to try to fix any of it. If the ship is sinking, after all.”
In further addressing the hot button issues, Elliott told the crowded room at the casino that the “streetscaping” project created five years ago is close to having an announcement of funding in March. Elliott said the project would be the “most significant facelift for downtown Wheeling since 1980.”
He said the work, which would replace sidewalks and streets around downtown as well as add new traffic signals and crosswalks, is now costing around three times more than the $8.7 million announced in 2015 with the idea.
Lastly, when addressing the future of Wheeling, Elliott said the city is waiting on the developer with financing in the Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Building renovation. Officials want to make the skyscraper into market-rate housing, among other small ventures.
Elliott said the city is busy putting together a plan to add a parking structure to the old Chase Bank building that would support the new housing in downtown.
“This would be the largest investment in the history of downtown Wheeling,” he said. “Roughly the same size as the investments of the Health Plan and the Boury Lofts combined.
“It’s very important we do not underestimate what the significance it would be to save the only skyscraper we have in this city with an investment of that size.”
Throughout his 37-minute speech, Elliott honored several citizens of Wheeling. This was part of his final leg in the “state of the city stool,” the people of Wheeling.
Hydie Friend receieved the 4th annual Gateway Award, Wheeling 250 Committee Chairman Jay Frey was honored with the Community Spirit Award, and Elliott honored Dr. Jeannae Finstein, Gail “Boatsie” VanVranken and the late Jim Bordas for their services to the city.
Ron Scott Jr. was honored by Elliott for his work as the Cultural Diversity & Community Outreach Director for the Wheeling YWCA. Elliott spoke highly on the services of the Augusta Levy Learning Center.
Elliott filed for reelection for 2020 and faces tests from businessman Chris Hamm and Tony Domenick. Vice Mayor Chad Thalman is also seeking reelection in his Ward 1 seat.