6:00: Morning News

Wheeling council approves user fee

WHEELING, W.Va. — The Wheeling City Council on Tuesday approved a user fee which will go toward a proposed public safety building and infrastructure projects throughout the city.

The $2 user fee, which will go into effect Jan. 1, comes after voters last November rejected a $22 million property tax levy for the public safety building.

Councilman Ken Imer voted against Tuesday’s motion.

Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott said he is happy the council passed the user fee, noting the need for a new public safety building in the city.

“Our police and fire departments’ headquarters are decades behind where they’re supposed to be,” he told MetroNews.

Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott

The current police headquarters opened in 1958, and the current fire department space — located at the bottom of a parking garage — opened in 1976.

“Instead of building two separate buildings for these departments, let’s look at a combined public safety building as other cities across the state have done,” he said.

“What we’re doing now is making up for past mistakes and going forward with what I think will be a very responsible way to fund this project,” he added.

Elliott said he wishes minimum wage and part-time workers could have been exempt, but they do have to abide by state law.

“We think the user fee is the fairest way to pay for this project and give our first responders a new facility,” he said.

The city is aiming to select a site by January and open the building in 2021. The building is estimated to cost $14.5 million.

Elliott noted the biggest concerns regarding a location include convenient highway access, size of the land parcel and distance from the floodplain.

In regards to road maintenance, Elliott said the city has ‘been playing catch-up” on paving, which includes $1 million in paving last year alone. One future project Elliott noted was replacing the Washington Avenue bridge, which is a city-owned structure.

“We’ll use that new service fee funding to pay for projects just like that,” he said.

The passed ordinance also includes language ending the user fee after 25 years unless the city council chooses to extend the fee.

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