Parkersburg council has busy agenda

PARKERSBURG – City council Tuesday will consider an ordinance to charge owners of rundown, vacant properties, the addition of up to eight assistant fire inspector positions and a pair of bond ordinances for the Parkersburg Utility Board totaling up to $14.7 million.

Prior to the council meeting at 7:30 p.m. in council chambers on the second floor of the Municipal Building, three committees will meet in the executive conference room.

The council agenda includes eight resolutions – four which deal with aligning rules and regulations to the police and firefighter pension and relief funds with state law – and the first readings of five ordinances.

Two of the ordinances relate to funding for the utility board. One is for the $12.7 million wastewater treatment plant upgrade that is part of the board’s efforts to meet federal Environmental Protection Agency requirements to eliminate by October 2020 wet weather overflows infiltrating the sanitary sewer system. The ordinance authorizes up to $13.7 million in bonds in case the cost is higher than the estimate.

“We haven’t bid it yet, so they put it in for a million more,” said Eric Bennett, utility board manager.

The other ordinance authorizes the acquisition of vehicles and equipment not to exceed $1 million in bonds. Again, Bennett said the amount authorized is higher than what’s expected to be needed, about $750,000.

“We’ve got several pieces of equipment to be replaced in the next couple of years, and with cash flow issues, it just made sense to lease-purchase, which we don’t typically do,” he said.

The recent sewer rate increases narrowly approved by city council were designed, in part, to cover the plant upgrade. Bennett said the vehicle and equipment purchases will not require additional rate increases.

The vacant property and fire inspector ordinances are part of Mayor Bob Newell’s multifaceted plan to address slum and blight. The former would establish a registry of vacant houses in the city and establish a fee of $100 a month after the first year of vacancy to offset the costs the city incurs in securing and maintaining such properties.

Councilwoman Sharon Lynch said it seems like a good idea to her.

“People have just moved out and not taken care of their property and leave it to the city” to deal with, she said.

At 6 p.m., the Personnel Committee, chaired by Lynch, will meet to discuss the ordinance that would establish eight assistant fire inspector positions to help alleviate some of the burden on the code enforcement department.

“Council has a few questions that are still unanswered that we’d like to have answered before we vote,” Lynch said, although she did not know the specific issues members were wanting to address.

Council also is expected to vote on a resolution allowing Newell to enter an agreement with the West Virginia Small Business Development Center to establish an office in the city building. The city would pay $15,000 of the salary, plus travel expenses, for the business coach assigned to the office, while the state would pay $40,000.

“This one is to help retain and expand existing small businesses, which is extremely important,” Newell said, noting an existing office located at West Virginia University at Parkersburg would deal more with education and start-ups.

Following the Personnel Committee, the Finance Committee meets at 6:30 to go over budget revisions for city departments and discuss funding for a potential sidewalk project. The Public Works Committee is slated to meet at 7 p.m. to consider a proposed utility line warranty program offered in partnership with the National League of Cities. The committee tabled the item in May after City Attorney Joe Santer raised questions over the terms of the agreement.

After the main meeting, council will reconvene as the Urban Renewal Authority to consider bids for three properties.