Vienna votes to buy Johns Manville property

VIENNA – The second reading of an ordinance giving the city permission to purchase the former Johns Manville property passed unanimously Thursday evening.

The vote was taken after much public debate about the property, including an hour-long public forum session. Several members of the community spoke out about their concerns about the property.

More than 30 people crowded into Vienna City Council Chambers for the public forum.

The property at 2905 2nd Ave. sits in the middle of Vienna but is not considered part of the city, said Mayor Randy Rapp.

“Right now, control of this property is in Wood County. If we don’t annex it so the city has control, it could be bought and used for anything,” Rapp said.

Audience members questioned how the city could afford the $900,000 investment for the property, and how the city planned to recover these costs in the future.

Rapp answered that the capital reserve fund, from which the property cost will be drawn, has in excess of $4 million. The city has loose plans to turn the riverfront section of the property into a park, and hopes to eventually sell the inner section after cleaning it up to another industrial company.

Rapp also clarified that the city’s sewer and water accounts are listed under enterprise funds, and each has approximately $1 million in them, he said. The capital reserve fund and the enterprise funds are separate, Rapp said.

The city has had interested parties contact the mayor’s office about the inner lot, Rapp said. Rapp said he was not at liberty to divulge the company’s name, but said the company would bring good-paying jobs to the area.

Others were concerned about the problems raised by the railroad crossing the property.

The property has rights of way under the tracks, Rapp said. The City of Vienna will gain control of those rights of way along with the property, he said.

Vienna resident Lawrence Wilson raised concerns about the current access to the riverfront area and the city’s ability to provide emergency assistance to anyone using the property in the future. He also raised concerns about the deed restrictions on the property.

Rapp said that access to the site can be improved as the site is improved, and that deed restrictions will not come into play until after the site is cleaned up and cleared by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection.

Citizens Les Pritchard and Kasey Brookover spoke about how they feel the city’s plans to purchase the property are a good idea.

“If (Vienna) doesn’t buy the property, somebody, somewhere, eventually will, and they will put who knows what there,” Brookover said.

In other news, the City of Vienna accepted a check for $2,500 from Melanie Roby, manager at Sam’s Club in Vienna. Vienna was given the money to pay for new iron fencing around the historic Neale-Cook Cemetery, which sits on a lot between the Sam’s Club and the Lowe’s.

The cemetery is the final resting place of several veterans, Rapp said. It has been cleaned up with the help of Sam’s Club and volunteers throughout the past couple of years, he said.

City Council voted unanimously to pass the second reading of the ordinance creating a procedure for filling a vacant council position.

The ordinance gives the city three options for filling a vacant city council seat, based on the timing of the next regular statewide election.

Council then voted unanimously to announce the council seat formerly held by Community Development Director Paul Thornton as vacant.

The council voted unanimously to pass the first reading of an ordinance for suggested zoning changes within the city.

The document was described as “86 pages long” by City Attorney Russell Skogstad Jr.

Council decided to forgo reading the entire resolution aloud, instead advising citizens the document can be located at vienna-wv.com/portal/documents/codified-ordinances/ and clicking on Planning and Zoning Code at the bottom of the page.

Items listed in red on the planning and zoning code are those which have been added, and items which have been struck through are those which have been removed, said Skogstad during Thursday’s meeting.

Council also voted unanimously on a dental program and a short-term disability program as suggested by the human resources manager.