Parkersburg City Council confirms personnel director

Personnel director, Quincy steps, new motto top agenda

Parkersburg Mayor Tom Joyce, left, administers the oath of office to newly appointed city Personnel Director Sondra Wallace, center, as her husband, Craig, holds the Bible in the small conference room adjacent to council chambers after Tuesday's Parkersburg City Council meeting. Council approved the nomination 7-2. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

PARKERSBURG — City Council approved Mayor Tom Joyce’s nominee for personnel director, made the Quincy steps part of Quincy Hill Park and adopted a new motto during its regular meeting Tuesday.

Sondra Wallace, a longtime employee of the Wood County Assessor’s Office who worked the last two years at the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department, was confirmed on a 7-2 vote, with Councilmen Bob Mercer and Jeff Fox opposed.

“I’m very excited,” Wallace said after the meeting at the Municipal Building. “I think it will be a rewarding position, and I’m looking forward to it.”

During the meeting, Joyce said Wallace believes in employee accountability and has demonstrated responsible stewardship of public funds.

“Ms. Wallace is someone I know will do a fantastic job for the city,” the mayor said.

Parkersburg City Councilman John Reed explains the reasoning behind the council’s new motto during Tuesday’s council meeting. The motto was unanimously approved. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

Mercer made a motion to table the nomination until the next council meeting, “until we can get some further information.” It failed 7-2, with only he and Fox voting for it.

After the meeting, both councilmen said they wanted additional information after being contacted by residents who voiced concerns about Wallace’s previous employment with the county.

“It was all new to me,” Fox said. “They were asking questions that I couldn’t answer.

“I’m certainly rooting for her to succeed and do a great job, and the mayor’s assured us that she will,” Fox said.

Asked about concerns in reference to her time at the county, Wallace responded after the meeting: “There’s nothing to say.”

Parkersburg City Council President J.R. Carpenter, left, talks with City Attorney Joe Santer, prior to the start of Tuesday’s meeting, in council chambers. Above them is a banner displaying the council’s motto, approved during the meeting. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

Council unanimously approved accepting the “paper street” of 10th Street, up which the Quincy steps run, and a parcel of land to the right of the steps as part of Quincy Hill Park.

“Many people find it absurd that this isn’t part of the park already,” Councilman Eric Barber said.

Council President J.R. Carpenter said the move would prevent land that was intended to be part of the park from being sold. The parcel on the left side of the steps was given to a neighboring property owner in a 2015 land swap. Carpenter and some members of the previous council argued it should not have been done because the original donor of the land wanted it to be part of the park, but that was not recorded in the deed.

Also unanimously approved was a motto for council that reads: “We are a community, and we will cooperate when possible, compromise when necessary. Confrontation is not an option.”

The motto was displayed on a banner on the wall in council chambers. The letters spelling “unity” in “community” are highlighted in blue.

“By hanging it there, we can remind ourselves and remind the public that we want to work together,” Councilman John Reed said. “That comes from us. That comes from the public.”

In other business, city Engineer Justin Smith told council members about an emergency repair being undertaken to fix a severely cracked and deteriorating pipe beneath an unimproved alley between 25th and 26th streets behind St. Margaret Mary Church. The church parish hall sits above a portion of the pipe.

City Attorney Joe Santer explained that because the repair was deemed an emergency, council action was not required to fund it. Insituform Technologies, a Pennsylvania-based company in town for a project for the Parkersburg Utility Board, quoted the city a price of $68,600.

“Because they’re already on site, there’ll be a savings to the city of somewhere around $16,000,” Santer said.

Two other companies also offered quotes, Smith said.

The first reading of an ordinance authorizing the lease/purchase of $693,536.03 in street paving and signage equipment passed 9-0, after council members asked Public Works Director Everett Shears a number of questions about the equipment, its warranties and maintenance schedules. Joyce said the amount is a major expense that won’t be duplicated in the upcoming budget and should pay dividends in the form of infrastructure improvements.

Council also unanimously approved the creation of a designated fund for money from lines of credit from the West Virginia Housing Development Fund for dilapidated house demolitions and the transfer to it of $100,000 allocated to repay the lines. The creation of committees to recognize positive achievements by youth and public safety officials were also approved in 9-0 votes.