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Parkersburg City Council to hear Memorial Bridge proposal

An SUV stops to pay the toll at the Memorial Bridge in Parkersburg on Friday. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

PARKERSBURG — The city of Parkersburg stands to gain more than $14 million by selling the Memorial Bridge to a private company.

A press release from Parkersburg Mayor Tom Joyce on Friday afternoon identified Colorado-based United Bridge Partners as the bidder to purchase the toll bridge, which opened in 1955 and connects West Virginia 2 to Ohio 7.

“United Bridge Partners is a U.S.-based owner/operator of bridges with a focus primarily on replacement and rehabilitation of existing bridges,” the release said. “Bridge projects have been undertaken by UBP in Joliet, Ill.; Bay City, Mich.; East Chicago, Ind.; and Chesapeake, Va.”

Parkersburg City Council voted in late 2018 to begin the process of divesting the bridge, with Joyce saying that while it was still safe and usable, the city would never be in a financial position to tear down and replace it.

That’s what officials hoped a private bidder would do, but feedback on the initial request for proposals led council to amend the request to allow for significant rehabilitation.

Vehicles travel on the West Virginia side of the Memorial Bridge on Friday. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

United was the only company to submit a bid, the release said.

The process was aided by the West Virginia Legislature, which passed a bill earlier this month authorizing the collection and retention of tolls by a private entity, clarifying procedures for collecting tolls electronically and limiting the rate of taxation on a municipally owned bridge sold to a private entity to its salvage value.

As part of the bid, UBP would pay the city $4 million for the bridge. City funds set aside for the bridge’s maintenance and demolition would be unencumbered and available for municipal use. In March, those accounts stood at $5,336,865.31 for demolition and $4,959,297.95 for maintenance.

Council will meet at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 29, as the Committee of the Whole to consider UBP’s proposal. If forwarded to council by the committee, which consists of all nine members, it is expected that an ordinance on two readings would be required to approve the deal. That could take place as early as the May 11 and 25 meetings.

Messages seeking additional information about the process were not immediately returned Friday afternoon by representatives of the city. UBP said no additional information would be available until after its presentation to the city.

According to the release, if council approves the proposal, ownership of the bridge would be transferred to UBP in the near future, but the city would continue to employ toll collectors and provide regular maintenance such as street cleaning and snow removal. The company would begin a rehabilitation process for the bridge that Joyce previously said could represent an investment of $50 million or more.

During that time, costs of city services and employees would be paid fully from the toll revenues or reimbursed by UBP, the release said. Bridge tolls would not be increased during that time.

“Upon completion of rehabilitation, UBP will assume full and complete responsibility to operate and maintain the bridge, and tolls will thereafter be collected electronically via transponder or pay-by-plate invoice,” the release said.

Copies of the bid, executive summary and technical proposal are available for review in the city clerk’s office on the second floor of the Municipal Building during normal business hours. Thursday’s Committee of the Whole meeting, in council chambers, is open to the public.

Evan Bevins can be reached at ebevins@newsandsentinel.com.

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On the Agenda

* Parkersburg City Council will meet as the Committee of the Whole at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 29, to consider a proposal to purchase the Memorial Bridge.

* The meeting will be held in council chambers on the second floor of the Municipal Building.

* The meeting is open to the public, with masks or face coverings required and social distancing observed.

* Copies of the bid by United Bridge Partners, the executive summary and the technical proposal are available for review in the city clerk’s office on the second floor of the Municipal Building.

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