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Parkersburg mayor to declare ‘Back the Blue Day’

City Council meets Tuesday

PARKERSBURG — Mayor Tom Joyce plans to issue a proclamation slating a day to honor local law enforcement during Tuesday’s Parkersburg City Council meeting.

A copy of the “Back the Blue Day” proclamation was included with the agenda for the meeting, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in council chambers on the second floor of the Municipal Building. It will be on Saturday, the same day two members of council are organizing a rally in support of police.

Joyce said some members of council and the community had asked him to make a proclamation supporting law enforcement in light of protests around the country calling for reform and even defunding or abolishing police, or at least the current model, after the May 25 death of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police. Joyce said there are always opportunities for improvement, but he does not favor the defund or abolish approaches.

“I don’t believe that our Police Department or any of our local departments need reformed,” he said. “‘Reform’ to me indicates there’s something inherently wrong.”

That doesn’t mean people couldn’t be added to the ranks to deal with issues like mental illness, homelessness and drug addiction, which underly many of the calls to which police respond.

“I think there are fields of study and professional persons who may be better at dealing with those folks than your average police officer,” Joyce said.

Councilwoman Sharon Kuhl and Councilman Bob Mercer recently announced plans for a “Back the Blue, Back the Badge” rally at 5 p.m. Saturday, traveling down Market Street from Eighth to Second Street

Council will be asked to approve a resolution authorizing Joyce to submit an application to the National Endowment for the Arts’ Our Town Grant Program for $100,000 to support a program aimed at fostering entrepreneurship among area artists. The program would be administered by Downtown PKB, in cooperation with the Arts Collaborative of the Mid-Ohio Valley and West Virginia University at Parkersburg.

The 50 percent local match would come through private donations and contributions, not from the city, Joyce said.

Senta Goudy, dean of the Center for Civic Engagement and Innovation at WVUP, said the initiative will include business training, mentoring and technical assistance for artists. In addition, a few will move forward with retail space in the downtown area.

“We’re actively looking at some vacant spaces,” she said.

Also on the agenda are resolutions appointing Cindy Lockney to the Parkersburg and Wood County Public Library Board and reappointing Sean Andrews to the Municipal Planning Commission, as well as the first reading of an ordinance revising the local limits on the discharge of certain materials into the sanitary sewer system by a handful of large industrial users. The changes were made by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection during the most recent permit review, Parkersburg Utility Board Manager Eric Bennett said.

After the meeting adjourns, council will reconvene as the Urban Renewal Authority to receive additional information on a housing initiative proposed by the administration. At its last meeting in June, the authority approved acquiring some property on which to build affordable housing, but members asked the administration to provide additional building options, including modular homes.

Attendees at Tuesday’s meetings are asked to wear masks and observe six feet of social distancing. If there are more people than allowed in the chambers’ reduced capacity, overflow seating with audio is available in the executive conference room.

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