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Parkersburg City Council considering CDBG budget

Parkersburg City Councilwoman Sharon Kuhl, right, asks a question during a Finance Committee meeting Tuesday at the Municipal Building as Councilwoman Jessica Cottrille listens. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

PARKERSBURG — The city’s proposed 2021-22 Community Development Block Grant budget includes funding for improvements to streetscapes, downtown lighting and public safety initiatives.

Development Projects Administrator Ryan Barber presented the plan for the $897,015 federal allocation to be used in low- to moderate-income census tracts to Parkersburg City Council’s Finance Committee Tuesday.

Nearly a third of the amount, $278,548, is earmarked for repayment of the loan that funded the 2008 improvements to Point Park. Another $52,756 will cover a quarter of the annual repayment of the loan to build the new Fire Station 2 at 16th and Covert streets. The remainder comes from the general fund.

The proposed budget adds $100,000 to a Market Street streetscape enhancement project, for which $546,699.85 has already been allocated. The estimated cost to put in new sidewalks, period lighting and landscaping from Ninth to 13th street is $2.5 million, but Barber said an initial phase to go from Ninth to the portion of 10th street that connects to Avery Street is $500,000.

“That’s a biddable project,” he said.

Parkersburg Mayor Tom Joyce speaks during a City Council Finance Committee meeting Tuesday at the Municipal Building. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

In conjunction with that, the budget includes $86,546 for a project to upgrade and replace street lights with decorative, LED lighting along the easterly side of Market Street from Ninth to 19th streets.

For the second year, the budget for the Community Oriented Police Enforcement Program is proposed to be $135,000. In addition to continuing to pay a full-time officer to patrol higher-crime neighborhoods, the money also funds bike patrols in those areas.

Another $20,000 is designated for the purchase and installation of several blue light emergency phones.

“Essentially it’s a tall, blue, identifiable object for someone who’s … in some type of emergency situation and needs to call” for help, Barber said.

Councilwoman Sharon Kuhl questioned the need for the devices, saying most people have cell phones and the emergency phones might be placed in higher crime areas prone to vandalism.

“We’re putting $20,000 into something that may be destroyed the first week it’s up there,” she said.

Barber said the devices are equipped with cameras that begin recording when the receiver is picked up. They will also be lit at night for increased visibility.

Mayor Tom Joyce said he envisions placing some of the devices along the Multi-Use Trail city officials hope to complete in the not-too-distant future. A significant portion of it is located on the river side of the floodwall.

“We can’t build that trail and not have some modicum of security build-out,” Joyce said.

Kuhl said there are areas in south Parkersburg, where her district is located, that might benefit from the placement of an emergency phone.

The budget includes $121,165 for planning, administration and management of the program and its initiatives, including portions of employee salaries.

The CDBG budget is in a period of public comment before the full council considers it on May 11. It and the Parkersburg-Wood County HOME Consortium budget are available for review on the city website at parkersburgcity.com. People can also request that copies be sent to them by mail or email.

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

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