Wellsburg Receives Federal Aid for Demolition | News, Sports, Jobs

DERELICT STRUCTURES DISCUSSED — City Solicitor Ryan Weld, fourth from left, listened to questions from Wellsburg Council members Tuesday before discussing a pilot program through which the city will receive reimbursement for the demolition of derelict structures. – Warren Scott

WELLSBURG — City officials will ramp up the demolition of derelict buildings with financial support from a new state program, while an engineering firm is expected to help update Wellsburg’s plan to separate combined plumbing and storm sewer lines.

City Attorney Ryan Weld met with Wellsburg Council members in an executive session Tuesday to discuss the first deteriorating buildings that may be acquired through a pilot program by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection.

According to Weld, the owners of the lots will be asked to turn over the buildings to the city, which will proceed with the removal and allocate up to $290,000 for the purpose.

He said the city has up to a year to use the funds as part of the pilot program and he hopes to raze 15 to 20 buildings in that time.

Weld said the goal is to target the most dangerous structures owned by people who lack the resources to target them. Owners will not receive funds for their properties, only relief from this financial burden, he said.

But Weld said it may need to do some demolitions through the usual sentencing steps, including placing a lien on the property so the city can recover the costs later.

Weld said he submitted a lengthy application for the city to be included in the program and that it is one of 21 to be selected from 80 applicants and the only one north of Fairmont.

The council also heard from Doug Smith, an engineer at Thrasher Engineering, who advised the city to update its long-term plan for the separation of combined plumbing and storm sewers.

The Federal Environmental Protection Agency has ordered cities across the US to disconnect such lines, which are common in many areas, to reduce the risk of raw sewage entering waterways when sewer systems are overloaded by heavy rain.

Smith and City Manager Steve Maguschak noted that the city has so far separated lines at Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, 25th, 26th and 27th Streets.

Smith said the city has plans to sever a line at 15th Street this year, but that won’t happen, so it will have to seek an extension from the state’s DEP.

Smith said the project was delayed because the city was expecting funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to install lines to deal with the heavy runoff along Pleasant Avenue and the High Street.

Maguschak said that while FEMA granted about $1 million to design the project, it did not approve additional funding for the estimated $14 million to build.

Smith said he has appealed FEMA’s decision three times, but has been unsuccessful over a new formula being used by the agency to determine the cost-effectiveness of such efforts.

Maguschak encouraged the council to authorize Thrasher to request the extension and update the city’s 20-year plan for sewer separation, which the DEP is asking for.

“It is imperative that we deal with this and there are funds involved,” He guessed.

Smith said it is expected that federal funds would be available for such projects.

The Council authorized Thrasher to do so.

In other stores, advice:

– I have learned that the city will be among the local governments that will receive a portion of the Attorney General’s Office’s $82.5 million agreement with CVS Pharmacy to distribute opioid-based drugs.

Weld said 24.5 percent of that money would go to local governments statewide and calculated that Wellsburg would receive 0.00063 percent of that, or about $1,273.

A statement of intent from the attorney general’s office says the money must be used to support substance abuse treatment and education programs and to reduce the sale, distribution and advertising of such drugs.

— Approved year-end bonuses of $375 for each full-time employee, with part-time employees receiving $200, $150, or $100 based on hours worked.

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