Wellsburg will receive state support for demolitions | News, Sports, Jobs

DELAID STRUCTURES DISCUSSED – City attorney Ryan Weld, fourth from left, listened to questions from members of Wellsburg council on Tuesday before discussing a pilot program through which the city will receive reimbursement for the demolition of dilapidated structures. –Warren Scott

WELLSBURG — City officials will continue tearing down dilapidated structures with financial support under a new state program, while an engineering firm is expected to help update Wellsburg’s plan for separation combined sanitary and storm sewer lines.

City attorney Ryan Weld met in executive session Tuesday with members of Wellsburg council to discuss the first deteriorating buildings that could be acquired under a Department of Environmental Protection pilot program of West Virginia.

Weld said owners of the properties will be asked to turn the buildings over to the city, which will remove them using up to $290,000 granted for that purpose.

He said the city will have up to a year to use the funds under the pilot program, and he hopes to raze 15 to 20 buildings during that time.

Weld said the goal is to tackle the most dangerous structures owned by people who lack the funds to fix them. Landlords will receive no funds for their properties, only relief from that financial burden, he said.

But Weld said some demolitions may need to proceed through the usual steps taken for condemnations, with a lien to be placed on the property so the cost can be recouped by the city later.

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

Council also heard from Doug Smith, an engineer with Thrasher Engineering, who advised the city to update its long-range plan for the separation of combined sanitary and storm sewers.

The Federal Environmental Protection Agency has ordered cities across the United States to separate these lines, common in many areas, to address the risk of raw sewage entering waterways when sanitary sewers become overloaded by heavy rains.

Smith and City Manager Steve Maguschak noted that to date the city has separate lines at Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, 25th, 26th, and 27th Streets.

Smith said the city needs to split a line at 15th Street this year, but that won’t happen, so she’ll have to apply to the state DEP for an extension.

Smith said the project was postponed because the city had earmarked funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to install lines to deal with heavy runoff along Pleasant Avenue and High Street.

Maguschak said that although FEMA awarded about $1 million to design the project, it did not approve additional funds for its estimated $14 million construction.

Smith said he appealed FEMA’s decision three times, but failed because of a new formula the agency used to determine the cost-benefit of those efforts.

Maguschak encouraged council to allow Thrasher to apply for the extension and update the city’s 20-year plan for sewer line separations, which is required by the DEP.

“It is imperative that we move forward and there is money involved in this,” he advised.

Smith said federal funds are expected to be available for such projects.

The Council authorized Thrasher to do so.

In other cases counsel:

– Learned that the city will be among the local governments to receive part of the state attorney general’s office’s $82.5 million settlement with CVS Pharmacy for the distribution of opioid medications.

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

A memorandum of understanding from the attorney general’s office says the money is to be used to support drug treatment programs and education and to reduce the sale, distribution and promotion of these drugs.

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

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