WEIRTON – The Weirton Board of Park and Recreation Commissioners announced that it was pleased with the response of City Council to its recent funding requests during its regular meeting on Thursday, which was held at Starvaggi Memorial Pool & Park.
The announcement came as part of an update on the matter of funding requests made to City Council in a recent letter sent by Park Board Chairman Ed Bowman. Bowman’s letter requested $1 million for the rehabilitation of the swimming pool vessel at Starvaggi Park and $10,000.00 to be placed in an account and held for the completion of asphalt paving at the Panhandle Rail Trail (PRT). On the heels of that letter of request, council invited the Park Board’s representatives to take part in a discussion regarding the request at a council workshop, which was held at the Weirton Municipal Building on Tuesday.
“I was encouraged by the communication we had with council,” Bowman said. “The discussion was very positive and seemed to be well received. A couple council members were not present, but I think it went well. And, it bears noting that we formalized our request in writing based on communication we had with some council members who voiced their unsolicited support for the Starvaggi Pool project.”
The council workshop provided the Park Board with an opportunity to have a lengthy discussion with city legislators outlining the need for funding to upgrade Starvaggi Pool. Park Board Member Doug Finton and City Councilman and Park Board Member Mike Adams each added that they were also pleased by the results of the discussion.
“An extensive study of the facility completed in 2005 estimated the swimming pool vessel – the shell that actually holds the water – at Starvaggi Park was 15 to 25 years beyond its useful life then,” Park Board Director Coty Shingle said. “Obviously, that means we’re at least 30, and maybe even 40 years past its useful life now.”
Back in March, the Park Board made a presentation to City Council in which each Park Board facility was discussed, noting the current status of those facilities, projected status in the coming years and plans to upgrade each facility. The swimming pool vessel at Starvaggi Park was the biggest ticket item on the Park Board’s list of needed improvements, and was second only in need to the repair of the south wall footer and foundation at the Weirton Millsop Community Center (WMCC). In all, the Park Board outlined over $5 million worth of needed improvements during its presentation in March.
During the Tuesday discussion with council, Shingle stated the pool loses about 5,000 gallons a day, which he reiterated at Thursday’s Park Board meeting could cost the Park Board thousands of dollars this summer.
City Council voted a couple months back to fund the repair of the south wall at WMCC and the Park Board voted unanimously at Thursday’s meeting to authorize the acceptance of bids for that project to get under way as soon as possible, with Weirton-based James White Construction completing the excavation work and Moran/RamJack Construction, based in Marietta, Ohio, completing the footer repair and wall stabilization. This first phase of the south wall repair at WMCC will total a little under $440,000.00. Phases two and three of the project will be much less costly and could include some inhouse work by Park Board staff and the city’s Public Works Department.
City Council also briefly discussed the Park Board’s request for funds toward the paving of the PRT at Tuesday’s workshop, a project that has picked up steam lately thanks to the efforts of Bowman, the Park Board and Park Board staff. At Thursday’s Park Board meeting, Bowman presented a $10,000.00 check he had received from the Brooke County Commissioners for the PRT Paving Fund.
“I really think the public needs to understand what we’re trying to do,” Bowman said. “We’re going to continue to solicit funding from multiple sources until it looks like we have enough to get the Panhandle Rail Trail paved.”
“Obviously, I did some lobbying for the funding from the Brooke Commission and I intend to do some more lobbying with the Hancock County Commission, as well as other government officials. I talked personally with Sen. Joe Manchin last week, with whom I have a great personal relationship, to see if there was anything he could do to provide $100,000.00 for the paving of this trail.”
The result of Bowman’s conversation with Sen. Manchin was the preparation of an Earmark Funding Request through Sen. Manchin’s office. The request seeks $125,000.00 in earmarked federal funds that would be used to pave the PRT. If the request is granted, the Park Board would have access to $145,000.00 for paving the PRT, with plans to accumulate as much as $40,000.00 more from local stakeholders. The earmark funding request was delivered to Sen. Manchin’s office ahead of last Friday’s deadline.
The Park Board is also currently sponsoring a West Virginia Department of Highways (DOH) Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) Grant for PRT paving funds, but those grants have in recent times taken as long as eight years from approval to project completion.
“One of the most important benefits of taking this approach is that it’s not a grant,” Bowman said of the earmark request. “As we all know, grants take time. This is an appropriation, which can be approved and utilized pretty quickly. We do have a grant request in and Coty’s working with Dave Cline (Panhandle Rail Trail Committee representative) on that, but in the interest of time, if we can have this request fulfilled, we can accomplish our objective much more quickly.”
In other business conducted during Thursday’s Park Board meeting, the board voted unanimously to approve the purchase and installation of a new HVAC system for the Park Board’s main offices at WMCC. That project will total around $7,500.00.
The Park Board also received updates on upcoming improvements to Edwin J. Bowman Field (EJB) as part of its $122,000.00 Land, Water Conservation Fund Grant project. Up next at EJB is complete infield replacement, installation of a warning track, installation of bleacher canopies and expansion of concession and storage shed areas.
The City of Weirton’s Annual Independence Day Parade, organized by Park Board staff in conjunction with city administrators, will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, July 3 on Main Street in front of WMCC. Those interested in participating in the parade can still register for a unit assignment through Friday.