Council deals with annexation, gives wall a facelift
WESTOVER — This year, Westover Council discussed a number of things.
WestRidge was annexed into city limits with a number of new businesses slated to come to the city.
Residents faced a three-legged bear that roamed the streets and Holland Wall got a facelift.
“We talked about the next phase of WestRidge, the business part of it, so we’re going to try to get some dates where we can start talking about that again and get that ball moving,” said Mayor Dave Johnson at a meeting of council in November.
Another annexation still on the table and financing were also things Johnson brought up. He said as soon as he had more information on further action he would bring it to council’s attention.
The initial phase of annexation encompassed retail business. As previously reported, the first retail businesses will open this spring. Phase II is expected to contain development for office space. Monongalia County Commission signed off on the first annexation in March.
Estimates indicate the expected development in the annexed area will result in additional business and occupation tax for the city, ranging anywhere from $425,000 to $725,000 or more annually.
Bass Pro Shops, Menards and Rural King are new businesses expected to be opening in Westover with the new developments.
Director of Public Works Jason Stinespring reported to council Dec. 16 that he visited the site where a Rural King will be opening in the city. He said the interior is nearly done.
“That one will also be another big one for Westover. I think Rural King will absolutely kill in this area. They’re very nice stores,” he said then.
The Westover bear
A three-legged bear, which was seen running through the city’s streets, was shot in July, according to Westover Police Chief Richard Panico.
He confirmed the bear was shot and killed by a Westover Police officer. Panico said the bear was found in a resident’s yard, where he was reportedly being aggressive.
According to a message on the police department’s Facebook page, at about 6:30 a.m. July 17, officers responded to a call near West Jefferson Street, where residents reported seeing the bear. There, they found the bear looking for food.
An attempt to scare away the bear failed. Given the bear was loose in the area for several days, police received authorization from the Department of Natural Resources to put the bear down.
Panico said the DNR also gave the go-ahead to dispose of the remains.
The caper of the bear began July 14 when Westover residents posted to social media about seeing the bear. Lynn Martin, who lives on Columbus Street, brought a picture on her iPad of the bear strolling down the street to show Westover City Council.
“I was going down the street to get a picture and, he stopped and turned around and looked at me. Well, then I turned around and ran,” she said, “Anyway, he just took off running really fast. He was more scared of me than I was of him.”
Panico reported to council that the bear — about 200 pounds and missing a leg — was roaming the streets in Westover. He said he was moving pretty fast through neighborhoods, from Columbus Street to Pennsylvania Avenue, down to DuPont Road and West Park.
He also said the bear was afraid. When approached, he would run away. The animal had been seen in backyards and getting into birdfeeders.
In July, Mayor Johnson reported the first phase of the Holland Wall project would begin.
In early August, Johnson said the section of Holland Wall across from Paula’s on Holland Avenue was completed. The city looks to finish the third phase of fixing the wall, directly across the bridge from Morgantown.
Johnson asked council to look at the wall, given there are two ways the wall can be fixed. Either the wall can be restored or it can be a completely new wall.
Another big topic for debate in council in 2019 involved changing the mayor’s salary. An ordinance laid out that the first term would garner the wage of $30,000, increasing $5,000 every term until it caps at $60,000 during the seventh term.
The change was to be effective for the term of office starting July 1, 2020. Councilor Ralph Mullins brought up several concerns.
“The format in which this is constructed, I cannot agree with, and there’s reasons for that, many of them,” he said.
When Johnson took office July 1, 2008, his salary was $25,000. According to the current code, Johnson’s salary is $45,000 annually. It also states the annual salary of the mayor shall remain at this amount until a change is made by council in accordance with provisions from the charter.
“We got a consensus of the people that participated in council that $55,000 is what the number is going to be on this ordinance for the mayor’s salary,” Johnson said.
On Dec. 16, Mullins did bring a concern to council on the change of salary. According to the city’s charter, if a raise is given to city councilors or the mayor, the change has to be adopted six months before the election is held.
“We’re adopting this motion tonight, which is Dec. 16. The election is June the 6,” Mullins said.
Mullins is not against giving the raise to the office of mayor, but given the way the charter is written, council is a week short of six months. City Attorney Tim Stranko said he would look into it. All voted in favor of the increase.