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Morgantown Council, Mon Commission come together for work session

MORGANTOWN — Broadband, flood control, tourism, commerce, roads, American Rescue Plan Act spending.

While the list of topics was extensive, there wasn’t a lot of new information presented during a recent work session between city and county leadership.

The most important development just may have been the meeting itself, said Tom Bloom, who served 14 years on Morgantown City Council and is now in his ninth year as a Monongalia County Commissioner.

“I can tell you, since 1987, my first year on city council, we have never, ever — I have never been in a meeting where seven city council members, the city manager, the assistant city manager and all three county commissioners have been in the same room discussing issues,” he said. “That’s never, ever happened.”

As for new news coming out of Wednesday’s session, Commission President Sean Sikora said the commission intends to fund a county-wide inventory of available recreation facilities.

He said the initiative was prompted by a resident who had questions about whether the commission had a plan for future amenities.

“They kept referencing Shawnee [Sports Complex]. Why can’t we have Shawnee? Why can’t we have Bridgeport [Sports Complex]. It’s a legitimate question. Why can’t we?” Sikora said. “But before you decide what you need, you really need to find out where you’re at.”

The commission is in the process of putting together a request for proposals for firms interested in explaining exactly that.

Recreationally, Sikora said, there’s a lot going on across the county, but relatively little cohesion.

“We really do have a lot of disjointed … we’ve tried to fix that, but in regards to there being BOPARC and Mylan Park and the aquatic center, and they’re all really kind of doing their own thing,” he said, adding that the inventory will not only highlight what’s already available and what’s needed, but how Monongalia County stacks up regionally.

In terms of recreational amenities in Monongalia County, a major component is BOPARC’s Morgantown Ice Arena, which is the only sheet of ice under roof in the county.

It’s extremely busy and overdue for some long-awaited upgrades.

During an update provided by Assistant City Manager Emily Muzzarelli, it was explained that Mills Group is expected to provide a final design during BOPARC’s October board meeting.

Construction, she said, would likely begin in early 2023.

Muzzarelli said the ice arena project will follow on the heels of the replacement of BOPARC’s Marilla Pool, in 2022.

“So two major projects to update recreational assets that are enjoyed by city and county residents alike,” she said.

The current estimated budget for the ice arena project is between $8 million and $10 million, to be raised through a bond issuance. That money will be paid back over time using BOPARC’s allotment of the city’s 1% sales tax, which took effect in July 2020.

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