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Westover Council passes budget reading, gets update on Long Street request

WESTOVER — Westover considers itself “The city on the rise.”

It’s not hard to see why, considering its budget in recent years.

Westover’s actual budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year — meaning the period between July 1, 2019, and June 30, 2020, — was $5,748,345.87.

The budget that received first reading approval during Westover City Council’s most-recent regular session projects a 2022-23 spending plan of $9,877,302.

When given the option of providing city employees with a $1 or $2 hourly raise, council opted for $3 across the board.

The reason for the growth is no secret. Westover has annexed property, including the Morgantown Mall, the Gateway and a portion of the WestRidge development that has not only significantly expanded its boundaries, but its tax base.

This time last year, Westover anticipated bringing in $2.5 million in business and occupation tax. It anticipates $4 million in B&O taxes for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

In the case of WestRidge, the city worked with the developer to annex just under 400 acres in early 2019. Since that time, retail outlets, including Menards, Bass Pro Shops and Burlington have opened on that property, now known as WestRidge Commons.

A HomeGoods location is expected to open as early as today (3/24) according to Westover Public Works Director Jason Stinespring. Shoe Carnival and PetSmart will follow in the coming weeks.

In other Westover news, council received an update from City Engineer Doug Smith regarding potential improvements to Long Street, which provides access to the old Cyphert Industries buildings, located along the riverfront, just across the Westover Bridge.

The city was approached earlier this month about incorporating Long Street into the city’s road network as a way to ensure access to the area. Currently, half the road belongs to the ownership group developing the riverfront properties and the other half belongs to CSX Railroad.

City Attorney Tim Stranko previously indicated acquiring the CSX property through eminent domain may be the easiest route. However, he said further analysis found federal law blocks the condemnation of property actively used by the railway system.

“The question becomes is Long Street part of that active rail system or not,” Stranko told council. “And who answers that question? The railroad company does.”

According to preliminary “ballpark” numbers provided by Smith, it would cost the city $750,000 for the needed improvements for 1,900 feet of Long Street. If those improvements were extended all the way to George Fanok Boulevard — essentially creating a bypass from the Westover Bridge to Granville — it would cost an additional $1.4 million.

Either way, CSX will have to sign off.

Members of council directed Stranko to initiate talks with CSX and asked Smith to determine exactly who owns what.

“If the railroad says no, then we’re going to have to forget about the whole thing,” Mayor Dave Johnson said.

Lastly, the city is in the process of updating its 2013 comprehensive plan and is asking for citizen input.
There are currently two surveys, one for adults and one for youth, available through links on the city’s website,

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