Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

January 23, 2013

Bluefield City Board approves rezoning of College Avenue

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD — The Bluefield City Board of Directors voted 4-0 Tuesday night to rezone College Avenue, eliminating the construction of any further multi-family dwellings in properties along the road.

With board member Dr. Tom Blevins absent, the board voted on the second reading of an ordinance rezoning the area from a multi-family district into a single-family district. Mayor Linda Whalen said the zoning change is effective immediately.

“We are very excited about this,” Whalen said. “It is a move in the right direction.”

The city also voted 4-0 to annex a portion of John Nash Boulevard owned by the city and Bluefield Area Transit into the corporate limits of the city for future development. City Attorney Brian Cochran said the West Virginia Division of Highways as well as the Mercer County Commission had already voted to cede the property to the city. Cochran said the property in question is 33 acres of land adjacent to John Nash Boulevard the city acquired for use as a transit facility by Bluefield Area Transit.

The board also voted 4-0 to adopt John Denver’s “Country Roads, Take Me Home” as the official song for the city of Bluefield and presented the resolution to Delegate Marty Gearheart, R-Mercer, to present before the Legislature.

“Dreama Denver started this and Marty Gearheart is putting it forth as a resolution before the Legislature,” Whalen said. “This is our means of support. This is a song that put West Virginia on the map. Bluefield is the gateway to West Virginia, and we want to encourage positive action from the state on this.”

In other action, the board voted 4-0 to approve the fifth payment application to Swope Construction for the Scott Street Parking Garage demolition. City Manager Jim Ferguson said the city would be paying $369,358.75 for the project. Ferguson said the city has paid “about $1 million” of the $2.5 million price tag for the project so far.

“I am now referring to this as the Scott Street Parking Center project,” Ferguson said. “We are passed demolition and are speedily moving toward completion.

The board voted 4-0 to approve the economic development plan titled “Blue Momentum” created by former Economic Development Director Greg Shrewsbury and volunteers.

“Economic development has certainly been a priority of mine,” Ferguson said. “The volunteers and Greg did a great job of putting this together. We need to educate people on things that are in store for Bluefield. We are presenting this plan to civic clubs and anyone who wants us to. We are also hoping to make the presentation available on the city’s website.”

In other business, Ferguson told the board he was looking into financing two new police cruisers for the city police department out of the city’s coal severance fund.

“Interim Chief (D.M.) Dillow and I have talked about needing to replace the vehicles,” Ferguson said. “One is a 2005 Crown Victoria with about 99,000 miles on it and the other is a 2000 model with about 91,000 miles on it. There is currently $90,000 in the coal severance fund and each vehicle will cost $30,000 with all the bells and whistles they need for a total of $60,000. I intend to bring this as an action item before the board at the next meeting.”

Ferguson also asked the board to consider a fundraiser for Bluefield Middle School and Bluefield High School have been working on to raise money for the “Blessings in a Backpack” program at Memorial and Whitethorn Elementary Schools.

“It would be an 8K run to benefit this program, which provides food for children in need so they have something to eat over the weekend,” Ferguson said. “The school faculty and students are planning this. I have said we would help with traffic control. The route they have laid out starts at the high school, passes by Memorial and Whitethorn and ends at Mitchell Stadium. This is a great thing to support.”

During the public comments period, Sarah Elswick presented the board with a pamphlet on various beautification projects the city could consider.

“This could improve curb appeal with low cost options we can do locally,” Elswick said. “This is to enhance the community. These are simple solutions and projects to make the community look better.”

Art Riley addressed the city’s response to the recent snowstorm.

“We have a parking ordinance preventing vehicles from parking during certain times downtown,” Riley said. “Snow removal was hampered during the snowfall because of one or two vehicles parked downtown. Plows had to work around them and consequently you couldn’t park anywhere. If we could enforce this ordinance, it would help out. Businesses and property also must remember there is an ordinance requiring them to remove snow from their sidewalks within 24 hours.”

Interim Chief D.M. Dillow addressed some of the parking and snow removal issues the city faced.

“The snow came so quickly and so fast, many cars were stuck,” he said.

“There was nothing we could really do. There were more cars than there were wreckers available.”

Board Member Pete Sternloff said the city is looking to update its website and will be reviewing submissions from four companies. The finalist will be selected at the next board meeting, he said.

Board Members Mary Frances Brammer and Deb Sarver asked residents to check on and help out their neighbors, especially during hazardous weather events. Whalen said she would like to express condolences on behalf of the board to the family of Marion Dodson, the wife of the former city police chief.

— Contact Kate Coil at kcoil@bdtonline.comꚶ