By Evan Bevins
PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — City Council will consider the first reading of an ordinance allowing earlier alcohol sales on Sundays when it meets at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
In December, the city applied to the West Virginia Municipal Home Rule Board for the ability to allow establishments with Class A liquor licenses to begin selling alcoholic drinks at 10 a.m. on Sundays. The current law prohibits sales before 1 p.m.
The board granted the application, but an ordinance still must be passed to make the change.
Some local businesses and the Greater Parkersburg Convention and Visitors Bureau support the change, saying it allows restaurants to offer drinks with brunch rather than lose customers to Marietta, which already allows earlier sales. Some residents have opposed the move because they say it increases the risk of drunk driving.
Mayor Tom Joyce said he is in favor of the measure as well.
“I think it’s important for folks … to have a level playing field with regard to our friends to the west,” he said.
Council President J.R. Carpenter voted to submit the application last year and said he still supports the move.
“This is strictly about business,” he said. “This is about allowing the businesses to choose to open earlier without the state telling them no.”
Councilwoman Sharon Kuhl, who took office Jan. 2, spoke against the change before the previous council. She recently said she would consider supporting the ordinance if it was amended to start sales at 11 a.m. instead of 10.
Joyce said he would support whatever council decides with regard to the starting time. Carpenter said he believes the time should stay at 10, which is how other communities have adopted it.
“Personally, the uniformity of what’s being passed across the state is more appealing,” he said.
The first resolution on the agenda would allow the Memorial Bridge Fund to be amended to reflect maintenance planned to take place this summer.
The estimated cost is more than $900,000 to replace 57,400 square feet of bridge deck, about half the surface of the bridge, along with some rivet work and other repairs, City Engineer Justin Smith said. The bridge could be closed up to 21 days while the work is done, resulting in a revenue loss of approximately $111,000. That decrease loss and an additional $715,000 in maintenance and overlay funds to meet the cost are included in the budget revision.
“We’re trying to make the ride smoother,” Smith said.
The work has to be done when temperatures are above 60 degrees, so it is expected to take place in June, July or August, Smith said.
City officials are communicating with the West Virginia Department of Transportation to make sure the Memorial Bridge project does not correspond with work on the Belpre Bridge, he said.
Two more resolutions would transfer $50,000 allocated for architectural and engineering services related to the construction of new fire stations and nearly $200,000 in the capital reserve fund earmarked for that work to the Municipal Building Commission.
“The building commission will act as the authority and/or mechanism for that project,” Joyce said.
Carpenter said he’ll be seeking more information about the commission, which was supposed to have taken ownership of the Point Park Marketplace in 2014. But the deed was never transferred and it was revealed the members had been meeting informally, along with former Mayor Bob Newell, unaware that what little business they conducted had to happen in a scheduled meeting that was open to the public.
Joyce said he needs to reappoint people to the three-member commission and there probably will be at least one new member. He said he cannot speak to what happened with the commission previously, as that was under a different administration.
Another ordinance would authorize Joyce to submit the 2016 report on the Avery Court Redevelopment District to the West Virginia Development Office. A public hearing will be held on the matter.
The recently completed 2015-16 audit of the city noted the district was not generating enough revenue to repay the principal or interest on bonds issued to finance construction, but auditors said no city funds will be required to make up the difference.
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