Sidewalk improvements inch closer

NEW CUMBERLAND – Long-anticipated improvements to the Second Avenue sidewalk are a little closer to becoming reality with New Cumberland City Council’s approval Monday of a revised agreement with the state.

The accessibility project, which involves the installation of ramps at intersections along Second Avenue, has languished for several years as the city experienced one delay after another. The original agreement dates back to January 2011.

On Monday, council approved an agreement with the state Division of Highways that expands the scope of the project to include construction or reconstruction of sidewalks, crosswalks and minor drainage at the Second Avenue intersections with Sedgewick, Grant, Lincoln, Porter and Marshall streets, and possibly the intersection of Porter Street and Third Avenue.

Funding for the project would come primarily from the Federal Highway Administration’s Transportation Enhancement Program, with the city contributing 20 percent.

The city is in the process of repairing sections of the sidewalk so that the ramps can be installed. The city also reached an agreement with the West Virginia Historic Preservation Office over what to do with Works Progress Administration sidewalk stamps dating back to the 1930s.

The city will remove the stamps, which suggest that the sidewalks were built by WPA laborers during the Depression, and display them in the New Cumberland Municipal Building or the Hancock County Historical Museum.

Work is expected to begin this summer.

Council also hired Don Fadeley as the new street department employee, but not without a contentious debate about the hiring process.

Fadeley was one of seven people interviewed for the position, which has been vacant for more than a month.

“This is a bad time of year not to have someone at the street department,” said Councilwoman Miriam Hess, who chairs the street committee. “There are things around town that are getting neglected because of (the vacancy).”

Councilman Pat Jones, who also is the city’s water operator, has been driving the city’s snowplow truck in the meantime.

Jones objected to the hiring process, saying that no Ward 1 councilman participated. Although Jones is co-chairman of the street committee, he did not attend the meeting in which the candidates were interviewed.

Hess said the purpose of the committee is to conduct the interviews and make a hiring recommendation to council.

Fadeley, a welder who has a commercial driver’s license (with tanker endorsement) and a small equipment operator’s license, was hired by a vote of 3-1. Council members Judith Bartley and Brian Webster abstained.

Council tabled a vote on soliciting bids for the repair of the New Cumberland Municipal Building’s roof. Council members said they wanted to have a clearer picture of the next fiscal year’s budget before committing city funds to the expensive project.

About three-quarters of the flat rubber roof needs to be replaced because of leaks. The section over the gymnasium and multipurpose room was replaced about three years ago, said Community Service Director George Hines.

“The rest of the building definitely needs to be done,” Hines said. “You’re on borrowed time.”