Photo by Alec Berry
The seal of the city of Wheeling overlooks empty chairs in council chambers at the City-County Building.

Public hearings on a proposed oil and gas lease and on the proposed bond for the city’s pension funding program will take place today during Wheeling City Council’s second meeting of the month.

City leaders will meet at 5:30 p.m. in City Council Chambers on the first floor of the City-County Building at 1500 Chapline St, with the public hearings set to take place at the start of the session. Council’s finance committee will meet prior to the regular meeting, at 5:15 p.m., to review the May 2022 finance report.

Following the public hearing on the issue, the proposed bond for the city’s unfunded fire and police pension liabilities will also come before council in the form of a bond ordinance up for a second reading under unfinished business.

Wheeling became the first city eligible to take advantage of a new state law that allows municipalities in West Virginia to take a new approach toward funding their outstanding pension liabilities. The bill that facilitated this new approach was signed into law earlier this year.

The new bonding mechanism — which Wheeling is taking through this proposed pension bond not to exceed $69.5 million — becomes an option after outstanding pension funds are already 40-percent funded. At the time of the legislation’s passage, Wheeling’s fire pension was already funded by about 49.5 percent and the city’s police pension was around 54-percent funded.

Officials noted that this new approach will permit Wheeling to sell pension obligation bonds to pay the costs of their unfunded pension liabilities. Being the only West Virginia city eligible for this program, city leaders have recruited experts from the legal and public finance arenas to help them move forward with putting a massive funding package together for it.

Ultimately, the city is expected to save a significant amount of money in funding these pension liabilities through bonds and by taking advantage of low interest rates.

The other public hearing set for tonight involves the lease of mineral rights for city owned property equating to 3.21 net mineral acres. A resolution authorizing the city manager to execute an oil and gas lease with SWN Production Company LLC is being introduced.

In other unfinished business, city leaders are expected to vote on American Rescue Plan Act allocations for the Wheeling Park Commission and the Greater Wheeling Sports and Entertainment Authority. Several routine purchases of chemicals for the city’s water treatment plant are also on today’s agenda.

Original propositions being introduced tonight include an ordinance authorizing the city manager to spend $125,000 with BBR Drilling Company of Belmont for a slip repair on Beechwood Drive.

Two proposed amendments to the city’s codified ordinances will also be introduced. The legislation pertains to the number of fire exits required for upper floors of buildings, and another proposed amendment pertaining to the use of motorized scooters in the city.

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