CHESTER - Two businessmen came to City Council Monday night to say that one river is enough for the city.
The one that forms on Church Alley whenever it rains hard is a river Robert Reed and Paul Smoot can do without.
"It's creating quite a mess," Reed said. "We're trying to improve our properties, but we're getting all this runoff."
Reed's complaint about downtown's perennial drainage problems prompted council to approve the installation of a new storm drain on Church Alley between Fourth and Fifth streets. Construction is expected to begin today and last several days.
"I'm sure they'll cooperate with us," Smoot said of the city.
Reed owns the Frank's Pastry building and other downtown properties. Smoot owns several rental properties and is worried about flooding in places where people walk and park their cars. In the winter, that water freezes and creates an even greater hazard, he said.
The businessmen said they are willing to foot the bill for the construction materials. The city street department will do the excavation and installation.
"It's been an ongoing problem, and they've been talking about doing this for a long time," Reed said. "They've been very forthright with us."
In total, the city wants to install three storm drains, including plastic drainage pipe and concrete catch basins, along Church Alley. The one between Fourth and Fifth streets will be the easiest and cheapest for the city to do.
"Let's get that one out of the way," Councilman Mike Dotson said.
Other storm drains are planned for Church Alley between First and Second streets, and Second and Third streets, but will take more time. Between Second and Third streets is an inactive gas line that first has to be identified, Dotson said.
Chester Mayor Ken Morris said the city has been trying unsuccessfully to get cooperation from Mountaineer Gas Co. to locate and mark the gas line. He said the city can't do anything until that happens.
"Give us time to get something done," he told Reed. "It's an ongoing battle with the utility company."
In other business, council authorized Police Chief Ken Thorn to hire Garrett Barnhart, 26, of Chester, as a new full-time patrolman. Barnhart must first undergo a series of tests, serve a one-year probationary period and attend the West Virginia State Police Academy for 14 weeks.
Barnhart will fill the vacancy left by Officer Tim Raines, who resigned in March to take a position with the Hancock County Sheriff's Department. Barnhart's hiring brings the department to full strength with six officers, including a female officer who currently is serving in the military. She is expected to return in September.
Barnhart was one of three candidates interviewed for the position. He scored the highest on the civil service exam.
Also Monday, council hired Full Measure Development Group of North Lima, Ohio, to write grant proposals for the city. The company will be retained at a rate of $65 an hour.