FOLLANSBEE - City Council on Monday received updates on its Urban Development Action Grant trust fund and efforts to replace trees along East Street that were uprooted by high winds on New Year's Eve.
The grant trust fund was established in 1989 when Wheeling-Nisshin Steel repaid funds it had borrowed from the city for the construction of its plant, which was then a joint venture of Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel and Japan's Nisshin Steel.
Boyd Hanson of C.S. McKee Investment Managers of Pittsburgh, which manages the account, told council the account is at about $11.3 million. He said in the past the fund has generated $500,000 to $600,000 in interest from investments in low-risk bonds, but the amount has dipped somewhat, to about $280,000, because of current economic conditions.
But Hanson applauded council members and other city officials before them for their cautious use of the money over the years.
The fund began with about $8 million, but a city ordinance prohibits council from touching the principle without a public vote. Instead, the city has used about $10 million in interest generated from the fund over the last 24 years for various services and projects, said City Manager John DeStefano. They have ranged from $4.6 million in upgrades to the city's wastewater and water treatment systems to purchase of the city's garbage and bucket trucks to repairs and salt for the city's streets, he said.
Councilman at large Jim Andreozzi asked for confirmation that money has been allocated from the fund for improvements for the athletic complex planned for the city's north end.
DeStefano confirmed council agreed to allocate $20,000 in each of five years for the estimated $10 million project, with the funds most likely to be used for grant matches. He acknowledged that allocation could be overturned by future councils.
In other business:
DeStefano told council trees have been ordered for East Street and should be planted by city crews in the near future. Trees along residents' property normally are their responsibility, but the roots of five large trees along East Street were exposed when city crews removed sidewalks around them, causing them to overturn under the force of strong winds.
DeStefano said the new trees are a species of maple recommended by an official with the West Virginia Division of Forestry and aren't expected to grow as high as the previous ones.
Council made plans to waive parking meter fees from Nov. 19 to Jan. 6 , an annual practice intended to encourage holiday shoppers to frequent local businesses.
Mayor David Velegol Jr. announced council's next regular meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Nov. 19 because it was scheduled to meet, Monday, the federal and state observance of Veterans Day.