Mayors working hard for their cities, region
The Exponent Telegram
December 29, 2015
By Jim Davis
CLARKSBURG — Cathy Goings is in her second term as mayor of Clarksburg, presiding over a city council busy with several projects aimed at reviving the downtown.
Bob Greer has been focused on continued development in Bridgeport since taking over as that city’s mayor last year.
The two mayors also have worked to break down barriers between the two municipalities.
For their efforts on behalf of their cities and the Clarksburg-Bridgeport area, Goings and Greer have been named Public Servants of the Year by The Exponent Telegram Editorial Board.
A local businesswoman, Goings first was elected to Clarksburg City Council in 2011 and was re-elected to another four-year term in June.
She served as vice mayor during her first two years in office and was elected by council to serve as mayor in 2013. Council re-elected Goings mayor in July, making her the first woman to serve two terms in the post.
As mayor, Goings presides over council meetings and represents the city at various functions. City Manager Martin Howe handles the day-to-day running of the city.
The primary goal of the administration and council is the revitalization of the downtown, and they have several irons in the fire to achieve that goal, Goings said.
One major project is the restoration of the former Robinson Grand Theater into a regional cultural center, Goings said.
Restoring the West Pike Street landmark and finding a new purpose for it at a time when cinema chains are moviegoers’ destinations has been a goal of several councils, Goings said.
The city purchased the theater for $430,000 last year and is applying for a $7.5 million loan from the U.S. Department to finance its restoration.
Besides the loan, the city has retained the services of consultants to assist with a capital campaign and to help secure tax credits that would provide immediate equity to the project.
Another project that is critical to the downtown’s resurgence is the state office complex on West Main Street, Goings said.
The four-story complex is being built at the site of the former state office building. About 180 employees from six state agencies should start moving into the complex in May.
The relocation of the Division of Motor Vehicles into the building is the game-changer as far as bringing more people to the downtown area, Goings said.
“They anticipate between 200 and 300 people per day,” Goings said. “Even if 50 percent of those people had some other business to conduct downtown, that’s a lot of foot traffic.”
The administration and council continue to pursue a developer for a proposed hotel and conference center at the old Central Junior High/Towers Elementary site and adjacent properties, Goings said.
The Clarksburg Urban Renewal Authority is in the process of revising the request for proposals after receiving one response, Goings said.
That one proposal included third-party financing — something not addressed in the initial solicitation.
Several new businesses have opened downtown, reflecting entrepreneurs’ confidence in the area, Goings said.
“We’ve had multiple ribbon-cuttings for new businesses in the immediate downtown area, as well as at Eastpointe,” Goings said. “It’s encouraging that people want to start businesses in Clarksburg.”
The city is also spending millions of dollars on infrastructure improvements throughout the city, Goings said.
That includes a $12 million project to upgrade the sewer plant and clean the sanitary system’s interceptor lines.
The sewer plant upgrade will enable the plant to treat 18 million gallons of sewage and stormwater a day, compared to its current 12 million gallon capacity.
“It’s the largest monetary infrastructure project in the history of the city of Clarksburg,” Goings said.
Other major infrastructure projects include a partial reconstruction of Lowndes Hill near the entrance to the Harrison County YMCA and replacement of the Sycamore Street bridge, Goings said.
Meanwhile, the city and state Division of Highways continue to work together on a complete makeover of South Chestnut Street, Goings said.
“Between the Sycamore Street bridge, Lowndes Hill and Chestnut Street, we’re going to have a lot of construction going on simultaneously,” Goings said.
“It may be an inconvenience, but the ultimate goal is to provide better roadways in and out of the city,” she added.
The city is also in the process of purchasing the YMCA property on Lowndes Hill in exchange for partial payment of the nonprofit’s debts to the Department of Agriculture, Goings said.
The 28-acre property, which was the site of soldier trenches during the Civil War, is an historical asset, Goings said.
“We feel that is valuable property,” Goings said. “We have no intention of running the Y, but we wanted to make sure we obtained the property.”
Meanwhile, affordable housing is going up behind Rosebud Plaza.
The Reserve at Oak Spring will consist of 26 three-bedroom town homes and nine two-bedroom units. Miller-Valentine Group is the developer.
“Council had to pass a resolution in order for the developer to get the tax credits,” Goings said. “Now it’s under construction. That’s brand new housing for empty-nesters or young married couples.”
The city and Clarksburg Board of Park Commissioners continue to add more amenities at both the Splash Zone swimming pool and Clarksburg Amphitheater, Goings said.
“We want to make them among the premier facilities of their type in the state,” she said.
Greer, a local lawyer, is in the middle of his second four-year term on city council.
He was appointed mayor in September 2014 after the previous holder of the seat resigned.
Like Clarksburg, the mayor’s role in Bridgeport is to be the face of the city, although the position is an elected one. City Manager Kim Haws handles the day-to-day running of the city.
“I didn’t run to be mayor,” Greer said. “I’m just trying to do the best I can for the betterment of the community.”
What Greer and most of his colleagues on council think is best for the community is further growth at Charles Pointe.
Bridgeport took the lead on that this year by acquiring three properties in the development through an arrangement with the Harrison County Commission and Charles Pointe developer Genesis Partners.
The city and the Greater Bridgeport Convention and Visitors Bureau are proposing to develop a second conference center, an indoor recreation facility and a multi-use facility on the properties.
The city’s main priority is the construction of the indoor recreation complex on 28 acres across from the Bridgeport Recreation Complex.
A consultant has been hired to have meetings with various stakeholders to determine the scope and cost of the project.
“It’s been referred to in shorthand as an indoor recreation facility, but it’s much more than that,” Greer said. “It’s supposed to be a senior center.
“It’s supposed to house some health and wellness components, as well as some indoor facilities,” he added. “Part of the study will be to determine what all they (citizens) want.”
The city also has committed $1 million to the proposed conference center, which would be built adjacent to the existing Bridgeport Conference Center, Greer said.
The two conference centers would form the Bridgeport Events Center, Greer said.
“The city maintains a role in the Bridgeport Conference Center, and so to the extent this is an expansion, I expect the city is going to continue to have a role in the new Events Center,” Greer said.
“We think that’s in the community’s best interest as it’s got our name on it, so to speak,” he said.
The multi-use facility, which would house the CVB and a component of the Bridgeport Farmers Market, would be on the only vacant lot at the four corners’ entrance to Charles Pointe, Greer said.
All three properties represent an orderly growth of the Charles Pointe development and Bridgeport, Greer said.
“Ten, 20 years ago, even though we wanted some of these things, we couldn’t afford them or have a location for them,” he said.
The city continues to see growth elsewhere, Greer noted.
More businesses continue to move into the White Oaks business park, Greer said.
Meanwhile, additional housing developments are planned on Lodgeville and Meadowbrook roads, and a residential and commercial development is underway between White Oaks and the FBI, Greer said.
“The city’s role is to provide the infrastructure to allow that type of growth to develop,” he said. “Other than that, we try to stay out of the developers’ way.”
Another development taking place is a long-awaited supermarket downtown, Greer said.
The steel frame is going up for the future Shop ‘n Save at the corner of East Main Street and W.Va. 131 across from Oliverio’s Ristorante & Catering.
“That will be a huge improvement for that corner of the town,” Greer said.
Meanwhile, the city is working with Citynet to provide Bridgeport residents and businesses with access to super high-speed Internet.
The two entities want to expand the pilot Fiber to Home project in an attempt to make Bridgeport the state’s first city with gigabit-speed Internet.
Gigabit-per-second speeds are about 100 times faster than the average fixed high-speed Internet connection, according to the Federal Communications Commission.
The Bridgeport Recreation Complex continues to be a success, Greer said.
“Every weekend it is booked by some promoter who brings in 12, 16, 20 teams from outside the area,” Greer said. “It’s part of this concept of destination sports tourism that exists in our country at the moment.
“We would like to be able to have that same kind of feeling about the new complex as well,” he added.
As for breaking down barriers between Clarksburg and Bridgeport, Goings and Greer said the thawing relationship is a natural progression given the cities’ proximity to each other.
Also, both cities are in the state’s pilot home rule program, which gives municipalities more say in how they govern.
Both cities are enacting a 1 percent sales tax through the home rule program.
Clarksburg wants to use the additional revenues for police and firefighter pensions, infrastructure improvements and economic development activities. Bridgeport plans to use its sales tax monies to build the indoor recreation center.
The municipalities’ city managers have a good working relationship, and Goings and Greer serve on the West Virginia Municipal League’s board of directors, Goings said.
“Bob and I have an open channel of communication,” said Goings, who also has a business in downtown Bridgeport. “We spend considerable time talking about home rule and what’s been done under the program.”
Greer said the improved relations between the two cities speaks to the maturity of both communities.
“Once upon a time, I wore a varsity jacket,” Greer said. “I’m not 18 anymore. I have to look at the greater community that we live in from a broader perspective, not about who my rivals were.
“Mayor Goings doesn’t seem to be caught up in that kind of rivalry either,” Greer added. “When you take down those barriers put in by where you went to high school, things for the collective community can be accomplished.”