Parkersburg officials approve MOVTA levy

PARKERSBURG – City Council on Tuesday narrowly approved placing a renewal levy for the Mid-Ohio Valley Transit Authority on the May primary ballot.

The two-year transit authority levy, which would generate nearly $1.9 million a year for Parkersburg’s share of the operations of the bus system that serves it and Vienna, was approved 5-4 with council members Roger Brown, Kim Coram, Mike Reynolds and John Kelly opposed.

After the meeting, Brown said he believes the bus system is a needed service but feels the authority could generate more revenue and ask for less from residents.

“I think they could raise the rate a little bit instead of charging every taxpayer,” he said.

Kelly questioned the non-emergency medical transportation provided by the authority, noting private businesses – some of which have gone out of business in the last year – offer the same service.

“Why in the world should we put funding in this (program) to let a subsidized business go in direct competition with private businesses in this city?” he said.

MOVTA general manager Tim Thomas said he does not consider the bus service to be in direct competition with those businesses. He said between two and five regular riders use the program, and he believes it fills a need.

“It’s not a money-making business at all,” he said.

The transit authority service offers rides to medical appointments during its regular hours of operation. In response to a question from Councilman James Reed, Thomas said the service accounts for less than a quarter of a percent of the authority’s business.

Kelly and Coram also questioned Thomas about issues experienced by individual passengers.

Councilwoman Sharon Lynch praised strides she feels the bus line has made.

“I think the mass transit authority in the last couple years has really improved their services,” she said.

In other business, council voted unanimously to authorize Mayor Bob Newell to enter an agreement with the West Virginia Development Office for $35,000 in land and water conservation grant funding to build a miniature golf course at Southwood Park. The city will provide up to $22,000 and $13,000 in in-kind services such as site preparation for the local match.

The course will replace one torn down in 2011 so a water retention system could be installed.

Earlier in the evening, council’s Public Works Committee met with representatives of PBH Development Inc. to discuss the company’s plans for a concert venue on city land near the Fifth Street Bridge. Committee members asked PBH CEO Norm Payne to negotiate a lease with Newell before bringing it back to the committee to vote on whether to send the agreement to council.