photo by: Eric Ayres
WHEELING — Officials in the city of Wheeling will have to increase the funding allocation for its Owner-Occupied Home Improvement Program to around $2 million in order to cover the eligible applicants.
Members of the Finance Committee of Wheeling City Council recently met to discuss the program that was launched in October. City leaders offered the new program that was similar to an effort put forth by the city of Moundsville, which also had launched a successful home improvement program this year with use of federal pandemic relief money through the American Rescue Plan Act.
Although Wheeling’s ARPA fund allocations are quickly dwindling, city leaders indicated they have every intention of funding all of the applications that were submitted and that meet all eligibility requirements. Shortly after the program was launched in October, the city’s Economic and Community Development Department was flooded with hundreds of applications.
In light of the overwhelming response, the deadline for submitting applications was changed from Dec. 31 to Oct. 31, leaving the window to apply open for only a few short weeks.
“This program has exceeded my best expectations for its popularity,” Mayor Glenn Elliott said. “For 517 people to apply for this program from across the community – for a short period of time, we should at least ensure that funding is in place for people who have applied.”
Of those applications that were received, officials indicated that around 443 meet eligibility requirements.
“We do believe that 90% of the applications will utilize the entire $5,000 that’s permitted,” City Manager Robert Herron said. “There are going to be some that do not, but they will be in the minority.”
Originally, officials intended to use about $200,000 in ARPA funds for the Home Improvement Program. However, Herron said they will need to provide a “significantly larger amount to accommodate as many of the applications as possible.” The city manager recommended increasing the total amount of ARPA funds to $1.5 million.
However, that amount would still fall short, covering only about 300 of the applicants – which were taken on a first-come, first-serve basis. Herron estimated that about $2 million up to more than $2.2 million would be needed to fund 443 of the projects.
The funding would not be needed all at once, officials indicated, noting that construction season is slowing down because of the weather, and supply chain issues are still hampering many construction jobs. The city is requiring estimates for 50% of work and materials prior to making an initial payment, with approximately half of the money paid upfront for materials, and another 50% of the payment retained until the project is completed.
“We do inspect the work and make sure it is completed,” Herron explained.
Members of the Finance Committee voted unanimously to recommend funding all applications that are deemed eligible.
Vice Mayor Chad Thalman noted that a new Victorian Home Improvement Program was in the works and under consideration, but officials felt that it was important to prioritize funding for those who have already applied to the initial home upgrade effort.
“The program was incredibly successful judging from the number of people who applied,” Thalman said. “I felt the right thing to do was to fund everybody who was eligible before moving forward on any new programs like the Victorian home program.”
The funding recommendation is expected to be forwarded to the full Wheeling City Council for consideration during an upcoming meeting in December.