By Maralisa Marra
Ashley Dytzel from Ward 2 is running to represent downtown Shinnston in the City Council election on June 7. Dytzel said her main overall focus would be attracting family-oriented businesses in the city. She said, “I have a small family and I just want a young, fresh perspective and a mom perspective to make some changes…My focus is on the family.”
Dytzel said she wants to fill the streets of Shinnston with people again. She said the city has a lot of empty places, and she wants to see a roller-skating rink and a free splash pad for kids, accessible for children with disabilities. She hopes for the splash pad to be city owned, and to pay for it, she wants to raise money through various fundraisers with a combination of potential grant money. “I believe in fundraisers. I believe that fundraisers still work,” Dytzel said. Splash pads vary in price; according to the News and Sentinel, one in Parkersburg cost $1.3 million.
Dytzel also wants to push to lower rent for business owners because she thinks it will help attract more businesses into the city. In order to do so, she said she wants to reach out to the building owners in which the local businesses reside to discuss lower rental rates.
She also said she plans to push for tax incentives to benefit local businesses. She said, “I am open to all tax incentives to hear them out…but each tax incentive that would be implemented needs a limit, and no program would exist more than two years without the council revisiting its value or work.” As for how to pay for them, she said she would have to review current expenditures before making any cuts or adjustments.
She said she is pushing for the demolition of dilapidated buildings for the safety of the community in hopes the absences of these structures will deter crimes like drug trafficking. To accomplish that goal, she said she would reach out to the property owners to work with them and make doing so a priority. If working with these private owners does not appear to work, she is not opposed to taking legal action to remove the hazardous buildings.
Dytzel said, “I don’t want to be a complainer but a doer. Shinnston has everything it needs. Let’s capitalize on what we do have. I would love to see these empty buildings put to good use whether it be the potential of a local business or to be torn down and made alive again. Fresh and new.”
Dytzel said she aims to foster unity. If elected, she is excited to work with the council as a team. She said, “We have all the things. We just need to start creating.”
As for expanding city limits through annexation, Dytzel said, “I feel like we have property in town that we can capitalize on…I would love to expand, but we need to work on what’s in our town first.”
Dytzel said she would love to see the Murphy building used for a roller-skating rink because she thinks it will draw families to the area and create more revenue. In reference to cost, she said her ideas for the building are still in the works, and she is not sure whether or not the skating rink should be city owned or family owned. However, she believes it would be more feasible for a private, unified team to fund the acquisition and restoration of the building to turn it into a skating rink. Dytzel said she is aware it is difficult to discuss funding plans regarding the Murphy building until she knows all the numbers. “We can’t really know until we know how much it is…I think it is so sad that somebody would hold on to it and just let it sit in town,” Dytzel said. The city sold the building at auction in 2019 for $27,000, according to The Exponent Telegram.
Dytzel said she has also toyed with the idea of revamping it into an event center for showers or receptions. She said that the Murphy building should be something that draws families back to the town, and she wants to see kids having fun again.
The city is currently pursuing water plant upgrades as well as expansion of wastewater operations to areas outside the city, with help from federal COVID-19 relief funding and the Greater Harrison PSD. Dytzel expressed concern for increasing water and sewer rates due to planned upgrades. She is aware that one of the biggest complaints from citizens is that the water is priced too high, so if the updates “tack on to the water bills of the people in Shinnston” then she is not fond of the upgrades taking place at the moment. City Manager Chad Edwards has said some residents are relying on septic systems, and that line breaks are common.
Dytzel is a mother of three and she and her husband are active members of the community and in their church, The Warrior’s Chapel, in downtown, where they have been active with charity work.
Editor’s Note: Shinnston’s municipal election is scheduled for June 7. City Council candidates were questioned about their interest in the role, as well as their plans for economic development, infrastructure, including planned sewer and water expansion projects, and dilapidated buildings, including the Murphy building. They were also asked how they would achieve their goals.