By Kara Linaburg
City officials have received instruction from state transportation officials on how to meet state standards for road and sidewalk access at the closed parking area between Casey’s and Main Street, which has been closed since mid-February and affecting local businesses. They hope to make the required changes to the parking area by St. Patrick’s Day.
After a meeting with the West Virginia Division of Highways last week, city officials promised they will do whatever it takes to get the parking lot along Main Street re-open for the community. “I want this to be done by the St. Patrick’s Day parade. Clock’s ticking,” City Manager, Chad Edwards, said confidently at the Shinnston City Council meeting Feb 27.
Upon the closing of the parking lot, small business owners in the city feared how losing the parking would affect them. Jennifer Dooley, a spokeswoman for the West Virginia Department of Transportation, meanwhile, had said there was “no permit for the lot initially, and follow up for a complaint made by a citizen led to the discovery that sidewalk access had been paved over.”
Kayla Cline, owner of Kayla’s Beauty & Barber at 219 Pike St. said that it’s time for the community to stop fighting, resolve the problem, and just move on. “We have other issues in Shinnston that need to be taken care of.” She went on to say that arising concerns, like the dilapidated condition of the roads leading into town, can also be a hindrance to the community and need to be fixed as well.
She said small businesses are the heart of the city, and they should come first. “Without us, no Shinnston.”
Sarah Benson, owner of Soul Miner’s Daughter, which is also on Pike Street, said of the city, “I think for sure they had the best of intentions and hindsight is 20/20.” She explained that while she doesn’t understand the rules and codes that the DOH has in place, she believes without a doubt that if the parking lot doesn’t get open soon, it will leave a negative impact on her store as well as other businesses. “The parking there (in the city) is atrocious without that option, (and) by the time we business owners get parked, there’s no room for any potential customers.”
Edwards, who has repeatedly apologized for the parking lot closure, met with the DOH in a meeting last week to find a solution. He said that the DOH appears to want to work with the city. “They want us to have the parking. I think it was a pretty positive meeting… We got a couple ideas…”
Dooley, of the public relations division for the DOH, echoed in an email Edwards’ sentiments about how well the meeting had gone with the Council. “The meeting went very well,” she said. “We provided direction to obtain permitting for ADA compliant sidewalks as well as access to (U.S. 19). Once those applications are received from the city, we will promptly review them and continue to assist in any way we can.”
Edwards said that the two serious issues that must be resolved are the lack of a straight sidewalk for pedestrians, and the safety concerns of backing out onto U.S. 19 from the parking lot. Once city officials draw up and get them approved by the DOH, the work for the reopening can begin.
The City Council spoke highly of citizens who have offered their time and services to get the parking lot re-opened. “I’m very proud of our citizens, how they just want to jump in and help,” Amanda Sayers, councilmember, said.
“I’d say 99% of the community is behind us,” Edwards agreed. “I’m going to see what we can do to make this a community project. Because we’ve had so many people reach out and offer to help, I’d like to get a group together to have a volunteer workday.”
Even though there is a time crunch for the re-opening by St. Patrick’s Day and a chance work will not be complete by then according to plan, Edwards said he will do all he can to see it happen in time for the parade. “I’m going to make a good college effort,” he said.