By Maralisa Marra
Mayor Patrick Kovalck, seeks to represent Ward 3, the Pleasant Hill area, in the June 7 City Council election. Kovalck, who has been involved with the city since he was 16 years old in the fire department, said he has always had an affection for the people of Shinnston and felt the need to serve the city in whatever way he could. Therefore, he wants to continue doing so.
Kovalck said, “It has always been home to me…Since I joined the fire department, I’ve been involved with everything coming and going with the city, and I have two small daughters and I just want to do my best to make Shinnston a place that they want to raise their children.”
During Kovalck’s terms on council, he said that he has helped in implementing many policies, including the 1% sales tax. He also said, “We passed several ordinances about [property maintenance] that have made a difference and given more strength to our building codes.” He also said he has focused on and will continue to focus on increased police presence in Shinnston and wants to continue making the police department a community-oriented department. In March, Shinnston City Council approved the 2022-2023 $1.96 million budget. The largest item was police funding, with a $626,000 allocation.
Kovalck is also interested in growing the public works department. That department is allocated about $80,000. He said, “There’s still room for improvement on the service side of what the city provides the citizens…I’m eager to stay on track with getting services to the community better.” Kovalck said he is interested in focusing on the “nuts and bolts” of running the city such as reliable and well-equipped police and fire stations, clean water, and an effective sewer system.
Several candidates said they support business tax incentives, including lowering the B&O tax. B&O taxes are a significant revenue source for the city, making up about $380,000 of the city’s $1.96 million budget.
Kovalck noted that tax incentives are on the books now for small businesses. He said he is working on a stair step B&O tax that helps support small businesses. Kovalck said with this method of B&O tax, new businesses will not pay B&O tax the first year and the second year they will start out with paying about half of their B&O taxes. “I’m 100% for anything we can do to support business growth,” Kovalck said. He has worked to lower the city’s B&O taxes with the 1% sales tax that brings in a large sum of revenue that the city is not taxing the business owners.
In regard to expanding city limits through annexation, which could cost the city but also expand the tax base, Kovalck said, “I am more of a believer now that instead of growing just for the sake of growing, that we have to have the tax base to support that growth.” He said that he would prefer to have another influx of housing within Shinnston, and with the cleaning up of dilapidated properties, it will free more space within city limits for housing. Therefore, instead of annexation, Kovalck said he wants to capitalize on what the city already has.
Kovalck said the current council has been able to accomplish a fund of $35,000 for demolition of dilapidated properties, and he plans to look into more funding from the state to help the city demolish the dilapidated properties. Kovalck said he prefers that private property owners handle their own property and that the city would support the owners and help them in any way possible. However, Kovalck also said he plans to address one of the city’s biggest hurdles, which is corporations and LLCs that buy up properties within the city limits then let them deteriorate. Kovalck said he plans to remedy this issue through working with the property owners to fix the problems or taking legal action if need be.
Kovalck refers to the Murphy Building as “so much untapped potential.” He hopes to fix the roof on the building and renovate it in hopes of reclaiming the property, which the city sold at auction in 2019. Kovalck said he is determined to find the solution to this particular situation. He said one of the options in reclaiming the Murphy building would be to do a levy, not a continual levy, but a levy to get to a certain dollar amount. He noted that voters would have to approve such a levy.
Kovalck wants to continue to focus on the water plant project he has been a part of and said that once phase three of the project is done, the water system is practically new. He is also already looking at different angles to expand the wastewater treatment facility, and as long as the deal with Greater Harrison PSD goes through, the city will be getting an expanded and upgraded plant, said Kovalck. City Manager Chad Edwards has said the city’s currently planned water and sewer projects could result in higher rates and more debt. But Kovalck said that by partnering with the Greater Harrison PSD and adding customers, the modernization of the plant should not be a major expense to the citizens.
“It has really been an honor to serve Shinnston all these years, and I appreciate the community’s support. I hope to continue to have their support and continue to serve them every day,” Kovalck said.
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.