WEIRTON — Weirton Council has thrown a lifeline to Weirton Transit in an effort to keep the public transit service operating for the remainder of its fiscal year.
As part of a special meeting held Thursday afternoon, council approved a resolution authorizing an allotment of funds “to address unanticipated revenue shortfalls” experienced in the 2022-2023 fiscal year.
The initial resolution, sponsored by Mayor Harold Miller and Ward 5 Councilwoman Flora Perrone, would have set aside up to $35,000 for Weirton Transit; however, following a 48-minute executive session, Ward 4 Councilman George Ash, who participated by telephone, offered an amendment to allow the expenditure of up to $50,000. The amendment and the amended resolution were approved by separate 5-2 votes, with Councilmembers Chris Jonczak and Terry Weigel voting against both measures.
Council then returned into executive session for an hour, inviting Mike Paprocki, executive director of the Brooke-Hancock-Jefferson Metropolitan Planning Commission, to participate.
“Council discussed different options to try to save Weirton Transit and keep moving forward,” City Attorney Vince Gurrera explained afterwards.
Weirton Transit’s Board of Trustees has been faced with the possibility of having to shut the service down for the month of June, as a result of funding shortages following the payment of approximately $125,000 in back taxes, fees and penalties to the Internal Revenue Service.
Following Thursday’s meeting, Perrone, who also serves as president of the WTC board, expressed her appreciation to council for its support.
“Council chose to increase their generosity in order to lessen the impact on the schedule,” she said, referring to the potential short-term cuts to the bus schedule. “We’re hoping this will mean less upheaval for the customers.”
Perrone noted, although she does serve on the WTC board, she sponsored the initial resolution, and voted for it, after consulting with Gurrera about any potential conflicts.
Earlier in the meeting, City Clerk Kim Long read a letter into the record from Ward 3 Councilman Fred Marsh, resigning from his job as a relief driver for Weirton Transit.
The letter stated he was doing so to ensure WTC’s regular drivers were able to work in the event of any route cuts. The resignation was made effective Wednesday.
While no details of a plan were offered Thursday, WTC Manager Phil Gilcrest, during a special WTC Board meeting Monday night, suggested the possibility of reducing the number of routes, saying he would need approximately $35,000 to operate one regular route in the mornings and afternoons, two morning demand routes and one afternoon demand route, and one demand route on Saturdays.
Representatives of Steubenville-based Steel Valley Regional Transit Authority also have offered temporary assistance, although details of what that would entail also haven’t been made public.
Perrone said city officials will continue to look at all options in order to keep WTC viable for the future.
“The city of Weirton is committed to keeping the buses rolling,” Perrone said.
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