While I am pleased with Wheeling Council's decision to offer American Legion Post 89 a "last chance," I do not believe the terms of the agreement went far enough.
As an East Wheeling resident who lives less than a three-minute walk to the club's front door, it's my belief the council members and Mayor Glenn Elliott proved too lenient when formulating the conditions that should provide much more accountability from the business. For far too long a time, Post 89 was an issue here, especially on weekend late nights, with shootings, outside fights, drug use, litter, noise, and yes, even a murder that was perpetrated from the establishment's front steps.
The resolution document signed by all those involved defines the 13 stipulations set forth, and they include:
- Closure at 11 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, and midnight Friday and Saturday evenings;
- Two conditions involve the Legion's leadership and management;
- The former manager, according to the resolution, cannot be involved with management in any way;
- The club must submit a plan for improving the exterior of the building, mandating an enclosure for the place's dumpster that sits along a sidewalk on Jacob Street;
- A representative must attend at least six East Wheeling Crime Watch meetings each year;
- Post 89 must begin complying completely with WV ABCA regulations;
- The establishment must hire a "reputable" security officer who will keep an eye on the interior operation and the exterior of the building;
- And any criminal incident that occurs inside or outside could result in the immediate closure via a nuisance proclamation.
How do the conditions fall short?
- A bar's dumpster should never be permitted on a public sidewalk, enclosed or not. An enclosed dumpster, in fact, appears to some like an invitation for "tagging" vandalism that usually involves spray paint. Once it's tagged, it's an eyesore no matter what the rest of the building looks like;
- There is no timeline placed on the Legion's management for the completion of the "Proposed Plan for Corrective Action" pertaining to the exterior improvements;
- For several years, much of the neighborhood's crime watch meetings have concerned the operation of Post 89, and that is why I believe a representative should attend ALL of them in the future instead of being given the option to attend only half;
- The resolution mandates the hiring of a "reputable" security officer Thursday-Saturday nights, but it does not define "reputable." It is my belief the agreement should have ruled that an off-duty Wheeling police officer or Ohio County deputy must be hired to ensure law enforcement experience in the event a criminal incident takes place;
- I also favored the implementation of a "No Weapons" policy at Post 89, but city council and the mayor failed to include that provision, and I believe that to be a mistake.
The document, under Term #13, does state that amendments can take place in the future, so it is my hope that these suggestions will be considered further. I supported this "Last Chance" opportunity for Post 89 and its social club, and the primary reason for it is the new manager, James Martin. He was one of the first neighbors to welcome me and my family to East Wheeling a decade ago, and we've been friends ever since.
A veteran himself and a retired postal carrier, Martin is a "no-nonsense" kind of guy, and that is the type of manager the establishment needs most because of how it was operated for far too long. Not only was it open longer than legally allowed, but management looked the other way from out-of-town, gun-toting troublemakers who began frequenting the club.
And that was in the name of money.
I do own one fear, though, that one of those transient miscreants will retaliate against Post 89 for cooperating with the city of Wheeling by passing by and popping off a magazine of shots into the air just to stir the pot and provoke police to respond to the corner of 15th and Jacob streets. Under Term #9, however, such a report would be forwarded to council for review, and it is my hope that such a possibility be taken into consideration.