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Steve Novotney Says, "A 'Last Chance' Acceptable Idea"

As a resident of East Wheeling I can tell you it's a tough question to answer.

American Legion Post 89 – a nuisance or not a nuisance?

It's no secret some of the patrons of the place have caused issues in the area, and I'm pretty darn sure that Cleveland native Dallas Acoff was not an American veteran but still was welcomed inside the bar. Acoff, convicted of second degree murder in September 2016, was caught on camera taking his first shot at 33-year-old Lemroy Coleman from the top step of the Post 89 establishment. Coleman, also a Cleveland native, was later discovered dead in Lane E.

On several other occasions, gunfire has erupted outside Post 89, most recently on New Year's Eve, when 29-year-old Jerome Saunders allegedly fired off as many as 14 shots, one of which injured an individual sitting in a nearby car. Plus, neighbors like Dominic Cerrone, who live much closer to Post 89 than I do, have registered a plethora of complaints during the past few years concerning loud commotions and large fights during the early hours of the morning.

Local property owners have insisted to city officials, too, that the bar's issues make it difficult to fill nearby rental units, and others have expressed worries about future property values in the area of 14th and 15th streets. During a recent interview here on the Watchdog Network, Mayor Glenn Elliott said he and the city's six council members had much to contemplate and likely would not cast a vote during the upcoming March 7 regular meeting.

"And this may be the most difficult decision I make as the mayor of Wheeling," he said.

I do not support a "second chance" for Post 89, but that's only because, in my opinion, the business has been granted a number of chances by city officials and nearby residents. What I do support, though, is a "last chance" only because Post 89 leadership has taken action to reform the business, and only IF more conditions are implemented.

Out is the manager who ignored the community's concerns, and in is a new manager who actually lives just up 15th Street from the front doors of Post 89. The bar is closing earlier now, exterior lighting is now functional, and permission to patronize the post is now limited to American veterans and their guests. Leadership also agreed to hire off-duty police officers or deputies to patrol the interior and exterior, but there are few more developments I would like to see, including the following:

  • The implementation of a No Guns and No Knives policy;
  • Adhering to all state regulations;
  • A representative of Post 89 must attend the monthly East Wheeling Crime Watch meetings that are held on the first Monday each month;
  • Post 89 leadership must submit a plan and timeline to city officials that pertains to improving the exterior appearance of the establishment and connected structures;
  • The dumpster must be moved from the public sidewalk along Jacob Street;
  • A probationary period should be established with the Legion's leadership that includes an immediate action stage if another troubling incident takes place in or near the corner of 15th and Jacob streets.

There are reasons why American Legion Post 89 was founded many years ago, and that history, in my view, should be respected by the mayor and the council members, by the people who live in this neighborhood, and, most importantly, by those now in charge of place. The new manager, Mr. James Martin, a proud veteran of the Vietnam War, worked for more than two decades for the United States Postal Service, and he has been a good neighbor to my family and me.

I have confidence in Mr. Martin, and I believe under his guidance American Legion Post 89 can evolve into a community asset instead of a frightening liability.

Categories: Commentary