With safety concerns in mind, the Oak Hill City Council voted on Monday to make some changes to the depot area of the White Oak Rail Trail, including removal of a train engine and installation of barriers, fences, and cameras.

Councilwoman Mollie Ray raised the safety concerns in March, believing that vehicles accessing the Whistle Stop, Depot, rail trail, and Red Cross storage building posed a hazard to pedestrians using the trail.

At April’s council meeting, business owners who use the road for deliveries and other purposes expressed dismay at closing the access road, saying they needed it for parking and transporting goods to their businesses.

At Monday’s council meeting, City Manager Bill Hannabass presented the findings of a safety committee study of access to the depot area of the rail trail by vehicles. The safety committee consists of Hannabass and the city’s police and fire chiefs.

The safety committee’s proposal, which was adopted in full by the city council, includes the following recommendations:

-- Install a fence along the rail trail from Central Avenue to where the rail trail crosses the steel rail. Another lower barricade perpendicular to the rail trail to keep vehicles from in front of the Whistle Stop.

n Install orange posts at the entrance of the gravel access road on Central Avenue that can be unlocked for special purposes.

-- Create a new vehicle access from Park Drive where the guard rail posts are currently located.

-- Install cameras to deter criminal activities.

-- Remove a metal building used by the American Red Cross to increase line of sight and provide a better view for the camera.

-- Remove the train engine, an “attractive nuisance for children with jagged edges, bee nests, asbestos, and a climbing hazard.”

Business owners present at Monday’s meeting did not express any disapproval of the proposal.

At its next meeting, council will discuss how they will remove the train engine.

“I understand the significance of it with the history, but it’s actually an eyesore,” Mayor Nick Lopez said of the engine.

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In other council business, the director of the Fayette County Evidence Center, Mason Hines, will be hired on to the Oak Hill police force on a temporary basis for 90 days.

The evidence center has been searching for funding to continue its existence since last fall and it is unclear whether they have enough money to continue until they find out about another pending grant at the beginning of July.

“I have told you before what an important part they have been playing with our investigations, spending time with victims and gathering evidence,” Oak Hill Police Chief Mike Whisman told the council.

“Under this contract he would be 40 hours a week ... In July, if they do not get that grant, I would propose we hire him full time. I believe it’s that important that I’m asking for that.”

Whisman was unsure whether Hines will be able to keep the equipment funded with grant money he now uses to process evidence out of his center in Mount Hope’s city hall building.

An ordinance was also unanimously passed at the meeting that will require landlords of commercial properties to ensure that their tenants abide by all city ordinances. There was already an ordinance imposing this requirement on residential tenants.

An amendment to the Southern Appalachian Labor School’s planned development zone, to build a single-family dwelling on their Oak Hill property, will go before the Oak Hill Planning Commission.

Council passed an amendment to a town ordinance that will make placing a wrecked car on public or private property within city limits illegal.

Finally, Hannabass reported that a contract between West Virginia American Water and the city, for installing fire hydrants in the Harlem Heights area of Oak Hill, is not yet ready for final approval.

— E-mail: cmoore@register-herald.com

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