CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Ashton Place Kroger expansion project cleared its last hurdle Monday when Charleston City Council approved a bill transferring a public right of way to the company for $7,695.
Council also approved a $75,000 settlement with the family of a man who hanged himself in a city holding cell in 2008.
Kroger is planning to expand the store by about 16,000 square feet. The store is currently about 52,000 square feet.
The expansion is estimated to cost about $9.6 million. About 50 new jobs should be created at the renovated store.
Majority Leader Jack Harrison, a Democrat who represents the Corridor G area, has been a staunch supporter of the project and the proposed sales of land to the company. The Ashton Place Kroger is in Harrison's ward.
City leaders have been working on the deal with Kroger for about three and a half years, Harrison said.
"It's great to finally see an end in sight," he said. "This is a great project."
Council had already sold land next to the store to the company for $53,700 during the Aug. 21 meeting. The plots of land are to the left of the store.
Kroger representatives hope to have the expansion finished by early next year, said Carl York, advertising and public affairs manager for Kroger Mid-Atlantic, during a previous interview.
Council also approved the $75,000 settlement with the Matthew Walker estate by a unanimous vote.
Walker hanged himself in a holding cell after being arrested by city police in 2008, Chief of Police Brent Webster said.
Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge Duke Bloom denied a previous request by the city to dismiss the case, City Attorney Paul Ellis said. Although the city does not admit any wrongdoing in the case, Ellis thought it was best to settle, he said.
"This could end up costing a lot of money to litigate," he told city council members during Monday's meeting.
Walker also has three children, ages 3, 9 and 16, Ellis said. Anyone of these three children could have brought a lawsuit against the city for their father's death if the case were not settled, he said.
A child can bring a lawsuit within two years after turning 18, Ellis said. Therefore, a lawsuit could have been filed long after the current council members have left office, he said.
"We could have run into a situation where we're looking at a lawsuit years down the road," Ellis said.
Mayor Danny Jones asked Webster what was being done to ensure that no one could ever hang themselves in the holding cell again.
"I don't want this to ever happen again," Jones said.
"I don't either," Webster replied.
However, Webster said very little could be done to prevent a case such as this from occurring again in the future. The individuals are normally only in the holding facility for around 20 minutes until they can be brought before a magistrate, Webster said.
Webster also said the holding facility is not a jail, and is only used to house individuals for a brief period of time.
Council also approved the purchase of 1,265 light emitting diode (LED) lights for the Charleston Civic Center for $88,981.
An Appalachian Power Co. Grant is covering a portion of the cost, $21,615, said John Robertson, Civic Center general manager.
The lights will not only last much longer than the traditional florescent tubes, they are also much more energy efficient, Robertson said. He estimates the new lights will save the city about $5,000 to $6,000 a month in power bills at the Civic Center.
"So they'll pay for themselves in about a year," he said.
Council also approved a $38,000 contract with GAI Consultants Inc. to come up with a design to improve MacCorkle Avenue in the city. The funding came in the form of grants, City Manager David Molgaard said.
Improvements could include new landscaping or streetscapes, he said. However, the city will not be able to make any significant changes to the road itself since it is a state highway, Molgaard said.
"And the company (GAI Consultants Inc.) will help us find grants to fund any projects," he said.