CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The East End grocery store issue was discussed during the Charleston Council meeting Tuesday when a councilman questioned whether the city had done enough to block a state agency from taking over a large building in the neighborhood.
Councilman Cubert Smith, an independent who represents the East End, believes the state Department of Transportation's decision to take over a large section of the area for its new District 1 headquarters will hurt efforts to secure a grocery store in the neighborhood.
The department plans a $35 million project along Smith Street. One of the buildings it purchased is an old grocery store near the corner of Smith and Morris streets.
Smith said this was the one location large enough to accommodate a grocery store.
"People in the East End are living in a food desert," Smith said.
Mayor Danny Jones said he and other officials, including East End Main Street Executive Director Ric Cavender, are working diligently to get a grocery store in the East End.
Jones pointed out that as a resident of Loudon Heights Road, he has to drive further than any East End resident to get to a grocery store.
"But a grocery store would serve the East End very well," he said. "We're still working on it."
Jones said he is working with a specific developer to get a grocery store built in the community. However, he added that it would likely not be a large grocery store.
Jones said city officials were thankful that the department opted to keep its District 1 headquarters in the city.
"That building was vacant for a long time and the DOH took it," he said.
Cavender also addressed the issue after the meeting had concluded.
Like Jones, he said there are many interested parties working to secure a grocery store for the East End.
Both Jones and Cavender mentioned the old Burger King property at 1315 Washington St. E. as a potential location.
The Charleston Urban Renewal Authority currently owns the land.
"I think the Burger King property is one of the most viable options as far as CURA-owned land goes," Cavender said. "It's ripe for development."
Council also agreed to purchase new scheduling software for the city fire and police departments.
The software will make scheduling for both departments much more efficient, said Deanna Sheets, director of strategy management and internal operations.
Currently much of the scheduling is done manually, she said.
The software would eliminate the need to deal with vacations in the departments manually, and instead it would inform the chiefs what officers or firefighters are available to work during another's vacation.
Firefighters have to schedule vacations a year in advance.
Fire Chief Chuck Overstreet and other officers are then forced to call other firefighters to fill the slots, Sheets said.
It would also calculate things like overtime and eliminate the paper slips currently used, she said.
"The overtime slips will go away," Sheets said. "They're error prone, inefficient and a terrible process."
Finance Director Joe Estep said the new software would also eliminate hours of work that he has to perform when attempting to extract information from both departments.
The new software would generate critical information for Estep's use, he said.
Sheets hopes to have the new software purchased within 30 days and functional by July 1.