MARTINSBURG, W.Va. – The mayor of Martinsburg says he’s hoping his city is one of the 16 new municipalities in West Virginia selected to be part of the expanded Home Rule Pilot Program.

“Finally, we get to govern ourselves,” said Mayor George Karos of the possibility on Wednesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.” “It takes the government out of Charleston and brings it to the various municipalities.”

Martinsburg is one of 23 municipalities applying for 16 additional slots available under Home Rule, a pilot program first created back in 2007 to give cities more control over how those local governments are run. The deadline for those new applications was June 1.

Bridgeport, Huntington, Wheeling and Charleston were the first cities approved for Home Rule seven years ago. Last year, the Legislature cleared the way for more cities to join the initial list — bringing the total number to 20 — and Karos said he wants his city to get one of the available slots.

“This Home Rule is a new tool in the toolbox,” Karos said. “If this is all enacted, and I certainly hope Martinsburg is one of those (selected), it will allow a better business environment.”

In addition to Martinsburg, the other cities applying were Weirton, Vienna, St. Albans, South Charleston, Spencer, Shinnston, Ranson, Princeton, Parkersburg, Oak Hill, Nitro, Moundsville, Morgantown, Milton, Lewisburg, Fairmont, Clarksburg, Dunbar, Charles Town, Buckhannon, Bluefield and Berkeley Springs.

Each of the 23 applications will be evaluated using specified criteria on a one to five scale. On Friday, the Home Rule Board will meet via phone to set up a schedule for interviews with representatives from the applicant cities.

It was not immediately clear when decisions on the additional Home Rule cities would be made.

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