CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Six cities go before the West Virginia Home Rule board Monday morning to present their case to join a pilot program.
Over the next three weeks, 23 municipalities across the state will make hour-long presentations for just 16 home rule spots. The leaders of Milton, Spencer, Dunbar, Nitro, South Charleston and St. Albans will face board members Monday.
Mayor Frank Mullens, who said South Charleston has been working on its application for months, noted are a handful of projects the city can’t enact because of state law restraints. Becoming a home rule city would give South Charleston more freedom.
“I think every city should be able to participate in home rule, myself. I think municipalities ought to have their hands untied so that we can be more creative in running our city governments,” Mullens said.
But with only 16 slots open, Mullens knows the city needs more than just that argument. He said one of the top items on their home rule wish list is being able to sell public property without going to public auction, as state law requires. Instead a sale of an alleyway or lot could be done without state intervention.
“I think it’s pretty simple and it sounds pretty easy, but it can be a deterrent when you’re talking about economic development,” he said.
Mullens said home rule inclusion would help the city deal with owners of rundown property.
“Sometime dilapidated property is a nuisance in our neighborhoods. One thing (home rule) would allow us to do is have our inspectors give on-site citations, things like that. Things that just frees their hands up to speed up the enforcement process,” he said.
South Charleston also is considering a possible sales tax and reducing its utility tax.
Mullens said home rule would give South Charleston the same leg up that Charleston, Huntington, Bridgeport and Wheeling have had the past few years as the first home rule cities.
The presentations get underway at 8 a.m. at the West Virginia Economic Development Authority offices in Charleston. Three more home rule meetings are scheduled over the next few weeks.