MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The chambers of Morgantown City Council were full for Tuesday’s meeting because of the first reading of a proposed ordinance regulating certain heavy truck traffic in the city. Council passed the ordinance 6-1. A final vote is expected at the next meeting.
Many people spoke in favor of the ordinance during the pubic portion of the meeting, such as Morgantown resident Alex Baker. He said he has nothing against the truckers themselves, but believes large trucks on downtown streets are a safety hazard.
“I’m sure they are good people. When they’re driving these vehicles, they have one particular need – deliver their payload as quickly as possible from point A to point B, and if that requires cutting off traffic, driving in reckless and dangerous methods, then so be it,” he said.
Others went on to voice concerns about noise, air pollution and the need to establish a truck route around the downtown area.
A minority of people spoke against the ordinance based mostly on economic reasons. Mountain State Truck Parts Manager Charley Benson said she feels the economic impact would reach beyond the truckers.
“I don’t know if anybody’s considered the impact economically. If you take the trucks off the streets of Morgantown, you’re not just taking away business for trucks,” she said.
Discussion of the ordinance among the council members lasted nearly as long as the public comment period of the meeting. Council member Ron Bane said he has two major areas of concern should the ordinance be passed.
“One, are we liable and two, are we going to enforce it? I think those are fair questions to ask today.”
City Attorney Steve Fanok had an answer for at least one of Bane’s issues.
“The legislative bodies, when they enact an ordinance like this, or statute, there’s immunity for the legislative body,” he said. Fanok also noted that there’s immunity for anyone who is charged with enforcing the ordinance, such as police officers.
Bane asked City Manager Jeff Mikorski to make sure the city has a plan in place for enforcing the ordinance and other difficulties that would arise, such as signage along the affected routes.
Noting that safety is the legal basis for the ordinance, City Manager Jeff Mikorski asked the council for permission to make sure that point is thoroughly covered.
“I would like to pursue a full safety study of the routes that are in question. That would help us if and when the ordinance would be challenged in the court of law,” he said.
Council member Bill Kawecki said that, even though it is an emotional and contentious issue, the truck problem has been around for a long time and can be solved by a democratic process.
“We need to do this because we need to get together and cooperate and come up with solutions that are not just money based and not just somebody else’s problems. They are community problems and we need to solve them as a community,” he said.
Councilman Wes Nugent was the only “no” vote.
“When I read the passages of state code that are being cited, I come to a different conclusion. But I do agree with the concept of trying to work to find a lasting sustainable solution,” said Nugent.