BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. – Members of the Home Rule Board will be in Harrison County on Monday to hear from representatives of five more cities that are among the 22 total, across West Virginia, seeking one of 16 new spaces within the Home Rule Pilot Project.
Those from Buckhannon, Clarksburg, Shinnston, Fairmont and Morgantown will make their cases for more local flexibility at Bridgeport City Hall.
The meeting will be the fourth of five regional meetings scheduled by the board.
“We broke it up into five regional meetings and that way four of five people present to us at a time,” Patsy Trecost, Home Rule Board chairman said. “That way we can be focused and truly give everybody an opportunity to do a presentation to the board and then we can make a decision on who we felt was the best.”
The regional meetings also make it more convenient for the cities. Instead of having to take a 2 hour trip to Charleston, representatives from Morgantown only have to make a roughly 38 minute trip to Bridgeport City Hall to make their presentation.
“By all means, it is a great opportunity for the municipalities of the five whom are in this region,” Martin Howe, City Manager in Clarksburg said. “It also allows the public an opportunity to come out to see the process and hear about what each municipality may be proposing.”
The public is encouraged to attend the presentation and voice their opinions, with 30 minutes allotted to lobby for or against the implementation of Home Rule in their city.
The cities had until June 1 to submit their proposals but many have had ideas for what they would do with the transferred power from the state level since the introduction of the program.
“We have a list of items that we’ve been working on for awhile,” said Morgantown Mayor Jennifer Selin. “One of them includes a one percent sales tax. The one percent sales tax is offset by a decrease in B&O taxes.”
Such a tax, Selin said, makes sense for Morgantown’s businesses.
“Particularly in our town where we have lots of visitors and lots of people that come and go, they would be helping to defray some of the expenses of having a good city government and take some of the burden off of the businesses,” she said.
Elsewhere, Buckhannon wants to expand its police force but because the municipality can hire only full-time officers as dictated in state code, the city cannot afford the help. However, participating in home rule would allow for a solution.
“One of the things we’re talking about in our home rule application is having the ability to hire part-time officers, up to a certain extent,” Michael Doss, Buckhannon City Administrator said. “Those part-time officer would be officers that are police officers in other municipalities or in other counties so that you would have certified police officers.”
Though each city has different plans, the goal of being accepted into the program is equally important to them.
Travis Blosser, Shinnston Assistant City Manager said “Home rule is fairly important to all of us and extremely important to Shinnston in terms of making decisions locally.”
Monday’s regional meeting from the Home Rule Board begins at 8 a.m. On Sept. 8, the Board’s final regional meeting will be held at the Martinsburg Holiday Inn for Charles Town, Ranson, Martinsburg and Berkeley Springs, also called Bath.
The other cities that are in the running are Oak Hill, Lewisburg, Princeton, Bluefield, South Charleston, Spencer, Dunbar, Nitro, Milton, Vienna, Parkersburg, Moundsville and Weirton.
This fall, the Home Rule Board will meet to make the 16 new Home Rule designations.
Charleston, Huntington, Bridgeport and Wheeling already have Home Rule. The option was created in 2007 to give local officials in select areas more control over how their cities are run.