23 Cities Await Home Rule Word

MOUNDSVILLE – From placing restrictions on state roads without permission from the West Virginia Division of Highways to imposing a 0.5-percent sales tax, 23 cities across the Mountain State hope to enact numerous new laws with the Municipal Home Rule Pilot Program.

After submitting their applications to the Municipal Home Rule Board by June 1, officials in Moundsville, Weirton and 21 other cities are looking to join Wheeling, Charleston, Huntington and Bridgeport with the right to home rule. Those four cities gained the autonomy in 2008.

Chelsea A. Ruby, spokeswoman for the West Virginia Department of Commerce, said officials from Moundsville and Weirton will have the opportunity to present their application to the Municipal Home Rule Board during a meeting in Wheeling. She said officials had not finalized the exact date and location, but said it would be early in August.

“There will be five regional meetings, one of which will be in Wheeling, for cities to make their presentations to the board,” she said. “Once the regional meetings are complete, the board will reconvene to make final decisions regarding which cities are approved.”

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

Following weeks of public discourse, Moundsville City Council members Ginger DeWitt, Phil Remke and Paul Haynes, along with Mayor Eugene Saunders and Vice Mayor David Wood, voted 5-0 in April to submit the city’s application for consideration. Councilmen K. Mark Simms and David Haynes were absent.

Via home rule, Moundsville wants the right to impose a 0.5-percent sales tax, which leaders believe could yield more than $1 million worth of annual revenue; have the flexibility to determine business and occupation tax rates; repair, alter or demolish properties that owners are unable or unwilling to maintain; increase the city’s power to collect delinquent fees; and reduce the number of business licenses from 45 to only a few.

Weirton’s home rule application shows that it seeks the authority to establish new provisions for hiring code enforcement officials; allow code enforcement officials to issue on-site citations for common nuisance eyesore violations; allow city police officers to enter Alcohol Beverage Control Administration establishments without ABCA investigators present; establish certain restrictions on state roads that are within city limits without permission from the West Virginia Division of Highways.

Even if cities are accepted to the home rule program, they still must vote to enact the provisions via individual ordinances.