City Officials to Meet With Home Rule Board

WHEELING – The city of Vienna wants to prevent tow truck drivers from discharging fuel into storm drains. In Weirton, the city wants the authority to investigate Alcohol Beverage Control Administration establishments.

Moundsville is seeking to enact a 0.5 percent sales tax, while Parkersburg wants to eliminate its business and occupation tax and replace it with a sales tax.

All of these options, and others, would be permissible if the four cities are among those approved later this year as West Virginia home rule communities. And the next stop in that process will take place in August in Wheeling.

City leaders representing Moundsville, Weirton, Parkersburg and Vienna will convene with members of the state’s Municipal Home Rule Board to discuss their applications at 8 a.m. Aug. 11 in Wheeling City Council Chambers on the first floor of the City-County Building at 1500 Chapline St., Wheeling. Members of the general public are welcome to attend to offer comments regarding the applications.

Cities granted the right to home rule have the authority to levy taxes or adopt new laws which state law normally forbids. A city could, for example, tax residents for walking across the street. However, they cannot violate the United States or West Virginia constitutions, nor may they legalize marijuana, cocaine, heroin, LSD or any other controlled substance.

Wheeling is one of four cities that already has home rule, along with Charleston, Huntington and Bridgeport.

In addition to Moundsville, Weirton, Parkersburg and Vienna, cities now seeking home rule in West Virginia are Morgantown, Fairmont, Bath, Bluefield, Buckhannon, Charles Town, Dunbar, South Charleston, Clarksburg, Lewisburg, Martinsburg, Milton, Nitro, Oak Hill, Princeton, Ranson, Shinnston, Spencer and St. Albans.

Members of the Municipal Home Rule Board who will decide which cities gain home rule authority are Chairman Patsy Trecost, a member of Clarksburg City Council; Floyd “Kin” McKinley Sayre, a partner with the Bowles Rice law firm; Brian Jones, president of the Professional Firefighters of West Virginia; Chris Fletcher, planning director for the city of Morgantown; State Sen. Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson; Delegate Jim Morgan, D-Cabell; and Joshua Jarrell, deputy secretary and general counsel for the Department of Commerce.

The session in Wheeling is one of five scheduled around the state that will allow each city to make its pitch for home rule. After the final meeting, set for Sept. 8 in Martinsburg, the board will meet to determine which applications to approve.

“We feel we have a substantial plan. Hopefully, we will be selected,” Moundsville Mayor Eugene Saunders said.

Via home rule, Moundsville wants the right to impose a 0.5 percent sales tax, which leaders believe could yield more than $1 million in 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; and establish certain restrictions on state roads that are within city limits without permission from the West Virginia Division of Highways.