WEIRTON - An ordinance before Weirton City Council today would transform the way Weirton handles its municipal elections.
The measure, which requires two readings for final approval, would amend the city charter to eliminate the primary election for municipal races and allow officials to put those races on the same ballot as county, state and national contests.
Councilman George Ash, who is co-sponsoring the legislation with Councilman Terry Weigel, said the move would save the city $20,000 to $30,000 each election year.
Weirton's elections are nonpartisan, but the primary pares down the field in each race to the top two vote-getters, who move on to the general election. However, the most recent primary election on April 5, 2011, only affected two races - Ward 1 and Ward 5 council - because no other contest had three or more opponents.
"It will save the residents of the city of Weirton money, and it's possible that more people will vote," said Ash, pointing out voter turnout is likely to be higher if municipal races are on the same ballot as the May presidential and gubernatorial primaries, which generally draw more people to the polls.
Because Weirton's elections historically have fallen on off years - under the current system, the next election would be in 2015 - the ordinance also would extend Mayor George Kondik's and all council members' terms until 2016, so the next election could coincide with county, state and national races.
Weirton City Council will meet at 7:30 p.m. today on the second floor of the City Building, 200 Municipal Plaza.
If the measure passes its first reading, City Clerk Nicole Davis-Scheutzner said a public hearing on the matter will precede council's June meeting. Anyone seeking to protest the charter amendment should bring that protest in writing to the hearing, she noted.
If even one registered voter in Weirton files a formal protest, a citywide referendum on the amendment must go on the ballot in November.
Council also will vote today on a resolution to spend $3,000 to hire Nicklas King McConahy Real Estate Appraisers and Consultants of Cranberry Township, Pa., to appraise property in the northern end of Weirton currently owned by steelmaker ArcelorMittal. The ordinance notes Weirton Redevelopment Authority and the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle are exploring the purchase of some of that acreage and are requesting the appraisal "in order to make a fair and market value offer."
Council also will vote on second reading of legislation allowing officials to charge non-resident businesses that become involved in incidents requiring emergency response - more specifically, those who do not pay Business and Occupation Tax or the city's police and fire service fee - for the cost of that response.
Other items on the agenda include an amendment to the city's zoning ordinance; approval of the city's plan to spend its $364,536 Community Development Block Grant entitlement for the coming fiscal year; purchase of fireworks for the city's July 4 Independence Day celebration; restricting open burning within city limits; a revision to the current fiscal year budget; replacement of network equipment at the City Building; and acceptance of West Virginia Community Participation Grant funds.