FOLLANSBEE - As voters in municipalities across the Northern Panhandle head to the the polls today, those in Follansbee will be asked not only who their newest elected officials will be - they also will consider whether city officials' terms should be extended from two to four years and whether the city should hold a primary election if there are not more than two candidates in any race.
The questions will be put to them through a voluntary survey separate from election ballots. But Follansbee Council will decide whether to take the public's advice by amending ordinances establishing the primary election and setting term limits for city officials.
The survey was suggested by City Attorney Michael Gaudio after City Clerk David Kurcina and others suggested reducing the number of city elections as a cost-saving measure. Kurcina said it costs about $5,500 to conduct each city election, and it's often difficult to get workers to staff polling places.
Low voter turnout also has been a consideration. Only 254 of about 2,100 registered voters turned out for the city's April 2 primary. Officials said that may have been because no candidates would be eliminated, with no race having more than two candidates advancing to today's general election. But it shouldn't have been due to lack of awareness, they said, because the city's automated calling system was used to remind residents of the earlier election.
The calling system normally is used to report boil orders to its water customers.
The extension of city officials' terms also has been suggested as a cost-saver because it would result in the city holding elections every four years, instead of every two. Currently the terms of all city officials, including the mayor, police chief, city attorney, city clerk and all five council members, are up in the same election year.
MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS ARE SET ACROSS W.VA. TODAY
Elections take place in many West Virginia municipalities today.
Contested races will be decided in Bethany, Bethlehem, Follansbee, Hundred, Middlebourne, Pine Grove, Valley Grove, Wellsburg, West Liberty and Windsor Heights.
Municipal elections include races for mayor, recorder and members of council.
Polls are open from 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m.
Some have argued the terms should be staggered, so the city couldn't be faced with an entirely new slate of leaders in one year. But that wouldn't reduce the number of elections and isn't being suggested at this time.
The issue of the primary election has been decided in other ways elsewhere. In each of its last two election years, Wellsburg Council has voted not to hold a primary election because there were not more than two candidates for any race.
Weirton Council in May voted against eliminating the city's primary election, a move proposed by a committee formed to consider ways to reduce election costs.