Former City Manager Allen Hendershot firmly supports Moundsville's proposed participation in the Municipal Home Rule Pilot Program, but some residents believe giving city leaders more authority is bad idea.
"We have seen in other communities, such as Wheeling, that home rule can work," Hendershot said while addressing City Council on Tuesday. "I am absolutely in favor of home rule."
Following significant discussion with members of the public and among themselves, council members David Wood, Ginger DeWitt, K. Mark Simms and Phil Remke, along with Mayor Eugene Saunders, voted 5-0 Tuesday to approve the initial reading of the city's application to become one of the 16 additional home rule cities throughout West Virginia. Councilmen Paul Haynes and David Haynes were absent for personal reasons.
Photo by Casey Junkins/Moundsville City Manager Deanna Hess and Mayor Eugene Saunders listen to a concerned resident Tuesday during a meeting of City Council.
Council must now pass the measure on a second reading during the 7 p.m. April 15 meeting before submitting it to the state's Municipal Home Rule Board for consideration. Via home rule, Moundsville seeks the opportunity 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 to - or unwilling to - maintain;
- Increase the city's power to collect delinquent fees, with officials estimating they have more than $253,000 worth of fees that are more than 90 days past due;
- Reduce the number of business licenses from 45 to only a few.
"These are things that we want to do, but it is very broad," City Attorney Thomas White said, adding council would need to pass individual ordinances for the measures to become law - if the city is approved for participation.
While Hendershot said B&O taxes can sometimes seem unfair, replacing some of the revenue with a sales tax would be more equitable.
Resident Jim Stultz also voiced support, saying home rule can send Moundsville in "a new direction."
"There are always those who will say it won't or can't work," Stultz said.
Carl Boso is one of those questioning the home plan, as he said the city is "not run right now."
"I don't think Moundsville needs home rule," he said.
"They should not be able to do what they want to do."
Wheeling, Charleston, Huntington and Bridgeport received the right to home rule in 2008.
Noting this, Remke said of Moundsville's plan, "This is just a copy, basically, of what Wheeling has done."
However, Saunders later said this is because the two cities that are roughly 12 miles apart along the Ohio River have many of the same problems, including dilapidated structures.
He estimates the city of 9,173 residents has about 40 dilapidated structures, including one on Poplar Avenue that has a tree growing through it.
"One of the reasons we looked at what Wheeling did was that Wheeling was successful," Wood said.