Lewisburg’s City Charter, currently under review by city council, is nearing completion, according to Morgantown City Attorney Tim Stranco, who is assisting the council with the amendment process.
With Stranco’s help, the city council investigated all the city charters in the state, looked at how their charters worked and utilized those most successful ones as resources for modernizing Lewisburg’s charter.
During the Tuesday night city council meeting, Stranco asked, “Why create a city charter? – To provide substance, continuity and certainty.” Lewisburg’s city charter was established in 1782 and has been valid for over two hundred years. “By amending the Charter, this legislation will remain continuously valid while also enacting modern updates to provide guidance regarding the operations and governance of the city,” he said. The state code provides no guidance or constrains regarding the nature of a charter amendment, leaving this prerogative up to city council “whenever the governing body of any city shall deem it expedient…”
With any changes made by amendments, the public will have a fair say in the doings of city government, Stranco said, that includes full and effective notices of the proposed amendments and ample opportunity to comment. The ordinance process, allowed by section 8-4-8 of the WV state code, would see the city run legal ads, then 30 days later, hold a public hearing to explain any details confusing to the public and hear any objections. If there are no objections left unresolved, the new charter would go into effect 10 days after the hearing. This is not the only way to modify what is effectively the city’s constitution, but it is the most efficient way, according to Stranco.
If there are objections, then there are a couple of options. One is to convene a city charter board, that involves a 6-month process, or the charter can be voted on in a special election process. However, Stranco said, this process does not promote a dialog between council and concerned (or objecting) citizens in the same way as the ordinance process.
According to a fact sheet, for the most part, the amendments to Lewisburg’s City Charter were drafted to reflect and formalize the way the city currently does business. The significant exceptions to this are 1) the transfer of City Recorder duties to the City Clerk and the elimination of the elected City Recorder position; and 2) introduction of a City Manager and corresponding division of appointment and supervisory responsibilities between the Mayor, the City Manager and City council.
At the special session meeting dealing with the City Charter amendments on June 12, as reported in the West Virginia Daily News, Mayor John Manchester had stated, “The intent of this is simply to take those pieces of city code that have been around us for years and to update and create a modification of the charter, not only to reflect how we’ve been operating, but make improvements to it for long term stability.”
At that meeting, arguments against removing the recorder as an elected position came down to public transparency and in keeping oversight of the functional record keeper for the city. State laws bound both clerks and recorders to maintain standards in record keeping and requires both positions to attend ongoing training.
Manchester said that with a final go-through of the City Charter amendments, the first reading will be set for July 17, at the next city council meeting, and will be available for the public to access prior the the meeting at the city’s website.
In other business:
- The Lewisburg Literary Festival was awarded $6,000 grant from the city’s Arts & Humanities fund to underwrite the cost of speakers during the August festival. Greg Johnson said three authors will be speaking at the event.
- Monica and Aaron Maxwell, representing the Downtown Merchants Association, received a requested $20,000 to increase online media presence with Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Aaron said, “This is not just for the merchants, it’s for all things Lewisburg. We need to be there.”
- The mayor presented names of appointees to various commission positions: Jason Long to the Building Commission for a renewed 5-year term; Skip Deegans to the Historic Landmarks Commission for a renewed 3-year term; Dave Nalker to the Library Board of Directors for a renewed 5-year term; and Roger Vanoy to the Planning Commission to fulfill the last year of Mallory Iles 3-year term to expire in June of 2019.
- Manchester announced that Governor Jim Justice appointed him to serve on the state Complete Streets Advisory Board.
- After more than 20 years serving the City of Lewisburg, Bonita Sienkiewicz will be retiring for “greener pastures.” The Mayor said Sienkiewicz “has helped the city immeasurably. She will be missed.”
- Police Chief Tim Stover modeled the department’s new uniform for the council’s admiration and approval.
- Fire Chief Joey Thomas gave a review of the Perrine Apartments fire, which occurred on May 24. He said at the time of the department’s arrival, the structure was in full blaze, taking six apartments on the second floor. The entire building was condemned; one subject was hospitalized for smoke inhalation, and approximately 70 residents were displaced. All have relocated in alternate housing.
- Council member Mark Etten recounted the Finance Committee report, stating several annual contract renewals were approved, citing architect Michael Mills for his professional services to the HLC for $8,000; grant writer Doug Hylton for $6,000, plus a prorated to scale percentage per the amount of the grant; Wildlife Control Specialties contract renewal for deer removal services for $100 per deer; and Hudnall Wildlife Services annual contract for skunk removal at $750 per month from June to October.
- The council approved $200,000 for the fire station #1 construction fund. Station #1 was described as “quite challenged” and still in need of a suitable location.
- Public Works Director Roger Pence said the department will be paving four city streets this summer, indicating North Dwyer, Mary’s Lane, Dorsey and Lamplighter by Greenbrier Excavating and Paving.
- The piano in the City Hall alcove is being repainted by Suzanna Robinson, a project sponsored by the Lewisburg in Bloom Committee, and will feature Dragon tail Begonias. The piano is expected to return soon.