By Peggy Mackenzie
The West Virginia Municipal Home Rule Board announced Monday that of the 22 cities with applications for West Virginia’s Home Rule Pilot Program, 16 were picked to participate. The Home Rule program gives municipalities a larger say in how they govern by shifting power from the state to the local level. The city of Lewisburg was not on that list.
Those WV cities which made the cut are: Bluefield, Buckhannon, Charles Town, Clarksburg, Dunbar, Fairmont, Martinsburg, Milton, Morgantown, Nitro, Parkersburg, Ranson, Shinnston, South Charleston, Vienna and Weirton.
Although Mayor John Manchester was unavailable for comment this week, he previously stated for the press that, though dissappointed, he would “follow up with the Home Rule Board regarding the particulars,” and seek to regroup and try to package together pieces which would be considered for all the municipalities around the state. He stated he had noted the success of the City of Huntington, as a participant in the first round of the Home Rule program, had success with an “on the spot” citation power that was asked for by a number of the second round applicant cities, including Lewisburg.
One of Lewisburg’s six items in its application was a request to permit building and zoning administrators and/or city law enforcement officers to issue “on the spot” citations for recurring exterior sanitation/common nuisance violations (including, but not limited to, trash/rubbish, overgrown weeds/grass, junked or otherwise unlawfully situated motor vehicles, maintenance of vacant structures, broken windows or glass, failure to maintain sidewalks and driveways). The rationale for the request, as cited in Lewisburg’s application, was that approval by the municipal court before issuing a citation “may take a month or more.” Violators would “correct violations to get a case dismissed, then reoffend, knowing the prosecution clock will start anew.”
“Our goal,” Manchester said, “would be to see if that particular power could be granted throughout the state.”
As reported in the WV Daily News, Manchester is quoted as stating, “The first step is to try and find out a little more about the criteria for the program and what were the high and low points of our application.” The second step, he went on, “would be to see if there is interest in the state Legislature of adding additional cities in the next round.”
“We are supportive of everybody else who participated and of the Home Rule process,” Manchester said.
The Legislature created the Municipal Home Rule Pilot program in 2007. Last year, state lawmakers called on the Municipal Home Rule Board to add 16 cities to the program. Bridgeport, Charleston, Huntington and Wheeling comprised the initial Home Rule pilot project, and will also continue with this year’s successful applicants through 2019.
In addition to Lewisburg, the other applicants not chosen were Bath/Berkeley Springs, Spencer, Moundsville, Oak Hill and Princeton.