By Peggy Mackenzie
At the first of three planned hearings held Thursday, May 1, the City of Lewisburg is seeking inclusion in the phase II application process of the Municipal Home Rule Pilot Program open to 16 additional West Virginia cities as a municipal option of governance. Phase I is already in place in four cities around the state – Charleston, Huntington, Bridgeport and Wheeling. The second public hearing was on Monday, May 5. The third and final reading and public hearing will be held on May 20 at 7 p.m. just prior to the regular monthly council meeting at 7:30 p.m.
The goal for the City of Lewisburg is to “increase the efficiency of government,” stated Mayor John Manchester. Toward that aim, Lewisburg’s application focuses on six areas where changes in the requirements and regulations will allow a small municipality like Lewisburg with more efficiency and thereby save taxpayers money. Those changes are:
1) Authorizes the use of proceeds from hotel occupancy tax to fund Public Libraries.
2) Permits building and zoning administrators and /or City law enforcement officers to issue “on the spot” citations for external sanitation violations.
3) To eliminate the first early voting day prior to a municipal election and to reduce the number of poll workers required to work on the receiving board on the day of the election.
4) Authorize the City to collect hotel occupancy tax on consumers who occupy a hotel for thirty or more consecutive days.
5) To allow the City to reduce the number of notifications that are required to be made to customers prior to terminating utility service and to modify the required methods in which notification to the customer regarding termination is made.
6) Authorize the sale of municipal surplus property without being required to advertise surplus property as a Class II legal advertisement or be sold at a public auction using an auctioneer.
Steve Malcomb, the only audience member at the meeting other than three reporters, was acting as a representative for several people with concerns over what the impact of the changes in city ordinances might be. He asked, “How will these changes benefit the homeowners, business leaders and rental owners of Lewisburg?”
Manchester’s response was, “The purpose for Home Rule is to increase efficiency of government.” He went on to say that Home Rule allows smaller municipalities to custom fit regulations so they are more suitable to a specific community. Legislation from the state is usually passed down as “one size fits all.” In this way Lewisburg is asking for a variance to the regulations in the above listed six areas.
“It’s more about having more say in how we govern ourselves,” added Council member Joseph Lutz.
Malcomb agreed it was good to keep public officials on their toes, even though he said he couldn’t see how this is going to help the regular taxpaying residents of Lewisburg.”
Public input is valued and needed concurred the mayor, and the public is invited to come to the May 20 City Council meeting at 7 p.m.
Lewisburg’s Home Rule application is available to the public at City Hall, the Greenbrier County Library and on the Lewisburg City website (lewisburg-wv.com).