Representatives from five cities in North-Central West Virginia were at Bridgeport City Council chambers on Monday to make their pitches for why they should be accepted into the state's Home Rule program. Each city is detailing how they would take advantage of the benefits of Home Rule.
“Home Rule, in essence, allows the governing authority to go to a local level," explained Clarksburg City Manager Martin Howe. "We have the ability to enact policies and ordinances at a local level, but this allows us to go into state code to where there are instances that we have to follow with legislative rule to go in and amend those to better fit and suit our municipality at a local level."
In 2007 four cities from West Virginia were chosen to participate in the Home Rule pilot project: Bridgeport, Charleston, Huntington and Wheeling.
Now 16 more slots are available as part of an expansion of the program and 23 cities entered applications.
The West Virginia Municipal Home Rule Board is hosting several meetings to hear from those cities and get more details on their plans. Even if chosen, it doesn't mean all the plans will be implemented.
“Some cities are going to get in, but their whole entire agenda will not," said West Virginia Home Rule Board Chairman Patsy Trecost. "The board will dissect that down individually. If there is a conflict of interest that we don't think we should cross the line on, we will step back and say, ‘you have a great application, but we need to tweak this one thing.'"
On Monday Morgantown, Fairmont, Shinnston, Clarksburg and Buckhannon made their presentations. Howe said Home Rule has a lot of appeal.
“It's just a great opportunity for the city to be able to focus on local issues and really get to the problem and actually take steps, appropriate steps, to solve those issues that really impact our residents and our community,” said Howe.
Trecost said this is the fourth out of five meetings being held, the next will be in Martinsburg on September 8.
The 16 cities should be chosen by the first of the year.