Chester to look into home rule program

CHESTER — With concern of funding for street projects mentioned each meeting, one member of Chester City Council discussed why the city should participate in home rule.

During Monday’s meeting, councilman Mike Dotson addressed council and the audience on home rule, which allow pilot cities to implement changes in all matters of local governance without regard for state laws or rules as long as the changes did not violate the U.S. or state constitutions, federal law or certain portions of the West Virginia Code.

Dotson cited a recent article, which discussed 28 cities throughout the state that have used home rule and have been able to collect millions of dollars from sales tax of one percent, to which the cities have used the sales tax money to work on streets, sidewalks and other needed projects.

Dotson said the 28 cities mentioned split more than $14 million in tax money, including Charleston receiving $4,000 and Harpers Ferry at $21,000.

“The sales tax simply goes through what consumers purchase in the city of Chester,” Dotson said.

While several cities throughout the state have worked with the home rule, Chester had not been using it, which Dotson said he had been talking about for some time now. He read from the article that also discussed the matter.

“For the last three or four years, and I’d been bringing this up over and over again, the State of West Virginia has given the city of Chester the answer to its financial problems, and for some reason, we have not taken advantage of it,” Dotson said. “I believe that every city in Hancock and Brooke County, with the exception of Chester, is in this. Why would we let this pass by for all these years without trying?”

Dotson said that by participating in the home rule, the city pays the state a small percentage of the income, and the state presents a check to the city afterward. The money from the home rule could go toward the streets and infrastructure issues that the city deals with currently, he said.

Mayor Larry Forsythe recommended to have City Clerk Marlene Fleming research the information and consider applying for the home rule. Council ultimately approved a motion to start the process with a 4-0 vote, with councilman Steve Shuman absent.

Meanwhile, also with a 4-0 vote, council approved the third and final reading of the city’s water department bond ordinance to allow for work on improvements and extensions to the water and sewer systems, resulting in its adoption and enforcement.

The approval of the ordinance now authorizes the acquisition and construction of the improvements, extensions and financing to the water portion of the city’s combined waterworks and sewer system, to which the issuance is no more than $2 million in aggregate principal amount for water and sewer through revenue bonds.

It also provides for the rights and remedies along with security for the registered owners, allowing the execution of all documents related to issuance of bonds.

The ordinance’s first reading was approved during the Aug. 21 meeting, and the second reading of the ordinance was approved during a special meeting conducted Sept. 5.