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New Martinsville Awarded Home Rule

By Staff | Dec 4, 2019

The City of New Martinsville recently became the 40th city to become a member of the West Virginia Municipal Home Rule Program. City Recorder, Kim Whiteman and Parks and Recreation Director, Beverly Gibb, traveled to Charleston to present the City’s application to the Home Rule Board on October 9, 2019.

The West Virginia Legislature created the Municipal Home Rule Pilot Program in 2007. The enabling stature empowered municipalities participating in the program to be creative in addressing local problems by implementing ordinances, rules and regulations not otherwise available because of the various one-size-fits-all statutes that apply to all municipalities.

Bridgeport, Charleston, Huntington and Wheeling were accepted as the first participants in the program.

The home rule statute, W.Va. Code 8-1-5a, has been amended four times. Most recently, the 2019 Legislature rewrote the statute to make the pilot program a permanent program. This opened the program to all West Virginia municipalities (only four Class IV municipalities can be admitted to the program annually) and establish a $2,000 annual fee to be paid by each participating municipality beginning July 1, 2019.

The Municipal Home Rule Program is administered by the West Virginia Home Rule Board. The Board typically meets at least four times a year. The current Home Rule Board consists of the following members: Chair Designee for Governor Jim Justice, The Honorable Dave Hardy, Cabinet Secretary; Designee of Executive Director of WV Development Office, Wesley H. White, Esq.; Business & Industry Council Representative, Mr. Mark A. Polen; Labor Representative, Mr. Brian Jones, President; WV Chapter of American Institute of Certified Planners, Mr. Chris Fletcer,

Planning Director, City of Morgantown; Ex-Officio Non-Voting, The Honorable Gregory Boso, Chairman, Senate Committee on Government Organization; and Ex-Officio Non-Voting, The Honorable Gary Howell, Chairman, House of Delegates Committee on Government Organization.

City Recorder Whiteman and Parks Director Gibb, along with City Councilwoman Iris Isaacs, compiled the information for the application over several months. “The opportunities that are now made possible, due to being admitted to the Municipal Home Rule Program, will greatly benefit our city’s citizens, infrastructure and sustainability” stated Whiteman.

The bulk of the home-rule authorities sought by the City of New Martinsville were related to the problem of dilapidated properties. New Martinsville submitted ten authorities for review by the Home Rule Board. They were awarded permission to address seven of the ten, in addition to an addition of a 1% Sales and Use Tax Implementation in conjunction with a decrease in the Business and Occupational Tax.

The following authorities were awarded: on the spot citations for violations of city ordinances concerning property maintenance, safety and health hazards.; place public nuisance liens (for unpaid nuisance fines) against a property without a court order; the transfer or lease of city property to private and non-profit entities (at fair-market value) and must promote economic development and/or the public good; the authority to employ part-time, non-civil-service police officers; raise the upper age limit for initial entry-level civil service officers from 40 to 45; and eliminate party membership requirements for appointments as election officials and to civil service and building commissions.

It is important to state that any changes that do occur to these authorities will be announced in open meetings and all information will be transparent.

In addition to the mentioned authorities, a 1% Sales and Use Tax will be implemented July 1st, 2020. The State Tax Office will govern and collect the tax. The city will receive their portion in quarterly payments from the state.