Parkersburg May Seek "Home Rule" Pilot Program

Updated: 1/07/2013 5:40 P.M.

Parkersburg wants to be among four additional cities who would be part of a pilot program to get increased governing powers.

As part of a bill under discussion by a legislative study committee, four more municipalities would take part in the state's home rule pilot project.

Charleston, Huntington, Wheeling and Bridgeport have so far, and have been pleased with the results.

Mayor Bob Newell is a supporter of the idea, and says it's about more than giving cities the authority to raise taxes.

"There's a variety of things you can do," the mayor says. "You can create an ordinance that is better than the current state law, that would speed up demolition of vacant houses, for example. That's an area where all cities are really looking. As far as taxation goes, there's always a chance of doing something better than what we are allowed by law to do now."

The mayor says that if the legislature gives the go-ahead, he will ask city council for authorization to apply for the pilot program.

The draft bill would require any tax changes to get the approval of at least 55% of residents.

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Parkersburg's mayor calls it "positive news".

Legislative auditors have recommended extending statewide, a pilot program allowing four cities to govern by home rule.

Mayor Bob Newell has been in favor of the concept, which allows West Virginia cities more authority in providing city services.

It's been controversial because it's been assumed that cities will use the concept to raise taxes and fees.

The auditors' report said the cities that used home rule, including Huntington and Wheeling, streamlined government offices, simplified business licensing and found better ways to fund public services.

Mayor Newell says it would also allow Parkersburg to be more aggressive in ridding neighborhoods of abandoned homes.

The recommendation still has to be acted upon by the legislature itself.


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