Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

April 2, 2014

Board holds public hearing for Home Rule Pilot Program

BLUEFIELD — Mixed comments were presented to the Bluefield Board of Directors during a public hearing for the Bluefield Home Rule Pilot Program application Tuesday evening.

The expanded home rule program affords cities in the Mountain State more power to identify state rules that may restrict their capability to perform municipal duties. It also provides cities greater flexibility in identifying effective solutions. There are still restrictions on what the towns and cities can and can’t do under home rule. For example, they can’t enact new rules dealing with environmental issues.

Some of the categories that Bluefield will be addressing in the home rule application are B&O tax reduction and retail sales tax implementation, disposition of city property, on-spot citations, contracts with other jurisdictions via resolution and procurement of architect-engineering services, according to the application.

Art Riley, president of the Downtown Bluefield Merchant’s Association, is concerned that by changing the B&O tax residents will carry the load of that tax.

“The biggest problem with changing the B&O tax is that is it will be substituted with a 1 percent sales tax. The citizens who purchase goods and services will carry the load of this tax and many people cannot afford that,” Riley said.

Assistant City Manager Josh Cline explained that if Bluefield is accepted into the home rule program the items listed in the application can change, nothing is set in stone yet.

The state launched the first phase of the municipal home rule program five years ago. Charleston, Huntington, Wheeling and Bridgeport applied and were the initial localities accepted, Cline said.

Bluefield Police Chief and interim City Manager Dennis Dillow said, “if we become more B&O friendly we can attract more business.”

Greater Bluefield Chamber of Commerce President Marc Meacham also added, “this home rule program is the way to reduce the B&O tax, lets get this business going.”

The Municipal Home Rule Project Program Phase 2 is a vitally important first step toward city officials having the power to improve the prospects of the city of Bluefield. Having more localized authority over tax systems, architectural and engineering services, agreements, the sale of city owned properties, in addition to presenting the city as a clean, inviting place to live and work will allow the city of Bluefield to begin building a better future, according the home rule application.

— Contact Anne Elgin at aelgin@bdtonline.com

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