Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

February 12, 2014

Board to hold public hearing on proposed home rule application

BLUEFIELD — City officials are hoping to solicit public input on Bluefield’s proposed municipal home rule application.

The city Board of Directors voted Tuesday to set a public hearing for March 25 at 5:30 p.m. on the application, which must be submitted to the state for consideration prior to May 6. The state is expanding its pilot home rule program to include 16 additional municipalities. Both the Bluefield Board of Directors and the Princeton City Council are hoping to be among the 16 localities selected for the program.

“Five years ago the state opened up the first phase of this program,” Josh Cline, redevelopment and planning director for Bluefield, said. “Charleston, Huntington, Wheeling and Bridgeport applied and were accepted. A total of 25 proposals were submitted. There was a legislative audit of the program and home rule was found to be successful with 20 proposals implemented. The audit encouraged a state-wide adoption of home rule.”

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.

If Bluefield is one of the 16 localities ultimately selected for the second phase of the state’s home rule program, Cline said possible benefits to the city would include providing for a faster turn around time on “housekeeping” items through resolutions as opposed to the traditional ordinance voting method.

Cline said other possible benefits would be a proposal that would allow the city to directly convey property when the primary purpose is to facilitate economic development as well as a reduction in the Business and Occupation tax in specified categories. It would also allow the city to implement a sales and use tax not to exceed 1 percent.

Cline said public comment and input will be vital to the application process.

“We are available for questions,” Cline said. “We are really looking for a good dialogue.”

In other action Tuesday, it was announced that two major expansion projects are now getting underway at Bluefield Regional Medical Center, and that design plans have been submitted for a new Dollar General Store on Cumberland Road. A date of July 12 has now been set for the proposed 90th anniversary celebration of the wedding of the two Bluefields.

City Manager Jim Ferguson, who resigned at the end of the meeting, also announced that two new attractions — “Horses, Horses and Horses” directed by a former employee of the Ringling Brothers Circus and the “Puppetone Rockers” — will be coming to this year’s Cole Chevy Mountain Festival in Bluefield. Ferguson said the original carousel that made its debut in the first James H. Drew Exhibition in Bluefield back in 1951 also will be returning to this year’s festival. And Mayor Tom Cole reminded city residents that the West Virginia Winter Warmer will be held Feb. 22 at the Depot District on Commerce Street from 3 to 7 p.m.

— Contact Charles Owens at cowens@bdtonline.com

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