The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Latest News

July 4, 2014

Lewisburg home rule application rests on six points to be presented

LEWISBURG — Only 16 of the 23 cities that have applied will make the cut when the West Virginia Municipal Home Rule Board selects participants for phase II of the pilot program in the state’s self-government experiment.

“I think everybody who submitted an application is optimistic about being chosen,” said John Manchester, mayor of Lewisburg, one of the candidate cities.

Manchester said while “there’s better than a 50/50 chance” that his city — or any of the other 22 — will be selected for the program, “there’s absolutely no way to tell” what could tilt those odds further in Lewisburg’s favor.

The Home Rule Board has scheduled five regional meetings to hear presentations from all 23 applicants. After the final meeting is held Sept. 8 in Martinsburg, the board will reconvene to make a final decision on the 16 cities that will be accepted into the pilot program, joining phase I participants Bridgeport, Charleston, Huntington and Wheeling.

Lewisburg is scheduled to be heard around mid-morning on Monday at the regional meeting being held at Beckley City Hall. Other home rule applicants on the board’s agenda that day are Bluefield, Princeton and Oak Hill.

During a public hearing held in Lewisburg a couple of months ago to gather input on the city’s application, Manchester said the goal of the home rule program is to “increase the efficiency of government.”

City Council member Joseph Lutz added, “Home rule itself is about small municipalities having more leeway in making rules for their local area.”

Lewisburg’s application outlines six issues city officials want to address through the increased flexibility afforded by the home rule pilot program. Four of those issues are administrative, and two deal with hotel occupancy taxes.

“None of the six is earth-shattering, but the compilation of them shows our intent to manage our affairs more efficiently,” Manchester said.

Those six issues are:

1 - Authorizing use of proceeds from hotel occupancy tax to fund public libraries.

Citing State Code’s very restrictive language regarding the expenditure of occupancy tax funds, the application notes, “Currently, (money) collected from hotel occupancy tax cannot be expended for municipal public libraries.”

According to the application, Lewisburg officials want to be able to supplement the city’s present level of support for the public library within the corporate boundaries by tapping hotel/motel tax revenues — which are projected to increase in the fiscal year just begun — rather than placing additional pressure on the comparatively “flat” general fund budget.

The hotel/motel tax allocation for the library anticipated for the current fiscal year would be $16,100, bringing the city’s direct financial support for the institution up to $57,700.

2 - Permitting building and zoning administrators and/or city law enforcement officers to issue “on the spot” citations for external sanitation violations.

Under this proposal, city authorities would be able to issue citations for such violations as trash, overgrown weeds, junked motor vehicles and broken windows without first seeking approval from municipal court.

3 - Eliminating one Saturday early voting day prior to a municipal election.

Current state law requires early voting to begin 14 days prior to a municipal election and to include the two Saturdays preceding the election. Lewisburg officials want to eliminate voting on the first of those two Saturdays, citing a cost savings for the city of around $250 per election.

4 - Authorizing the city to collect a 6 percent hotel occupancy tax on persons who occupy a hotel room for 30 or more consecutive days.

State Code currently exempts those staying in a lodging establishment for 30 or more consecutive days from paying the occupancy tax.

The application points to Lewisburg’s tourism-based economy in appealing for authorization to collect the tax regardless of the length of the guest’s stay.

“The construction industry and the oil and gas industry often secure long-term accommodations for their workers in local motels,” the application asserts. “Though we are not now in an area that is slated for significant Marcellus shale gas development, our area does sit on top of significant Utica shale gas deposits.”

Additionally citing the likelihood that at least some of the construction workers employed on long-term build outs at The Greenbrier resort and the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine will seek lodging in Lewisburg, the application details the economic hardship the resulting loss of bed tax revenue would impose on the city.

Lewisburg currently takes in annual bed tax revenue of nearly $600,000, an amount that is split equally between the city and the Greenbrier County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

5 - Allowing the city to reduce the number of notifications that are required to be made to customers prior to terminating utility service and to modify the required methods in which notification to the customer regarding termination is made.

The application asks that Lewisburg be permitted in most cases to make only one notification by personal contact prior to disconnecting a customer’s water service rather than making two attempts at personal notification, as the law currently requires.

The application maintains that the city would save “a significant amount of money and man-hours over the course of each year” if this change were allowed.

6 - Authorizing the sale of municipal surplus property without being required to advertise that property as a Class II legal ad or to sell it at a public auction using an auctioneer.

The city asks that it be allowed to advertise and sell surplus property on a free online auction site rather than following the current process through local means. According to the application, this change will save the city advertising costs of $150-$200 per auction and the cost of hiring an auctioneer, estimated at between 10 and 20 percent of the value of the items sold.

Coming Saturday: A look at Oak Hill’s home rule proposal.

— E-mail:

Text Only
Latest News
  • twv play 2 Season’s curtain call

    Tonight is the last chance to see Theatre West Virginia Act II’s production of “Hatfields and McCoys,” a 17-show season many thought would never happen.


    August 2, 2014 2 Photos

  • Alpha says reducing coal stockpiles could prevent layoffs

    An Alpha Natural Resources spokesman said Friday that the company is “hopeful” that coal stockpiles can be sold in the next few months so the company can avoid laying off more than 1,100 surface coal miners and other support personnel by mid-October. 

    August 2, 2014

  • Congress quick-fix: Highways funded through mid-2015

    Hours before the federal government was set to reduce payments to states for road and bridge projects, Congress approved a temporary fix late Thursday night that would maintain funding through the middle of next year.

    But in some ways, the damage already had been done.

    August 2, 2014

  • makeawish Selling stars: A dollar helps grant a child's wish

    Make-A-Wish and the West Virginia Oil Marketers and Grocers Association (OMEGA) are partnering to sell “wish stars” at grocery and convenience stores throughout the state. You can get a star for $1 through the month of August. All money raised will go to making children’s wishes come true.

    August 2, 2014 1 Photo

  • W.Va., 11 other states, ask Supreme Court to declare new EPA rules illegal

    Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said Friday that West Virginia led a bipartisan group of 12 states that are asking the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., to declare illegal a settlement agreement in which the EPA promised to issue its now-pending rule concerning existing coal-fired power plants.

    August 1, 2014

  • Ebola outbreak moving faster than control efforts

    An Ebola outbreak that has killed more than 700 people in West Africa is moving faster than efforts to control the disease, the head of the World Health Organization warned as presidents from the affected countries met Friday in Guinea's capital.

    August 1, 2014

  • Oak Hill man arrested for selling drugs to police officers

    A Fayette County man is in jail after his arrest Thursday evening for several drug offenses, according to a press release from the Fayette County Sheriff's Office.

    August 1, 2014

  • Suspect arrested, faces felony charges following shooting incident

    A Mercer County man was arrested and arraigned on felony charges Thursday after a domestic altercation led to a shooting incident in the Montcalm area of Mercer County.

    August 1, 2014

  • pittsburgh rally 5,000 rally in Pittsburgh against EPA Clean Power Plan

    The echo of people chanting, “Hey, hey, EPA, don’t take our jobs away” could be heard in downtown Pittsburgh Thursday. The voices came from about 5,000 United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) members and their families, along with other unions such as the Boilermakers and the Brotherhood of Electrical Workers International (IBEW), marching through the streets.


    August 1, 2014 1 Photo 3 Stories

  • Alpha plans to idle coal workers

    Approximately 1,100 employees at 11 Alpha Resources-affiliated surface mines, preparation plants and other support operations in southern West Virginia got notice late Thursday afternoon that their jobs could be in jeopardy.


    August 1, 2014