WILLIAMSON — The members of the Williamson City Council expressed interest in pursuing the adoption of an ordinance to enter West Virginia’s Municipal Home Rule program during their regular session Thursday.
Home rule was briefly discussed in July 2020 during the tenure of the previous council, but was quickly shelved following opposition by former council member Randy Price. Mayor Charlie Hatfield brought discussion of the idea to the city council agenda once again at Thursday’s meeting, saying it would provide benefits to the city.
“I have felt since I was a candidate when I was first running for mayor that we needed to explore it,” Hatfield said. “The cities that are doing the best in the state, the one thing they have in common, they have approved (a home rule ordinance).”
Originally a pilot that began in 2007 in the cities of Bridgeport, Huntington, Charleston and Wheeling, the home rule program gives municipalities the leverage to enact more local ordinances and regulations that are unavailable to them under the state’s typical one-size-fits-all statutes.
Home rule has also proven to be a money-maker for cities and towns since it allows for a 1% sales tax to be implemented.
The revenue from that tax, which is operated concurrent with the state’s 6% sales tax, is remitted directly to the municipalities operating under it each quarter of the year.
Three municipalities in neighboring Logan County — Logan, Chapmanville and Man — have all been admitted to the home rule program over the past two years. In Logan alone, home rule has added more than $1 million to their annual city budget.
City attorney Nathan Brown extensively detailed the process of becoming a home rule municipality, from holding several public hearings on the matter to taking the application before the state’s home rule board in Charleston. He said the board can do one of three things: approve the city’s proposal, approve part of it or deny it.
Brown and Hatfield also noted that even if the city is approved to enter the program, it does not have to be enforced, but can be put on the backburner as an additional tool.
City council members, particularly Ralphie Hall and Mike Casey, expressed interest pursuing the application process. Due to the issue being only a discussion item on the agenda, no action was taken. It is tentatively scheduled to be brought up again for possible action during the city’s next scheduled meeting at 4 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 28, at city hall.