The Ravenswood City Council recently authorized the submission of the city’s Home Rule plan to the West Virginia Home Rule Board.
In 2007, the West Virginia Legislature created the Municipal Home Rule Pilot Program and the Municipal Home Rule Board to oversee it.
Home Rule allows cities to implement ordinances, acts, resolutions, rules and regulations without regard to state laws, with the exception that proposals have to comply with the U.S. Constitution, the West Virginia Constitution and federal law, as well as the state’s Controlled Substance Act, the state statute titled “Crimes and Their Punishment” and the state statute titled “Criminal Procedure.”
The pilot program, which was made permanent in the last legislative session, has allowed 30 cities in West Virginia to supersede state law and write ordinances to fit specific needs. Popular ordinances include consumer sales taxes and direct citations for code violations (such as nuisance properties).
“I anticipate we are going to be able to deliver our presentation in August,” Miller said.
Ravenswood’s Home Rule plan covers on-the-spot citations for code violations.
“This will allow us to have more enforcement capabilities,” Miller said.
Under the current system, code violations can take months to resolve, Miller said.
“It just becomes this revolving door where it will take a month to get something fixed. It kind of creates a loophole,” Miller said. “We still have a lot of problem properties to address and only so many resources. Not only does it impact the health of our citizens and land values, it has an overall impact on our communities.”
Miller said any new procedures will still need to be approved by city council.
Board, commission, and authority positions often have residency requirements in state code. Miller said this disqualifies otherwise well-qualified people who have vested interests in the community.
“If someone has three kids that go to Ravenswood High School but they live just outside of town, why would they not be able to serve on the parks commission?” Miller said. “We would like for cities to be able to determine their own requirements for their boards, commissions, and authorities.”
Miller said Ravenswood also has the opportunity to join municipalities across the state who have implemented a one percent municipal sales tax.
“I really think we have a chance to take on some major special projects if we migrate to municipal sales tax. Personally, I think its the fairest tax there is,” he said.
Miller said he believes a municipal sales tax could help generate funds for a project long-discussed in Ravenswood - a marina at Washington’s Riverfront Park.
“I think we can build a state-of-the-art commercial marina and boardwalk at Riverfront Park. I don’t want to hear how it can’t happen; I want to hear how it can happen. Nothing’s impossible. It just hasn’t been done yet. This is one of the things, if we can get it done, I think it changes the entire economy of Ravenswood,” Miller said.
In other business:
• The city recently made a major technical upgrade - municipal utility bills can now be paid with a credit or debit card at City Hall on Walnut Street.
“The next step is being able to take online payments,” Miller said.
“It is a major ordeal for our billing department. I appreciate them taking on that task. That’s something people have wanted for a long time,” Miller said.
Future goals include making other municipal fees payable by card and online.
“I think it’s important to improve our customer’s experience with government,” Miller said.
• City Council recently approved an application to start evaluating the city’s sewer infrastructure. Miller said the city wants to find the most fiscally responsible way to improve and maintain the municipal sewer system.
“The hope is there will be opportunities for us to work together with state and federal entities on improvements to the city,” Miller said.
• Ryan Abel was appointed to police department to fill an open vacancy. Miller announced another opening in the police department.
• Miller reported work is continuing to progress on the construction of new batting cages at Wright Field. The funds for the cages came from a grant from the Cincinnati Reds.
• The city plans to solicit bids for the resurfacing of the tennis courts. Additionally, city maintenance workers were planning to address a damaged retaining wall at the courts by removing the wall and grading the bank.