Home Rule Board comes to Eastern Panhandle

MARTINSBURG – The Town of Bath, Charles Town, Martinsburg and Ranson will finally get their chance to pitch their applications for inclusion in the West Virginia Municipal Home Rule Pilot Program Phase II.

The five-member Home Rule Board, which will select the 16 cities and towns to take part in the extended and expanded Home Rule program, has been holding regional meetings around the state to hear presentations by 22 municipalities that have applied to be part of the program. The final meeting begins at 8 a.m. Monday at the Holiday Inn, Martinsburg.

Twenty-three cities initially applied, but St. Albans’ application was disqualified because that city’s council did not follow the extensive procedures required by the legislation to enact the second phase of the Home Rule Pilot Program.

To apply, municipalities’ councils had to approve a home rule plan, which had to comply with a specific format outlined by the legislation. The plans must identify problems faced by the municipalities and solutions to those problems that municipalities are prohibited from instituting by state code.

The plans then had to be available for public review and comment for 30 days after the councils approved them.

Next, the municipal councils had to pass an ordinance authorizing the mayor of the municipality to submit the application to the Home Rule Board for consideration. Ordinances must be read three times and receive a majority vote by council to pass.

With all that done, the applications had to be submitted to the Home Rule Board by June 2.

The Home Rule Board’s makeup was set by legislation. The members were to represent different constituencies and were to be appointed by the governor.

The Home Rule Board members are state Delegate Patsy Trecost II of Clarksburg, who is chairman of the board and represents Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin; Brian Jones of Morgantown is president of the Professional Firefighters of West Virginia and represents a labor organization; Chris Fletcher, Morgantowns planning director, represents the West Virginia Chapter of American Institute of Certified Planners; Kin Sayre of Martinsburg, an attorney, represents the Business and Industry Council; and Joshua L. Jarrell, deputy secretary and general counsel of the state Department of Commerce, represents the West Virginia Development Office.

State Sen. Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson, chairman of the Senate Committee on Government Organization, and state Delegate Jim Morgan, D-Cabell, chairman of the House Committee on Government Organization, are ex-officio nonvoting members of the board.

Since Jones and Fletcher work for Morgantown, which has applied to be in the Home Rule program, and Sayre, who is Martinsburg City Councils attorney, there was a question if they could vote on their home cities’ application or if they would have to recuse themselves.

A state Ethics Commission opinion said that they could vote on their home cities’ applications. Jones, Fletcher and Sayre said they would vote on their home cities’ application.