Rapp asks council to consider home rule

VIENNA – Vienna Mayor Randy Rapp asked city council members Thursday to consider allowing the city to apply for home rule.

Most council members said the idea sounds good and because it has worked for four West Virginia cities that have used it in the last five years they would favor allowing Vienna to apply.

However, the meeting only called for a discussion. Rapp said council did not have to vote on it until the next meeting. He said he wanted to bring the issue before council for discussion rather than immediately asking for a vote.

“I’m coming to you this evening for your input,” Rapp said at Thursday night’s meeting. “If we are going to apply for home rule, (council) must be ready for this when it opens.”

Rapp said he would attempt to answer questions council members had about the home rule program, as he had been educated by attending a meeting in Charleston where the four mayors who have home rule spoke. He also attended the Parkersburg City Council meeting Tuesday to hear council members thoughts on it.

The home rule project is scheduled to be re-established by the state Legislature. The initial pilot program allowed 10 West Virginia cities to apply, with four using it. The new program will allow 10 more cities to apply for home rule. The state Senate has passed the issue and it now goes to the House.

“I think Vienna should be one of the cities to apply for the acception of home rule,” Councilman Paul Thornton said in agreement with the mayor. “I think Vienna’s an ideal city for this to work in; it gives us more flexibility to work around taxation.”

Thornton said with a home rule plan there are options to work with B & O taxes and potentially reduce residential taxes.

“I think we should submit the plan, get the acceptance, then sit down and determine what works best for the city of Vienna,” Thornton said.

Thornton said the city’s various permits could be reduced under the plan. Rapp said by streamlining business licenses it has allowed businesses in the four participating cities (Bridgeport, Wheeling, Charleston and Huntington) to operate more smoothly.

A board has to approve what a city can present as ordinances on the program, Rapp said. Crime, punishment, annexation, taxation and environmental laws cannot be changed under home rule.

“It’s just a way for you to customize whatever the ordinances are for the needs of your particular town,” Rapp said. “One thing the participating cities have utilized is the destruction of abandoned buildings. It allows the city to fit what the town needs,” Rapp said.

After attending the Parkersburg council meeting, Rapp said he decided to alter the city’s agenda for the next session. He said he would like to try having comments in a public forum at the beginning of meetings rather than waiting until the end.

“I like the way Parkersburg did it, and I think that’s the way we will do it,” he said. “So the next meeting will have public comments on the agenda.”

The Vienna Senior Center will have a formal opening at 1 p.m. April 12. The public is invited to participate.

The city will be accepting applications for the CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) window program. The program will be under way shortly, but the city will accept applications for those wishing to have their windows replaced with energy-efficient ones.

To apply, residents can contact Stephanie Broffman at the Vienna City Building at 304-295-5070 ext. 335 or building code official Robert Rush at 304-295-5070 ext. 348. Each qualifying home will have a limit of $5,000 to spend in replacement windows; this amount is about a maximum of 12 windows, city officials said.