Vienna mayor supports home rule for city

VIENNA – Mayor Randy Rapp said he would be in favor of home rule in Vienna if the pilot program passes in the state Legislature this session.

He said the legislation could allow for Wood County to operate more smoothly.

“Other cities have (accepted the bill),” Rapp said Wednesday. “(The bill) offers all of us an opportunity to shape ordinances to benefit our citizens.”

Four cities in the state have home rule after the Legislature offered cities the option five years ago.

Charleston, Huntington, Wheeling and Bridgeport have been participating in the initial pilot program. The Legislature is considering allowing the four cities to continue participating in home rule and adding 10 slots for other cities.

The bill opens the program to towns with 2,000 or fewer people.

Rapp said he attended a meeting in Charleston to hear the mayors of the four cities discuss home rule. Home rule grants cities more control over certain issues, such as taxation, licensing and the removal of abandoned houses.

The new bill forbids new taxes except a 1 percent sales tax if a city or town reduces or erases its business and occupation tax, officials said.

Other areas not affected in the new program would include annexation, pensions, criminal justice, projects funded through tax revenue sharing, environmental laws, and coal mining or other natural resource extraction. No proposed changes could apply to people or property outside municipal boundaries.

Rapp said the mayors in the program spoke highly of home rule as did officials in Parkersburg at the city council meeting he attended Tuesday night.

“From my part I think it’s something the city of Vienna needs to consider,” Rapp said. “I’m glad I went (to the Parkersburg City Council meeting); some of the people had some questions about it and I think that’s a good thing.”

Rapp said city officials are in the learning process about home rule but he hopes council will approve the idea to move forward in applying to be one of the new cities considered for the program.

(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)