Council passes tax incentive proposals

PARKERSBURG – City Council approved the first readings Tuesday of a pair of ordinances creating tax incentives for people to rehabilitate vacant housing.

Measures amending Parkersburg’s vacant building business and occupation tax credit program to include residential structures vacant a minimum of one year and establishing a similar incentive for the revitalization or construction of multi-family dwellings passed 8-0, with Councilman Mike Reynolds absent.

Both would offer property owners a rebate of up to their full B&O assessment for up to five years for work done on qualifying structures until the value of that work is met. Before the vote on the second ordinance, Councilman John Kelly said he was glad to see the city taking action to reduce B&O, which is charged on a business’ gross revenue instead of their net. In other words, it’s assessed whether they make money or not.

“That’s probably the most regressive tax that’s ever been created in America,” Kelly said.

The incentives are part of Mayor Bob Newell’s proposal to address slum and blight in the city. A vacant building registry, which assesses a fee of $100 a month on houses that have been vacant more than a year, was approved last month, and the mayor has also proposed tearing down more than 80 dilapidated structures.

During the meeting’s public forum, city resident Cindy Carpenter thanked the city for taking on the issue of abandoned properties and singled out one across from her house in the 2400 block of 27th Avenue.

“The yard is mowed infrequently and usually only after my husband calls the city and complains,” she said. “It’s becoming a home to raccoons, skunks and other wildlife.”

The poor condition of the house decreases the value of surrounding and creates a bad impression of the city, Carpenter said.

Councilwoman Sharon Lynch agreed.

“All the other houses in that neighborhood are very well kept … and that one house does stick out,” she said.

In other business:

* Council unanimously approved a budget revision allocating $70,000 from the capital reserve fund for a sidewalk paving program.

Property owners are responsible for maintaining sidewalks on their land, but it can be expensive. Under the program, the city pays for the labor to do the work and residents buy the concrete.

People who want to participate can visit the Public Works Department on the fourth floor of the Municipal Building or call 304-424-8559. City employees will measure the sidewalk and provide a cost estimate. The concrete must be paid for before the work is done.

* Council voted 8-0 to approve the third and final reading of an ordinance authorizing a bond issue of as much as $13.7 million to fund the Parkersburg Utility Board’s planned upgrade of the wastewater treatment plant to help meet federal Environmental Agency requirements to eliminate overflow from wet weather into the sanitary sewer system. Also receiving unanimous approval was the first reading of an ordinance authorizing a second bond issue of up to $1 million to replace aging vehicles in the PUB’s fleet.

“Both of these financings require no further rate increases,” city bond attorney John Stump said.

* An ordinance amending the city’s laws concerning bicyclists to match changes in state code was referred to council’s Public Works Committee by a 5-3 vote.

* The first reading of an ordinance reclassifying the Police Department’s public safety telecommunicator job at a higher level was approved 8-0. Police Chief Joe Martin said it increases pay for the position by $1 an hour and brings the job in line with other supervisory jobs in the city.

* Council unanimously approved a resolution reappointing attorney George Zivkovich as an administrative law judge for the city.