PARKERSBURG -Parkersburg City Council President John Rockhold is perhaps anticipating a sizable turnout at tonight's meeting.
He was sure to note council's public forum is limited to 30 minutes, unless council votes to extend it.
Rockhold expects residents will attend to voice displeasure with the proposed $3-a-week user fee. Rockhold said he and his counterparts are acutely aware of the unpopularity of the fee - or any other option afforded to council to offset a projected $2.5 million deficit.
"We know people don't like it. I don't like it, but I don't see a lot of other choices. "Tell me the choices we have. What I am looking at is 'give me a solution.'"
City officials have looked at a number of possible solutions to the projected deficit, all of which involve a tax hike or a fee. While many citizens have called on the city to tighten its belt - which Mayor Bob Newell and other officials claim has been done - Rockhold said cutting services doesn't appear to be a practical option.
According to Rockhold, the city could layoff 25 employees and save a million dollars.
"But what services are we willing to give up? Which services are the citizens willing to give up?" he said.
Rockhold pointed to Sunday's arrest of two armed robbers.
"If we had less police, these robbers might have gotten away," he said.
Rockhold said if someone has a viable solution to the problem, council will be more than willing to listen.
However, the city is limited in what it can do, Rockhold said. He said the council's Revenue Enhancement Committee has considered and discussed the problem.
"The committee gave us the chance, the opportunity and the time to look at this in a long-term view to make sure we look at options and we have looked at the options," he said.
"The user fee - when you take everything into consideration - is the best of the bad choices," he said.
Rockhold said unlike other options - such as a utility tax and increased B&O taxes - seniors and businesses will not be affected.
Rockhold said the proposed fee may be tweaked, but city officials have to work within the framework that is available.
Council will convene at 7:30 p.m. on the second floor of the Municipal Building.
Prior to Tuesday's meeting, council's personnel and finance committees will meet.
Personnel will convene at 5:30 p.m. to discuss employee insurance contributions and longevity pay. Newell had previously informed city employees they can expect longevity pay to be eliminated and a rise in employee insurance contributions.