PARKERSBURG - Achieving home rule for Parkersburg will be among the top priorities in 2014, newly-elected City Council President John Rockhold said Thursday.
Home rule allows municipalities more local control, such as with creating new taxes and fees, issuing certain kinds of permits and licenses or dealing with abandoned and blighted structures.
This year the West Virginia Legislature agreed to open the program from five cities to 20 additional participants. Applications for the program must be submitted in by the start of 2014.
Rockhold said he hoped city council would continue to work toward achieving home rule for Parkersburg. The city also has agreed to partner with Vienna as part of the application process.
"I want us to assist the mayor in moving forward with that project," he said.
Rockhold said his primary interest in home rule is blighted and abandoned structures, which have been an issue in Parkersburg for years. Rockhold has been chairman of the Urban Development Authority for the past year and said the existing system for dealing with such properties is slow and expensive.
"They are more than an eyesore, they are a public health issue," he said. "It's a long process, and then there is no way to do anything with the lot because it is so small. Home rule might give us the option of land banking, grouping several properties together.
"The more property we can get taken care of and the faster we can get those properties back into the hands of residents, the sooner those properties can get back on the tax books," he said.
Rockhold said another priority is get the public more involved in the government process by getting more attendance at the council and committee meetings.
"I'd like for people to have a better idea of what we are doing," he said. "Sometimes it is hard to see anything is actually moving forward because the process can be slow. I'd like them to have a better understanding of what we are actually working on."
Attendance will be especially important in March when the budget process begins, he said.
"The mayor has already started pulling his figures together," Rockhold said, "but that is really when we will start to get into things."