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Parkersburg City Council advances treatment center ordinances

Public comments focus on prayer ruling

The majority of the audience stood together and led a prayer four minutes before council started at the Parkersburg City Council meeting on Tuesday. (Photo by James Dobbs)

PARKERSBURG — Parkersburg City Council was met with concerned citizens over the injunction prohibiting council members from reciting the Lord’s Prayer just before a meeting, on Tuesday.

Last week, U.S. District Judge John T. Copenhaver Jr. issued an injunction against council’s recitation of the Lord’s Prayer before meetings, part of his reasoning was that council was praying to a single religion, Christianity.

The prayer has been recited before the meeting for several years prior to this injunction, and was originally recited after the start of the meeting, before the practice was challenged by the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Pastor Janet Richards spent her time during the public forum reading a prayer.

“So we bless you city of Parkersburg, we bless you council, and we bless all those that oppose us, because we know the power of prayer and we will not be silent,” she said.

Pastor Janet Richards spent her time during the public forum reading a prayer at the Parkersburg City Council meeting on Tuesday. (Photo by James Dobbs)

Council also considered a pair of ordinances for first reading. The ordinances limit where substance abuse treatment facilities and group recovery homes can locate.

One of the ordinances prohibits residential substance abuse treatment facilities from being within 250 feet of a residential district, within 500 feet of a public or parochial school and within 1,000 feet of an existing treatment facility. The other ordinance being considered applies to group homes serving developmentally or behaviorally disabled people. It states that homes cannot be located less than 1,500 feet from another group home; limits occupancy to 12 residents or one per every 200 square feet, whichever is less; and prohibits external or structural alterations that would change the residential character of the building, such as garage and driveway expansions.

Council approved the first reading of both of these ordinances. A second reading will take place at a future council meeting.

Council member Wendy Tuck the only dissenting vote on both ordinances. She said she believed they should have been sent to council’s Committee of the Whole for greater discussion, but neither of her motions to do so were seconded.

In other business, council passed the final reading of an ordinance enacting 50-cents-an-hour pay increases for civilian employees who have worked for the city for 10, 15 and 20 years, matching similar incentives passed last year for police and firefighters.

Sharon Kuhl motioned for an amendment on one of the new ordinances on first reading and withdrew it. (Photo by James Dobbs)

Council also passed the final reading of an ordinance granting the citywide 3.2 percent pay increase for police and firefighters, whose pay must be set by ordinance.

Mayor Tom Joyce’s appointment of Kate Marlow to the Municipal Planning Commission was passed unanimously, but the appointment of Will Starcher to the Avery Street Architectural Review Board, failed.

Council approved the final reading of a resolution allocating $10,000 to the Parkersburg Area Community Foundation toward a feasibility study for work at the Sumner School facility, passed unanimously and a resolution renaming the area where veterans monuments stand at City Park as Veterans Memorial Plaza.

James Dobbs can be reached at jdobbs@newsandsentinel.com.

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