Weirton charter changes proposed

WEIRTON – Four proposed charter changes involving municipal elections will be introduced at Monday’s Weirton City Council meeting, and a fifth is up for its second reading.

Scheduled to be introduced are ordinances:

Modifying the current municipal election date.

Increasing the dollar amount the city manager can spend on capital expenditures.

Consolidating poll sites.

Eliminating the city’s primary election.

“We’re trying to move forward, to make the city more efficient,” Mayor George Kondik said. “We’re looking at cost-saving avenues in the election process, to see if (we can) help the county and the city save money.”

Charter changes require a majority vote of council as well as a public hearing before they can be implemented. If at any point an objection is raised, the proposed changes must go before voters in an upcoming election.

A fifth charter change, which already passed its first reading, would make the city clerk’s position permanent rather than appointed, a change council members have said would bring continuity and increased efficiency. That change is up for its second reading Monday, with a public hearing to be held prior to council’s meeting. It has already drawn an objection, however, and now will be decided by voters in 2015.

“We’ll have a public hearing at this (Monday’s) meeting,” City Clerk Nicole Davis said. “Council will take written objections at this meeting. If (the four new ordinances) pass first reading, we’ll have a public hearing the following month (June) for those.”

Davis, who, as the city’s chief election official headed the committee tasked with overhauling the election process, said they’d been looking for ways to cut election costs. She said the 2011 municipal election cost the city just over $48,000, about $6,500 more than the $41,000 they’d spent in 2007, even though only a small percentage of the city’s registered voters went to the polls.

In its report to council, the committee offered several suggestions, including eliminating the city’s primary election altogether, piggybacking municipal elections on county and state ballots, consolidating poll sites or eliminating paper ballots.

“It’s about saving taxpayer money,” Davis said.

“We were hoping, by eliminating the primary, to eliminate half the cost. If we would piggyback our election with the county, you’re looking at a savings of around $35,000. But those are rough figures, it depends on the programming of the machines, what’s on the ballot. Eliminating the primary would save about half the cost and if we would do both, it would be a significant savings for the city.”

Davis said putting charter changes on the ballot involves additional programming costs.