Follansbee voters to be polled

FOLLANSBEE – When the city’s voters visit the polls Tuesday, they will be asked whether city officials’ terms should be extended from two to four years and whether the city should hold a primary election if there are not more than two candidates in any race.

The questions will be put to them through a voluntary survey separate from election ballots. But Follansbee Council will decide whether to take the public’s advice by amending ordinances establishing the primary election and setting term limits for city officials.

The survey was suggested by City Attorney Michael Gaudio after City Clerk David Kurcina and other city officials suggested eliminating the number of city elections as a cost-saving measure.

Kurcina said it costs about $5,500 to conduct each city election and it’s often difficult to get workers to man polling places.

Low voter turnout also has been a consideration. Only 254 of about 2,100 registered voters turned out for the city’s April 2 primary election. City officials said that may have been because no candidates would be eliminated, with no race having more than two candidates advancing to Tuesday’s general election. But it shouldn’t have been because of lack of awareness, they said, because the city’s automated calling system was used to remind residents of the earlier election.

The calling system normally is used to report boil orders to its water customers.

The extension of city officials’ terms also has been suggested as a cost-saver because it would result in the city holding elections every four years, instead of two.

Currently the terms of all city officials, including the mayor, police chief, city attorney, city clerk and all five council seats, are up in the same election year.

Some have argued the terms should be staggered, so the city couldn’t be faced with an entirely new slate of leaders in one year. But that wouldn’t reduce the number of elections and isn’t being suggested at this time.

The issue of the primary election has been decided in other ways elsewhere.

In each of its last two election years, Wellsburg Council has voted not to hold a primary election because there were not more than two candidates for any race.

Weirton Council in May voted against eliminating the city’s primary election, a move proposed by a committee formed to consider ways to reduce election costs.

The smaller communities of Bethany and Windsor Heights, which also will hold elections Tuesday, don’t have primary elections.

Gaudio said there are pros and cons to eliminating the primary election.

Many candidates like them because they help gauge level of support. But he suggested a fair way to resolve the problem is to seek voters’ opinions.