Mayor discusses annual conference

WEIRTON – Mayor George J. Kondik joined other mayors and officials from cities across the state at the 2014 West Virginia Municipal League Annual Conference in Bridgeport, W.Va., last week.

The conference ran from Aug. 13 to Aug. 15 and included seminars on Home Rule issues, community transportation challenges, ethics and open government, creative financing for municipalities and economic outlook and development trends among other topics.

“I’ve been attending the Municipal League for 20 years, first as a councilman and now as mayor,” Kondik said. “It’s important because it’s a great avenue to share problems with other city mayors. Sometimes the problems we have are similar, and there are good solutions being discussed.”

Kondik, who was selected to serve on the Board of Directors for the third consecutive year, lent his support to two resolutions the league will pursue within the Legislature.

A resolution seeking assistance from the West Virginia Future Fund aims to tackle the need for maintenance and upkeep of bridges, roads and highways in the face of increasing damage caused by surging Marcellus Shale gas and oil operations throughout the state. The resolution recognizes the “great potential economic benefit to our state and municipalities,” but also points out that damage to infrastructure “places large financial burdens on state and municipal resources.”

“We have a highway running right through the city of Weirton, and heavy truck traffic is something that may need to be addressed as the industry to the north continues to grow,” Kondik noted.

The Future Fund directs 3 percent of the state’s annual severance tax collections from coal, limestone, sandstone, natural gas and oil to be earmarked for education, workforce development, economic development, infrastructure and tax relief projects.

Kondik also supported another resolution authorizing a study relating to automatic license plate readers, which will be conducted by the league in preparation for possible legislation. The resolution for the study cites the lack of laws in the state with respect to acquisition and use of this technology, noting that “there appears to be no restrictions whatsoever” regarding the use of the technology and data gathered.

Automatic license plate readers in some West Virginia cities currently photograph and record every license plate coming into view as well as the location and time of the photo captured. That information is then uploaded to a database maintained by the West Virginia Intelligence Exchange.

The study will focus on defining automatic license plate readers, determining their legality, determining whether data shall be gathered on a “suspicionless” basis, clarifying whether the data is exempt from the state’s Freedom of Information Act and determining standards and circumstances for accessing data, as well as who is able to access it.

West Virginians have expressed concern about the use of automatic license plate readers, with some alleging that the practice adds up to an invasion of privacy. The resolution acknowledges their hesitancy, but Kondik said he supports the idea of photographing license plates.

“We have out-of-state plates driving through the city constantly. It would be a good precaution to be able to have all of those various out-of-state plates on file for future reference,” he said.