Adjust residency requirement

The improving economy in our region is a good thing, unless you happen to be an employer trying to hire new workers. That can be a challenge for local government officials.

Weirton officials are considering a change in rules for municipal employees, for that reason.

During a work session among city council members and other officials last week, it was suggested residency rules for employees be amended. Currently, people working for the city must reside in it or nearby, or be willing to move to Weirton within 60 days of being hired.

That is making it difficult to find qualified people for municipal positions, council members were told.

There are various reasons for such local government standards. One obvious reason is to give local residents — the people whose taxes pay the bills — preference in hiring. Another is availability of workers, especially during emergencies when minutes can count.

Weirton is far from alone in having difficulty filling positions from local residents. The same challenge faced Wheeling until last summer, when municipal employee residency rules were changed. Currently, they require that emergency workers such as police and firefighters reside within a 45-mile radius of the City-County Building in Wheeling. There is no restriction for non-emergency employees.

Not everyone on Weirton City Council agrees the change should be made. Most seem to be willing to bow to economic realities, however — and they should be. Ensuring municipal employees are the best available, regardless of where they live, should be council’s goal.