Weirton Council discussing charter changes

WEIRTON — Weirton Council is discussing a series of changes to the city charter, including adjustments to the city’s election schedule and attendance policies for members of council.

Council, along with Mayor Harold Miller and representatives of the city’s administrative staff, met in an informational work session Wednesday to review the proposals with a goal of having legislation prepared by their next regular meeting.

“I want to have this ordinance together by March,” explained Ward 4 Councilman George Ash, who led much of the discussion Wednesday.

Focusing on the election, the proposed charter change would realign the schedules of the municipal election to coincide with a time when other elections are being held.

Currently, Weirton’s primary elections are held in April, with the general elections in June and council taking office July 1.

“I’m asking we eliminate the primary altogether,” Ash said.

As part of the proposal, the general election would move to November, with terms for council and mayor beginning in January.

In addition, the next term for council would be extended to five years in order to line up with the new election cycle, placing the next municipal election in 2024.

City Attorney Vince Gurrera noted he and others in the room sat on an election reform committee eight years ago, which proposed similar changes.

“It literally would have saved the city $150,000,” he said.

Re-establishing attendance rules for members of council also is a proposed focus on the charter changes.

“It seems like every time we hold a meeting, we have a few missing,” Ash said. “It’s habitual.”

Currently, the charter states a council member can be removed if they miss more than six consecutive regular meetings. Originally, the proposal would have added special council meetings and work sessions to that six-meeting rule and include a six-month time frame.

Ward 7 Councilman Terry Weigel, however, expressed concern about including special council meetings and workshops as they can be scheduled at any time, while regular council meetings have a specific date established by charter.

“That can be manipulated and used prejudicially,” Weigel said, noting there is potential special sessions and workshops can be scheduled at a time when other members know someone is unable to attend.

Ward 2 Councilman Mike Adams also was against including work sessions as they do not include any action taken by council. The focus, he said, should be on meetings where votes are cast.

“Those are the ones that matter,” Adams said.

Council agreed to change the requirement to read a council member can be removed if they miss six regular council meetings within a fiscal year.

Other areas pertaining to members of council would be a prohibition from serving as any other elected or appointed office at the city, county or state levels of government while on Weirton Council.

“We’ve had at least two of them recently,” Ash said.

Ward 6 Councilman Enzo Fracasso asked if that would affect appointments to city boards, but was told it would not as they are volunteer positions and not offices.

Other discussion focused on residency requirements for office to fall more in line with state law.

Council also discussed eliminating language from multiple areas of the charter referencing the positions of city treasurer and city auditor, as those positions have not existed for many years. Those passages would instead reference the city’s finance director.

Also eliminated would be references to a city physician or health officer, which also doesn’t exist, and the recreation director which now is hired by the autonomous Board of Parks and Recreation.

(Howell can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com, and followed via Twitter @CHowellWDT)

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