Chester passes user fee

Non-residents will pay $2/week to work in city

CHESTER — City council voted Monday to levy a user fee on out-of-town workers despite hearing objections from several people.

The ordinance charges people who work within city limits, but do not reside in city limits, a $2 a week fee, which is put toward municipal services. Some of the services the fee goes to are public safety, public health and infrastructure upkeep.

Cody Williams attended the meeting to voice concerns about ordinance. Williams no longer lives in Chester, but works there. He argued that Chester residents have a $90 municipal fee, and they are imposing a $104 fee on non-residents who work within the city. Williams also questioned whether the city charter supports the ordinance.

“Why do we as an employee that works in this town have to pay more for your streets than you guys actually pay? It doesn’t make sense,” said Williams. “Basically what I’m here to do tonight is to ask council to table the second reading of your non-residential municipal tax fee so we can step back, take a good look at this to see who’s affected and to check the legality of it before we go through with it, and eventually I would like to see council make the right decision and just rescind the municipal tax for non-residents.”

Mayor Ken Morris noted City Solicitor Mike Adams, who was not present at Monday’s meeting, had researched the ordinance before proposing it. Morris said it is based off of a municipal fee ordinance in Weirton and is supported by West Virginia State Code. Adams also is a councilman in Weirton.

“We as a collective council got together to try and come up with ways to generate more revenue,” said Morris. “We are hoping that over a period of a year that we can generate a couple thousand dollars.”

Morris had also mentioned Chester receives money from resident’s property taxes.

Chester resident Patrick Wilson presented council with a petition.

“We want it tabled, we the people. I have 86 signatures here and we want it tabled for good. No matter what Weirton does, it doesn’t make it right,” Wilson said.

Council member Steve Shuman did request council discuss the ordinance more before passing the second reading, but Shuman’s motion was not seconded, and council proceeded to pass it on second reading.

“I would like to talk to the solicitor more. I’m in favor of charging everyone, not just non-residents,” said Shuman.

The fee will be collected quarterly by employers, and will be paid by non-residents employed by a business for at least 30 days within city limits. All business within Chester, including for-profit, not-for-profit and government entities will be responsible for collecting this fee from non-residents.

The fee is scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1.

In other action, council:

¯ Approved the purchase of a gas furnace for the city garage.

¯ Agreed to pay the Brooke-Hancock-Jefferson Metropolitan Planning Commission 2019-2020 membership fee.

¯ Approved the $375 purchase of a refurbished computer for the police clerk’s office.

¯ Approved to pay the $250 West Virginia Department of Transportation bond renewal.

¯ Continued talks of introducing a 6 percent home rule tax in Chester. There will be a public hearing for the tax at 6 p.m. on Oct. 28 with a special council meeting to follow.

¯ Council member Ed Wedgewood gave thanks to the Chester Beautification Committee for all the work they put in making Chester look nice.

¯ Council member Tom Paisley thanked Susan Hineman for throwing another successful Tea Pot Day.

¯ Council member John Woodruff announced the city is sending out nuisance property letters and plans to take individuals who do not adhere to the requests made in the letters to court. He also wants to remind residents that there is an ordinance in place requiring pet owners clean up animal waste.

¯ Police Chief Todd Murray notified council he is looking to purchase new equipment for the police department. He presented prices for new weapons to council, but said he is still looking for ways to fund the purchases.

¯ Murray also announced all the tickets for the Chester Fall Bash are sold out. The Fall Bash will be held Sept. 20 and 21, and is the annual fundraiser for the Chester Volunteer Fire Department.

The next meeting will be at 6 p.m. on Oct. 7.

(Riedel can be contacted at jriedel@reviewonline.com)