Service fee hike clears initial hurdle

WEIRTON — Weirton Council took its first step Monday to increase the city’s municipal police and fire service fee, although not everyone was in favor of the move.

Council voted 4-2 in approving the first reading of an ordinance to amend and re-enact the police and fire service fee for the city.

Voting in favor were Councilmen George Ash, Tim Connell, Michael Adams and Fred Marsh. Council members Flora Perrone and Terry Weigel voted against the measure. Councilman Enzo Fracasso was not in attendance.

Connell, Ash and Fracasso sponsored the ordinance.

Ash previously explained the proposal would increase the residential service fee from its current $50 per year to $65 annually beginning July 1, 2020, and then to $75 per year on July 1, 2021. Ash said there would be no increase in the business service fee as part of the proposal.

Weigel explained he did not like to see such a large increase in municipal fees or taxes, saying while he understands some increases are necessary, he feels it better to have reviews every couple of years and offer small increases, using last year’s increase of the city’s garbage rates as an example.

“It’s much more palatable if you look at your sanitation rates, and raise them 10 cents a month,” Weigel said.

Weigel expressed an interest in more information before he would support the ordinance.

Perrone, too, said she would like more information on the proposal and the use of the increased fee, also expressing concern for the city’s residents.

Adams asked about the timing, with Ash confirming the increase would begin July 1, 2020. Ash stated there had been discussion on the proposal during a council workshop.

Two residents spoke against the proposal during the citizen’s comments portion of the meeting.

Kelvin Elmore asked council to consider the residents the increased fee would affect.

“How many of them are senior citizens?” he asked. “You have people on Social Security, disability or just a pension and now you want to take more from us.”

Tim McCune noted the City of Weirton’s budget has grown by an estimated $5 million over the last five years.

“I’d like to know where the money is being spent,” McCune said, adding there are a number of capital improvements proposed by several city departments which also will need funding.

McCune urged council to move cautiously when making their decision on the fee.

The ordinance must pass a second reading to go into effect.

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