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Potential service fee hike draws a reaction

WEIRTON — Before it goes up for a second reading, some members of Weirton Council are discussing the reaction from the community over a proposed increase to the city’s police and fire service fee.

The issue was discussed Wednesday during a Finance Committee meeting.

“I don’t want to say I’ve taken a beating, but I’ve been questioned,” Ward 3 Councilman Fred Marsh said of the response from residents.

Under the proposal, the current residential fee of $50 per year would be increased to $65 per year beginning July 1, 2020, and then go up to $75 per year on July 1, 2021. The business portion of the fee program — which assesses a rate based on square footage of the property — would not change under the proposed ordinance.

The ordinance will go before council for a final reading Tuesday. Its first reading was approved, 4-2, on Oct. 7.

Ward 6 Councilman Enzo Fracasso said he, too, has received comments on the issue.

“I’ve gotten a couple phone calls and been approached in public,” Fracasso said, noting several of the comments have come from local landlords.

Council has not discussed a specific use for the increased revenue, but members have said the funds will be used by the city’s police and fire departments as stipulated by the fee’s originating legislation.

The committee members noted the fee has stayed the same since it was implemented almost 20 years ago, and increased costs of equipment and other necessities take a greater portion of the fund.

“We haven’t been matching for inflation,” Marsh said.

Ward 7 Councilman Terry Weigel said he feels the city often lets fee and tax rates sit untouched for years without adjustment, resulting in the appearance of a larger impact when changes are made.

He suggested future administrations begin their terms with a review of each revenue source, allowing for smaller changes if needed.

The ordinance is being sponsored by Fracasso, Ward 1 Councilman Tim Connell and Ward 4 Councilman George Ash.

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

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