Charleston wants you to see where user fee money goes

August 4, 2015 by Matt Murphy

Quarrier Street in downtown Charleston is one of the most recent city streets to be paved this year, and the city wants drivers to know how the work is funded.

Charleston user fee sign

One of two signs on Quarrier and McFarland streets. Matt Murphy/Gazette-Mail

Like the state DOH and other municipalities across the country, the city placed two signs at the intersection of Quarrier and McFarland streets that read “This street paved with funds from user fee.”

The $2 user fee, which will go to $2.50 in January and $3 in 2020, is charged weekly to everyone who works in city limits, regardless of residency.

Love it or hate it, the fee brings in more than $5 million in revenue, which must be spent on “police protection and street maintenance and public works projects related thereto, and any costs related to the imposition and processing of this fee.”

Of that, $1.65 million is earmarked specifically for street paving and related transportation projects. The rest goes into the city general fund with the intent of offsetting expenses for which the fee is designated.

Despite officials explaining how the user fee works, including in this Daily Mail (now Gazette Mail) article from July, complaints as to how the user fee money is spent are frequent.

Public works director Gary Taylor said the signs were made during the first year the user fee was enacted (2004). Since then, they have been posted periodically during paving projects “just to inform people of where the money is being spent at.”

Other government entities place signs with a similar function.

West Virginians are probably familiar with signs placed on state road projects that indicate how much federal and state money is being spent on the given project.

Municipalities and counties across the country also place signs showing where special tax money is spent (most often with sales taxes). Such places include Fort Collins, Colo. (featured on this blog in 2014); Gillette, Wyo., and St. Louis County, Minn., for example.

The week in local government (July 17)

July 17, 2015 by Matt Murphy

Here’s a recap of Daily Mail coverage related to local government for July 13 to July 17:

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Tuesday, July 14

CHARLESTON (CVB) -Charleston’s CVB reported it beat its own hotel bookings goal for the current year.

Thursday, July 16

KRT – KRT released its list of proposed changes to routes.

CHARLESTON – The draft of the Charleston Bicycle Master Plan is complete and available for public comment.

SOUTH CHARLESTON – South Charleston’s mayor wants a committee to examine the city’s pay scale to look for improvements.

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In other local government news, read the explanation of Charleston’s user fee by the city’s finance director, the landslide at Yeager Airport moved again after a multi-day deluge that flooded many areas in Southern West Virginia and Eastern Kentucky, and Streetfest will turn Capitol Street into a pedestrian mall this Saturday.

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Here are government meetings and related events scheduled next week in Kanawha County:

Monday, July 20

6:30 p.m. – Charleston Finance Committee.

7 p.m. – Charleston City Council.

7 p.m. – Dunbar City Council.

7 p.m. – Glasgow Town Council.

7 p.m. – Marmet Town Council.

7:30 p.m. – St. Albans City Council.

Tuesday, July 21

10 a.m. – Kanawha County Solid Waste Authority.

1 p.m. – South Charleston Sanitary Board.

7 p.m. – Belle Town Council.

7 p.m. – East Bank Town Council.

7 p.m. – Nitro City Council.

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“The Week in Local Government” is a weekly post, published around lunchtime on Fridays, that recaps the Daily Mail’s local government coverage for the week. Past editions are available by clicking on the “The Week in Government” link on the right side of this page.

The week in local government (July 10)

July 10, 2015 by Matt Murphy

Here’s a recap of Daily Mail coverage related to local government for July 6 to July 10:

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Monday, July 6

CHARLESTON – City council first heard a proposal to raise the city user fee from $2 to $3 by 2020. A post office on the West Side could be relocated and a council committee also discussed parking with downtown business leaders.

DUNBAR – Council members were replaced in Dunbar after two resigned.

ST. ALBANS – St. Albans council will try again to get the city into the home rule program.

Tuesday, July 7

NITRO – Nitro council said a blown transformer has put the city behind on billing.

Wednesday, July 8

CURA – The Charleston Urban Renewal Authority voted to accept a proposal to develop the property on which the East End Bazaar now sits.

Thursday, July 9

COUNTY (Commission) – The Kanawha County Commission voted to draft a policy in which those who cause disasters will have to reimburse the county for use of the Emergency Operations Center.

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In other local government news, a public meeting will happen next week for the Charleston Bike Master Plan, CSX will have a meeting later this month to address cleanup after the February oil train derailment and explosion and Dunkin Donuts stores are planned for the Charleston area.
In Putnam County, the county Board of Zoning Appeals approved a plan for a controversial grocery store.

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Here are government meetings and related events scheduled next week in Kanawha County:

Tuesday, July 14

8:30 a.m. – Charleston CVB annual meeting.

7 p.m. – Handley Town Council.

7:15 p.m. – Pratt Town Council.

7:30 p.m. – Montgomery City Council.

Thursday, July 16

8:30 a.m. – Kanawha County Parks Commission.

8:45 a.m. – KRT board.

7:30 p.m. – South Charleston City Council.

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“The Week in Local Government” is a weekly post, published around lunchtime on Fridays, that recaps the Daily Mail’s local government coverage for the week. Past editions are available by clicking on the “The Week in Government” link on the right side of this page.

The week in local government (July 3)

July 2, 2015 by Matt Murphy

Here’s a recap of Daily Mail coverage related to local government for June 29 to July 3:

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Tuesday, June 30

COUNTY – Kanawha County commissioners learned the state is beginning the process to find a new meal vendor for county seniors.

– – –
In other local government news, the mayor of Marmet is facing an ethics complaint; and officials in Kanawha County blasted West Virginia American Water over the management of its system.

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Here are government meetings and related events scheduled next week in Kanawha County:

Monday, July 6

5:30 p.m. – Charleston Parking Committee/Finance Committee

7 p.m. – Charleston City Council.

7 p.m. – Chesapeake Town Council.

7 p.m. – Dunbar City Council.

7:30 p.m. – St. Albans City Council.

Tuesday, July 7

1 p.m. – Charleston Municipal Beautification Commission.

6 p.m. – Cedar Grove Town Council.

7 p.m. – Nitro City Council.

Wednesday, July 8

9 a.m. – Charleston Urban Renewal Authority.

1 p.m. – South Charleston Museum Board.

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“The Week in Local Government” is a weekly post, published around lunchtime on Fridays, that recaps the Daily Mail’s local government coverage for the week. Past editions are available by clicking on the “The Week in Government” link on the right side of this page.

The week in local government (June 26)

June 29, 2015 by Matt Murphy

Here’s a recap of Daily Mail coverage related to local government for June 22 to June 26:

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Here are government meetings and related events scheduled next week in Kanawha County:

Tuesday, June 30

5 p.m. – Kanawha County Commission.

Thursday, July 2

7:30 p.m. – South Charleston City Council.

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“The Week in Local Government” is a weekly post, published around lunchtime on Fridays, that recaps the Daily Mail’s local government coverage for the week. Past editions are available by clicking on the “The Week in Government” link on the right side of this page.

W.Va. named one of the “laziest” states as Beckley tries to ban street basketball

June 25, 2015 by Matt Murphy

In the latest “best and worst” state list making its way around the Internet, West Virginia has been named the most “couch potatoey” (a.k.a. laziest) state by the Washington Post’s Wonkblog.

The authors used seven metrics, including exercise frequency, prevalence of fast food restaurants and number of La-Z-Boy purchases.

West Virginia topped the overall list, followed by Alabama, Kentucky, Arkansas and Ohio, though in individual categories, West Virginia wasn’t always the worst.

The WaPo analysis was based on an original post by Ryan Nickum at the Estately blog. Nickum’s version ranked the Mountain State the third most “couch potatoey” after Ohio and Alabama.

Both analyses, though, show West Virginia as being the state that exercises the least and watches the most television of any other state.

You can read the Washington Post version here and the Estately version here.

 – – –

Chain_basketball_hoop

Wikimedia Commons/Creative Commons license.

Each of these posts have come out in the last couple weeks, coincidentally at the same time Beckley’s common council (city council) is discussing an ordinance that would ban playing basketball in city streets, according to stories by the Register-Herald’s Wendy Holdren (who you ought to follow on Twitter for Beckley city council news).

The reason? People driving cars complained basketball players didn’t yield to them, or as Beckley’s city attorney said in May “the rights of drivers” weren’t being respected.

The attorney also called the basketball ban “a common sense ordinance.”

Then just this week, Beckley’s council approved the ordinance on first reading by a 5-2 vote, and a public hearing on the bill is scheduled for July 14 at 6:30 p.m.

Holdren’s story also pointed out that two other West Virginia cities ban games-in-streets – Charleston and Morgantown.

Sure enough, they do.

Charleston city law Sec. 102-17 covers “playing games in streets.” The law was passed in 1975. It reads:

“No person shall play the game of football, or any other game with a ball, in any of the streets in the city; nor shall it be lawful for any person to play the game of bandy, shindy, polo or any other game by which a ball, stone or other substance is struck or propelled by any stick, cane or other substance in any street in the city.”

(By the way, what is “bandy” and “shindy?”)

Morgantown has a similar law in its code, Sec. 311.02:

   (a)    No person shall use the public streets, highways, alleys, thoroughfares, roads or avenues of the Municipality for the purpose of engaging in or playing any games or athletic activities, including but not limited to, such activities as playing catch, baseball, football, skating, sledding and/or any activity related to the same.

   (b)    Any violation of subsection (a) hereof is hereby declared to be a public nuisance per se and may be summarily abated by any law enforcement officer.

I’m not sure if either law is enforced – I’ve seen WVU students playing catch on streets in Morgantown and I’ve seen plenty of kids out having a good time on city streets in Charleston – but there surely may have been incidents I’m not aware of.

Back in Beckley, Holdren’s latest story in today’s Register-Herald examines fears residents have that a basketball ban would contribute to higher crime and  – take a guess – higher obesity rates.

So the question for Beckley – and really Charleston and Morgantown as well – should cities be encouraging or discouraging young people to go outside and play?

 – – –

On a better note, some of West Virginia’s cities are becoming bright spots in promoting physical health. Huntington continues to make it easier to bike and walk in the city, Charleston is promoting exercise and healthy activity (Power Walking 150 as an example) and Morgantown is West Virginia’s only bicycle-friendly community (as of 2014).

 

 

 

The week in local government (June 19)

June 19, 2015 by Matt Murphy

Here’s a recap of Daily Mail coverage related to local government for June 15 to June 19:

– – –

Monday, June 15

CHARLESTON – Council approved spending $410,000 for city trash bags ($20,000 more than last year, $90,000 more than 2013). The new council was also sworn in, and Mayor Danny Jones said he wanted council to authorize a massive increase in street paving.

ST. ALBANS – Council approved a project to refurbish and upgrade the City Park trail.

DUNBAR – Dunbar’s building inspector told city council that the city’s new on-the-spot citation system is successful.

Tuesday, June 16

NITRO – Plans are in the works for improvements to Nitro City Park, council learned.

PUTNAM BZA – The hearing for a proposed Walmart Neighborhood Market lasts four hours and results in the board postponing a decision for a future meeting.

Thursday, June 18

KRT – KRT is preparing for the switch to a flat-fare system next month.

SOUTH CHARLESTON – City council is planning for the issuance of bonds for a new city fire station.

– – –
In other local government news, Charleston is looking to the future of downtown parking; a three-judge panel will hear a petition to remove Danny Jones from office (filed by former mayor candidate Janet “JT” Thompson); Charleston is reducing the types of plastic accepted for curbside recycling; and the former Chelyan Elementary School will be up for auction next month.

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Here are government meetings and related events scheduled the next two weeks in Kanawha County:

Monday, June 22

5:30 p.m. – South Charleston Library Board.

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“The Week in Local Government” is a weekly post, published around lunchtime on Fridays, that recaps the Daily Mail’s local government coverage for the week. Past editions are available by clicking on the “The Week in Government” link on the right side of this page.