Sustained Outrage

Metro government: What’s the process?

At Kanawha County’s request, the Legislature this year changed the state code so that Kanawha County needs only a simple majority of affected voters (anything over 50 percent) to consolidate governments.

The law lists three possible versions of consolidated government. One is the consolidation of two or more counties. Another is the consolidation of two or more cities or towns. The third variety, the one most talked about in Kanawha County right now, is called a metro consolidation in state law and is the consolidation of one or more counties with a principal city.

So, how do you actually go about creating a new government? You can read Chapter 7A of state for yourself. Here are the steps for a metro consolidation (the details vary somewhat for the other two kinds) listed in the law:

Step 1 — To get the process started, at least 25 percent of the registered voters of each affected principal city and county (excluding the principal city) sign a petition in support of a metro consolidation, or the affected principal city and county pass  resolutions for a metro consolidation.

Step 2 — The petition or resolution is submitted to the county commission.

Step 3 — The county commission has 30 days to verify the petition or resolution. If it is sufficient, then the commission must oversee the establishment of a charter review committee. That committee must include two government officials or their designees from the principal city, two county commissioners or their designees and two or three public members, including one from an unincorporated area. The committee must have an odd number of members.

Step 5 — The charter review committee has two years to study the feasibility of consolidation and to prepare a charter. The charter must spell out the territory involved, cost of services, projected revenues, projected economies of scale, the name of the proposed government, the seat of the proposed government, a representation plan, a governing body, effective date, a procedure for the transition of specified services and an option for dissolving the government after at least six years.

Step 6 — The charter review committee must hold a public hearings within three months of organizing and at least two more hearings at specified times throughout the process.

Step 7 — After the final public hearing, the charter review committee votes on the charter. If a majority approves, the charter will be submitted to the governing bodies of the affected municipalities and county.

Step 8 — The county holds an election, and people vote for or against a new metro government. For Kanawha County, if a majority of the county’s voters approve, then the government is formed as spelled out in the charter. If the voters reject the proposed charter, the committee may reconvene for up to a year to adopt a second proposed charter to put up for another election.