South Charleston continues to reach for home rule

By Gracie Ferretti
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Mayor Frank Mullens had the first meeting with his staff to discuss home rule for South Charleston Wednesday.The meeting was preliminary, so that staff can come up with ideas."There are limitations, but we have ideas on some things we want to get done," he said Thursday night during a South Charleston City Council meeting.Last month, Mullens said South Charleston officials had decided to pursue home rule for the city. This legislation allows municipalities to make decisions on things that are usually reserved for the state alone.Mullens said last month he would appoint city attorney Michael Moore to be his point man, and will try to get home rule extended to South Charleston.With home rule, Mullens wants to diversify the revenue of South Charleston. With 45 percent of the city's revenue coming from business and occupation taxes, the city is "limited on how we produce revenue," Mullens said.The West Virginia cities that are currently part of a home-rule pilot project are Charleston, Wheeling, Bridgeport and Huntington.
On Thursday, the state Senate unanimously passed a bill that would expand and extend the home-rule pilot project.Under the existing five-year pilot, the four participating cities have been able to adopt ordinances to streamline business registrations, enhance downtown business districts, deal with urban blight and raise new sources of revenue.An amendment to the bill, which now goes to the House of Delegates, would allow up to 10 new West Virginia cities to participate in the next round of the home-rule pilot project.Also on Thursday, Bob Anderson, executive director of the South Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau, recognized 35 new or remodeled businesses in the South Charleston area.Among those businesses were Hertz Rent-a-Car, City National Bank, Rite Aid, Dollar General, Dutch Streetwear, Ann Green Communications and Happy Days Cafe.Also, Delegate Doug Skaff, D-Kanawha, presented Mullens with a $6,300 grant from the community participation program to be given to The La Belle Theater.Mullens also announced there will be a finance meeting Wednesday to review the budget before it is brought to council March 21. 
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