The hear callers portion of the Marlinton Town Council meeting Monday evening turned into a heated discussion when several town citizens shared their disapproval of the proposed municipal safety ordinance which, if passed, would impose a fee on properties in order to fund a town police department.
Although the ordinance had yet to be discussed at a council meeting, it was released in various ways to the public for review. While the ordinance is said to be for police and security, there were many other items such as “Street Cleaning, Lighting and Maintenance, Parks and Recreation Maintenance and Improvement and other Municipal Services….”
Mayor Sam Felton said the ordinance needs a lot of amending, but reminded those in attendance that safety and security was the number one concern expressed by town residents surveyed for the town’s comprehensive plan.
During the discussion, it was suggested the town look to grants to help offset the cost of a police department. It was also asked if the town had too many employees and if there could be any downsizing to help reduce costs.
Felton said the town has 17 employees on the payroll, and he recently fired another employee.
Crystal Dean asked if it was possible for the town to receive money from any of the festivals held in town and Felton quipped that it depended on how many hamburgers she could sell.
Dean added that it didn’t make sense why the town was suggesting a municipal fee on one hand and then on the other hand, offering prize money for the Christmas decorating contest.
Felton’s response was that he personally thought the council offered more than he thought was necessary in the contest.
Later in the meeting, when it was time for council to approve the first reading of the ordinance, Felton said it needed a lot of adjustments.
“We’ve already discussed this enough that, immediately, there is a lot of amending that has to be done,” he said. “It’s a municipal fee – maybe we need to change the name of it – because obviously we’re talking about it primarily for a police department and security.
“A police department is expensive, there’s no question about that,” he continued.
Council struck several items from the ordinance, including the mention of fire, street cleaning, other municipal services, parks and recreation maintenance and street improvements. Council also said there needed to be a more specific outline concerning properties that have second buildings on them and whether or not the fee will be by building or by property.
While he mentioned the suggested fee of $12.50 a month during the hear callers portion of the meeting, Felton did not add it to the discussion with council. A fee amount was not added to the ordinance before the first reading was approved by council.
The amended ordinance will be provided to the public after the second reading.
In other action, council:
• discussed the application for Home Rule and Town Recorder Mary Clendenin said there is too much information that needs to be compiled to meet the November 17 deadline for application. She said the town will work on the application and submit it by the April 2024 deadline.
• approved the third and final reading of the Ordinance for Purchasing without Competitive Bidding.
• discussed the annual donation to WVMR radio station. A motion was made to make the donation, but it died for the lack of a second.
Marlinton Town Council meets the first Monday of each month, excluding holidays, at 7 p.m. at the town of Marlinton municipal building auditorium. The public is welcome to attend in person or online through a Zoom link.