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S.C. approves mutual aid agreement with Dunbar

South Charleston City Council voted final approval of a mutual aid agreement with Dunbar's fire department.

Under the previous system, if there was a fire in South Charleston and the city needed assistance, it had to call Dunbar -- and vice versa. Now each city will automatically respond to fires in the other community.

Fire Chief John Taylor told South Charleston City Council Thursday evening, "We've had two fires since the first reading of the agreement last month and they've responded so it is already paying off."

Also at the meeting, Mayor Frank Mullens said he has asked Michael Moore, the city's attorney, to prepare the city to apply to participate in the state's "Home Rule" pilot program.

The program, created five years ago, gives participating cities more leeway in setting some taxes and in handling some issues like urban blight.

Mullens said his interest is in having more flexibility in determining how the city generates revenue.

"Forty-five percent of our revenue comes from our Business and Occupation Tax," He said. "We're so dependent on that."

The dependency can be a challenge when the city is competing with other communities that don't have that tax, as South Charleston experienced when it competed with cities in other states for the Gestamp auto parts stamping plant, Mullens said.

"It can be tough when other communities don't have a B&O tax and you do -- it can be a hurdle," he said. "I hope we get to be a participant (in home rule)."

The home rule pilot program is scheduled to sunset at the end of June if the Legislature doesn't extend it. The West Virginia Municipal League, which represents all of the cities in West Virginia, has made an extension its top priority.

Also at the meeting, Mullens swore in new police officer Brittany Fisher. A large group of family members looked on, and then had their picture taken with Fisher, Mullens and the council.

Twelve businesses were honored for refurbishing their storefronts. The businesses and their representatives: Avalon Animal Hospital, Melinda Kelly and Dr. Greg Eaton; Brewer & Co., Tom Kirk; Celebrations, Pat Burchett; and First Baptist Church, Gloria Shirkey.

Also: Huntington Banks, Brian Onks; Minuteman Press, Cody Lake; Mojo's, David Saul and Randy Atkins; Mound Cleaners, Steve Krebs; Regulatory Training Center, Mary Ellen Hughes; Tattoo Shop; Window Fashions, Charles Belcher; and Doug Skaff.

Each business voluntarily made the improvements at no cost to the city, said Bob Anderson, executive director of the Convention and Visitors Bureau and the city's business recruiter.

In other action, council:

* Appointed Lisa Hall, a stockholder at Kenna Homes, to the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

* Gave final approval to an ordinance transferring ownership of two lots in the Tremont Subdivision from the city to the South Charleston Development Authority. After the meeting Mullens explained that if the city owned the lots, the only way they could be sold would be by auction. Transferring ownership to the authority allows the lots to be sold in a traditional manner, he said.

* Approved the first reading of an ordinance that would rezone some property on Elm, Monroe and Mason streets and Henson, Central, Shepherd and Forest avenues and Montrose Drive from R-6, R-8 and R-10 to R-10A to be consistent with the present use of the properties. It was explained that all of the affected properties are multi-family and all will continue to be so but by special permit.

* Approved the first reading of an ordinance to rezone property on 2nd Avenue from R-10 (commercial) to C-6 (community commercial) to be consistent with adjoining property.

During a question-and-answer period, Councilman Jamie Sibold asked about the status of an extension of 2nd Avenue under the so-called "Carbide overpass" on MacCorkle Avenue.

City Engineer Steve DeBarr said the property is owned by the state Division of Highways and extending the street it is a matter of negotiations among the state, The Dow Chemical Co. and CSX.



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