Dunbar City Council chambers were packed Tuesday night as a group presented a petition to annex West Dunbar, Institute and Pinewood into the city.
The group, Citizens for Positive Change, has worked for about two years to develop the plan and obtain petition signatures, said Dennis Davis, who leads the group.
"This is the culmination of a lot of work, and I'm very proud to be with them and see what they have done," Dunbar Mayor Jack Yeager said.
Davis and other group members believe annexation will be mutually beneficial for all of the communities involved.
"We believe annexation would enhance and greatly improve the quality of life, not only of the citizens of West Dunbar, Institute and Pinewood, but also the citizens of Dunbar," Davis said.
He said Dunbar would gain 15 to 20 businesses, in addition to West Virginia State University and Shawnee Park and golf course.
West Dunbar, Institute and Pinewood would receive full time fire and police protection, council representation, street maintenance, animal control and other services.
Davis said the school systems have been combined for more than 50 years, and most residents of the outlying communities already bank, shop and receive mail in Dunbar.
Council members accepted a motion by Councilman Gail Harper that the presentation and petition be taken for study.
Meanwhile, City Clerk Ross Harrison will work to validate the petition while Yeager and others look at budgets and funding. Once complete, city council will devise an ordinance to blend the communities.
Council members also passed the first reading of amendments that would increase building permit fees from $18.50 to $19 and implement a $50 registration fee for contractors and handymen.
Building Inspection Director Hugh Leishman said that previously the ordinance did not include handymen, but instead operated by using the "good ol' boy network," referring people for jobs by word of mouth.
In compliance with the amended ordinance, handymen will be required to have a W.Va. business license and liability insurance.
Additionally, handymen may not do any work that requires specialty licenses, such as plumbing and HVAC, nor can they perform jobs that cost more than $2,500 in combined labor and materials.
Another amendment requires owners of residential rental property to obtain a license and register the properties with the city.
Leishman said it will allow the city to inspect all rental unites, eliminating "subpar" structures.
The cost of the license is $50 annually. Property owners who register prior to June 30, 2013, will automatically carry over, and will not have to be renewed until June 30, 2014. Anyone who acquires property after that date will be required to register and pay the $50 fee.
Each amendment will be up for second reading at the next city council meeting.
Council members also:
* Accepted a bid of $5,140.80 by Ferguson Enterprises for lights at the Recreation Center. After an energy rebate the total cost to the city is $2,800.
* Approved a one-time payment of $2,821.91 for emergency repairs to a rescue vehicle and another payment of $2,533.32 for emergency repairs to a door at the central fire station.
* Approved the $16,815 purchase of recycling from Waste Zero.
* Authorized the mayor to spend $3,200 in grant money from Kanawha Valley Senior Services on exercise equipment for the Recreation Center.
* Passed a motion to "piggy-back" a state bid on two police cruisers not to exceed $60,000.
The laying of the levy meeting was scheduled for 7 p.m. April 16.