CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Four Kanawha County cities plan to be among the competitors for 16 new slots in the state's home rule pilot program next year.
Officials in St. Albans, Nitro, Dunbar and South Charleston have all said they will apply for admission to program, which was designed to give cities more local control in setting taxes and ordinances.
"We are definitely interested," South Charleston Mayor Frank Mullens said Friday.
Mullens said department heads have been discussing which issues the city could tackle under home rule.
"(The department heads) know what handcuffs them," Mullens said.
The mayor said home rule would help with property, revenue and business issues, and having home rule would enable the city to better serve businesses and residents alike.
Dunbar Mayor Terry Greenlee said home rule status would help his city combat dilapidated buildings.
"It would help us clean up the city," Greenlee said.
The city could also simplify its building permit system, he said. Dunbar is forming a committee to put together an application.
Nitro Councilman John Montgomery said officials there also were working to put together an application.
"This should make a major impact on bringing the city up and moving it forward," he said at the meeting.
For St. Albans, Mayor Dick Callaway said home rule would help his city craft regulations that fit local problems.
The state Legislature expanded the pilot program this year to allow up to 20 municipalities to participate, a number that includes the existing home rule cities of Charleston, Huntington, Wheeling and Bridgeport. Lawmakers also amended it to allow municipalities of all population sizes to participate.
Another four Kanawha County towns — Montgomery, Handley, Clendenin and Belle — haven't ruled out applying.
Montgomery Mayor Jim Higgins said last Thursday that while an application hasn't yet been discussed in council, he believes home rule could help the city crack down on its problems with dilapidated homes and buildings, an issue council has been "proactive about."
He said he would support any effort to apply.
"I have always been in favor of home rule," he said.
Higgins added that the sheer interest statewide for home rule might give state lawmakers reason to further expand the program in the future.