Government, News

New ordinance helps keep city clean after local election

WESTOVER — Election season is fast approaching, and election signs will soon litter the highways and byways with candidate slogans. After the vote, however, those signs will become fair game to Westover officials if not taken down in a reasonable time.

At the Westover city council meeting, held Monday at the Westover City Building, councilmembers heard the first reading of a new ordinance designed to help keep the city clean after county election day, held on May 8.

According to the ordinance, any sign “attracting attention to political candidates or issues, expressing support for a candidate for public office or another position regarding a public figure or issue, but bearing no commercial message” should be removed by the start of business at 7 a.m. the Monday after Election Day.

The ordinance stated the political signs must follow the construction and location requirements of the “sign” section of city codes but would be exempt from fees.

Johnson said the city would take any signs left to the city garage and dispose of them after time.

“We won’t destroy them right away,” he said. “But, I can promise you that if we end up having to take them out there, no one is going to come and get them.”

Second Ward councilmember Janice Goodwin asked if a fine could be attached to the ordinance.

Johnson said he was not in favor of a fine, and the city was operating on past problems in creating the ordinance.

Third Ward councilmember Leonard Smith said he wondered if some candidates would purposely leave their signs for the city to pick up.

A fine was not added to the ordinance.

“Our goal here is to keep the city clean, keep everything looking the way it is supposed to look,” Johnson said. “Everyone is aware, you’ve seen how they blanket every hillside they can get to with all these signs, and it goes against what we’ve doing for a long time in keeping the city clean.”

Councilmembers James Elvis Austin, Al Yocum, Edie Viola and Leonard Smith voted to send the ordinance to a second reading.

Goodwin voted no on the ordinance. She said the ordinance was “no different than what we are doing.”

First Ward councilmember Ralph Mullins was not in attendance.

The ordinance will be read a second time and voted on in the next meeting

In other news:

Chief Richard Panico reported 617 answered calls in the last two weeks, including 38 knock and talks, 19 citations, nine domestic violence cases and nine shopliftings. Panico reported the new Facebook page efforts were leading to more results and working well.

Panico said many shoplifting cases were connected between Granville and Westover. He said the two police departments were starting to work together and may develop a task force.

Panico said the officers now have a tablet in one car and are soon to have tablets in all the vehicles, so officers could check and update the database to keep tabs on individuals stopped multiple times. He said that along with tablets, officers will soon be using automatic tickets instead of paper tickets.

City code enforcement officer Jason Stinespring said building permits were still slow due to the time of year, but that Great American Cookies is working on moving into the Morgantown Mall. He said he and Johnson had been making a list of long-vacated properties to work on.

Stinespring said he had been working with Mon Power to get transformers set for the baseball field lights and the field ready for the season.

City Clerk Sandra Weis suggested moving the annual spring clean-up week to before the county elections because the county is using the community building for early elections. Council members discussed options for dates, and the issue was put on the agenda for next council meeting.

Mayor David Johnson said demolition of the stage area at the Greer Pavilion would begin this week. He wanted to get estimates for paving for the new parking lots at the Westover City Park and fixing the road into the park. He suggested using part of the paving project money to pave the park.

Council member-at-large Edie Viola said she was disappointed the county chose to use $2 million for courthouse square renovations instead of other charitable endeavors.

Council member-at-large James Elvis Austin said a resident on Harrison Street had trouble with a storm drain collapsing. Johnson said they were aware of the problem and would take care of it when the weather allowed.

In new business, council members voted unanimously to deny a request for an annulment of an alley between Upper Lane and Pierce streets. Johnson said the street could be opened up in the future, and Council member Al Yocum said he did not like just giving away property.

The next city council meeting will be at 6 p.m. March 19 at the Westover City Building.