Morgantown City Council eyes way to limit heavy trucks in city limits

MORGANTOWN — Morgantown is looking at the state’s Home Rule program as a means to “regulate the roads within its corporate limits,” which, according to City Manager Paul Brake, could include enforcement of weight restrictions on state routes in the city.

That was among a trio of potential Home Rule amendments presented during the city attorney’s report at Tuesday May 15’s regular meeting of Morgantown City Council.

A draft of the initiatives was provided to council during the day Tuesday with the understanding the city would need to submit notice for publication today that the document is available for review.

Brake explained that the city is not asking to take responsibility over state routes inside the city, but for a “collaborative approach” with the West Virginia Department of Transportation regarding maintenance and regulation.

During his explanation, he approached a historically touchy subject over which the city has been rebuffed by the courts more than once — municipal restrictions on what vehicles can drive on state routes.

Previous, direct efforts to bar heavy truck traffic from the city’s downtown were rejected, most recently by the West Virginia Supreme Court.

Brake said that if the amendments are approved, the city could look at “instituting a weighmaster type of program that would likely be part of the police department if a vehicle is suspected of being over a certain weight.”

Brake went on to say “that does not mean we would immediately implement that, it’s just giving us the authority.”

It was explained that Weirton used Home Rule to implement a similar initiative, though it hasn’t yet been of much use.

The city is also seeking the authority to add its own layer of campaign finance reporting for municipal elections.

“This would just be an add-on process to the process already conducted by the state secretary of state’s office,” City Attorney Ryan Simonton said. “So the city would be authorized to require additional reporting measures and do the intake and publication of those reports on its own.”

The third initiative would allow the city to use its existing Morgantown Board of Zoning Appeals to manage appeals and interpret issues for enforcement of the subdivision and land development law.

The Home Rule amendments will be addressed during the next committee of the whole meeting and would then receive two readings and a public hearing. Simonton said council would need to stay on a strict timeline, with passage needed during the second meeting in June in order to get on the October agenda of the state’s oversight board.

Home Rule is a state pilot program that gives cities some authority to bypass state law to address specific issues.

In other news from the meeting, council approved a budget amendment reflecting an overall increase of $1,031,900.

Brake explained that the majority of that amount comes by way of one-time business and occupation construction taxes and that the funds will be placed in the city’s capital escrow account, which is used for capital improvements and other one-time expenditures.

Speaking of which, council also approved awarding a $772,500 contract to Lytle Construction Corp. for completion of a trio of T-hangars with combined space for 45 aircraft at the Morgantown Municipal Airport.

The first building was started last summer by Air Force Reservists through the federal Innovation Readiness Program.

Brake explained that the bid includes construction of the second and third buildings as well as an option to complete the remaining work on the first.

He went on to say that the $772,500 is an addition to the $2.2 million interfund loan approved by the city for the airport in January, and will be repaid once the hangars begin generating revenue.

Work is expected to be complete by August, though paved approaches to the buildings will need to be finished before the hangars can be accessed.

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