Stipend to allow Morgantown City Council members to replace paper with computers

MORGANTOWN — Morgantown City Council members will each receive a $400 stipend from the city to purchase a tablet computer for the dissemination of council agenda packets.

The city manager’s office approximates the cost of printing and having the packets delivered to council by a police officer is about $5,500 annually  based on 34 packets averaging 250 pages.

Brake explained  the packets have traditionally been hand-delivered so  members have them when the agenda is posted online.

“So that as people are reading this online and calling you  up to ask particular questions, you have the ability to refer to this rather quickly,” Brake said, explaining packets are generally posted on the Friday before a council meeting.

He said the tablets and any needed software will be the responsibility of each member, not the city.

The stipend will be provided every four years. Brake said members of council can opt out if they choose, but the city will stop printing agenda packets at the end of the month.

In other city news, council voted unanimously to form the Morgantown Land Reuse and Preservation Agency — a seven-member board tasked with identifying, acquiring and managing land for development or preservation.

The board would have autonomy to make purchases or acquire property through gifts. While council will appoint the members, council would not have final say over acquisitions.

The agency would not have access to city funds without an allocation from council and could not acquire property outside the city limits or by use of eminent domain. Additionally, the agency would not have any power over properties already owned by the city unless it is first  transferred to the agency by council.

During the public hearing on the issue, multiple speakers expressed support for a failed amendment that would have limited council’s participation on the agency to a maximum of two seats.

Danielle Trumble said not having such a limit could leave the door open for manipulation.

“I’m not accusing the current council of any ill intent. I know that’s not what’s going on here. I just don’t want your good idea and your legacy of this agency to be exploited by any future players,” Trumble said.

Council also adopted changes to the city’s zoning code pertaining to residential setbacks and lighting.

Chris Fletcher, the city’s director of development services, explained that the setback changes reduce the allowable setback variance between a new structure and the existing structures surrounding it from eight feet to six feet.

“We’ve also included a provision in there that a new house that’s being constructed, an infill house, cannot be any closer than the closest house to the street,” Fletcher said.

He went on to say that the lighting provisions are an attempt to bring the kind of regulation already in place for multi-family developments and commercial properties into residential areas.

“Unfortunately, we have no standards or protections against neighbors who may put lights up that change the quality of life for their neighbors, so that’s what we’re trying to achieve now, to provide those provisions,” Fletcher said.

Council also:

  • Adopted a budget amendment increasing the city’s general fund by $621,500. The majority of those funds will be placed in contingencies or go toward retiree insurance costs. A coal severance fund increase of $41,450 was also adopted.
  • Approved agreements with the board of education to place school resource officers in Mountaineer Middle, Suncrest Middle, South Middle and Morgantown High School.
  • Renewed the agreement through which the county provides dog warden services for the city. The city will pay the county $29,293.55 for the year.
  • Approved $5,000 in support of the Morgantown Utility Board’s household hazardous waste day, which was held Aug. 11.
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