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Morgantown City Council to form special committee on ‘bridge housing’

MORGANTOWN — Morgantown City Council plans to put together a special committee focused on looking at rapid response housing — or bridge housing — for the city’s unsheltered population.

While the issue didn’t appear on Tuesday’s council agenda, it was raised by way of comments during multiple members’ meeting-ending reports. In particular, the comments referenced the ongoing Diamond Village homeless encampment, which moved from private property in lower Greenmont  to a piece of adjacent city property on July 18.

The new committee will be led by Mayor Ron Dulaney, who will serve as committee chairman. Councilor Zack Cruze will be vice chair.

“I think the time is here when we need to begin moving forward,” Dulaney said, explaining that the first order of business will be reaching out to the various agencies and organizations for committee members.

“We’ve heard calls to include some of our unsheltered neighbors in this, and certainly we would do that as well,” Dulaney said, later adding “With the resources that we have in our community, we will find a positive path forward on this.”

In other city news, an ordinance that will add the potential for jail sentences for repeated building code violations got an initial nod from council.

The ordinance will amend city code section 1713.99 to explain a third or subsequent violation of the same conditions can result in up to 30 days in jail as well as a $500 fine.

Mike Stone, the city’s director of code enforcement, reiterated that the city currently has little leverage in making repeat offenders deal with problem properties or pay any resulting fines.

“It’s been going on like this for many years,” Stone said. “The people who live by these derelict buildings are frustrated, code enforcement is frustrated, and I’m sure the public is frustrated driving by these derelict buildings and seeing them in the same condition they’ve been in for the last several years and nothing happening to them.”

Council voted 6-1 to move the issue on for second reading. Cruze voted against the measure, explaining he doesn’t support putting people in jail for unpaid fines.

Also on Tuesday, Interim City Manager Emily Muzzarelli explained that the city has purchase agreements in place to acquire three pieces of property to make room for the city’s 1,001-foot runway extension project.

Council authorized Muzzarelli to move forward with the execution of a Federal Aviation Administration grant totaling $874,037, which will be used to buy the land.

Muzzarelli said additional land acquisitions will be needed in advance of the project, which is expected to get underway in November.

Lastly, council opted to continue the city’s practice of contracting dog warden services from the county.

The city will pay the county $25,348 over the next 12 months for the service which includes enforcement of city codes,  calls regarding domesticated animals and  the removal of small dead animals on public property or the public right of way.

The annual cost is based on the number of calls from the previous year. The county also has agreements with Granville ($2,148.15), Star City ($1,145.68) and Westover ($1,145.68).

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