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Charter changes increasing pay for Westover officials passes first read

WESTOVER — Changes to Westover’s city charter increasing the pay for the positions of mayor and city councilor were approved on first reading Monday by Westover City Council. 

The changes, which will take effect July 1, 2024, if ultimately adopted, will increase the salary for mayor from $55,000 to $75,000 and include the mayor in future cost-of-living raises approved by council. 

“That’s how it got so far behind everybody else,” City Clerk Sandie Weis said of the decision to include the mayor in COLA increases. “Especially if we go to a four-year term. You can only give a raise to the mayor six months prior to an election. So, if we get the four-year term, it would be locked in for four years.” 

Westover’s next municipal election will be part of the county’s 2024 primary. One of the questions facing the city’s voters will be whether they want to extend the term of office for mayor from two to four years. 

Mayor Bob Lucci abstained in the otherwise unanimous vote in support of the pay increase for mayor.

As for council, pay will jump from $80 per meeting to $120 per meeting if the charter change is ultimately adopted. 

The body was given the option of $100 or $120 and chose the latter. Edie Viola and Alli Jackson abstained with all others voting in favor. 

By way of comparison, Morgantown City Council’s last pay increase was approved in October 2005. At that time, the pay to attend the two regular meetings each month was raised from $125 to $250 per meeting for councilors ($6,000) and from $150 to $350 ($8,400) for the member serving as mayor.  

Westover has a strong mayor government whereas Morgantown has a city manager and a mayor selected from within council. 

As the changes require amending the city’s charter, passage by ordinance will require a critical public hearing ahead of adoption. 

In other news from Monday’s meeting, Weis said the state’s Municipal Home Rule Board has approved the city’s application. 

The application included a 1% municipal sales tax and five code enforcement matters primarily aimed at assisting the city in addressing abandoned, dilapidated and blighted properties in a timelier manner and without court orders. 

It was previously explained the sales tax could have a $3.3 million impact on the city’s bottom line.  

Assuming the needed ordinance receives council approval, the tax will likely take effect July 1, 2024. 

Lastly, council approved a pair of bids to tear down and replace the concession building in Westover City Park. 

The first, to raze the existing building and construct a retaining wall, went to Anderson Excavating, whose $94,998 offer was the lowest of eight bidders. 

The second, to construct a pole building on the site, went to RM Buildings Inc. of Jane Lew for $35,342.