Only about 15 citizens attended a public meeting in Paden City designed to let city council learn of their constituents' concerns.
The topics discussed at the event held in the Paden City High School multipurpose room mostly dealt with streets and the future selection of the city's recorder.
Councilman Matt Ferrebee cited the poor response to a recent public meeting about the possibility of changing the recorder's position from elected to appointed. Only three people showed up to discuss that matter.
Rodney McWilliams cautioned against taking a vote out of the citizens' hands. "I hate the thought, when you see people every day on the news who are dying or are willing to fight for their right to vote. I think what is happening here is a travesty," said McWIlliams. "That's the road you're starting down by picking your city recorder."
Mayor Bill Fox countered that probably 89 percent of West Virginia's municipalities appoint their city recorder. "I'm telling you there's a lot to that job that the people don't realize," he said.
McWilliams said that checking the recorder is part of council's job. He said it is all part of government's checks and balances. In the city the council serves as the legislative branch, mayor and recorder as the administrative, and the city attorney as the judicial.
If the city puts the issue on a referendum vote, then the citizens have the right to say how they want to choose their recorder, countered council. Fox said at this point the council has no choice but to either drop the idea or put it to a vote, since at least one letter was written to the city in opposition of the change.
"It's not our decision now, it's your decision," said Councilman Tom Trader.
"You can have a bad mayor and the city city will survive, You can have one or two bad councilmen and the city will survive. If you have a bad city recorder, you're in trouble," said Councilman Dan Probst.
"The threat of not being re-elected keeps people on their toes too," countered McWilliams.
Councilman Rich Wright said Paden City elected its first recorder in 1928. Only in recent history has Paden City had issues with the recorder. "Six people don't need to decide the fate of Paden City," said Wright.
On Monday evening, council discussed the amendment to the ordinance in depth, considering what had been brought up on Saturday. "Are we going to continue with the ordinance change for the recorder's position or do we want to place it on the ballot?" Fox asked. "Or do we want to drop it? If we put it up for a referendum vote, then the people are getting what they say they want - a chance to vote."
Councilman Probst replied, "Let them vote."
"We will give them want they want," Fox said. "They feel we are taking their right away."
Councilman Bob Casteel pointed out that if the matter was put on the ballot, it would be "set in stone."
"Whether we like it or not, it would be tough to ever change it," Casteel said.
"We have mixed emotions and mixed feelings," Fox commented. "We've seen the problems you can encounter."
Councilman Wright asked, "Is there a difference between hiring and appointing (a recorder)?"
Tamara Billiter, Paden City's recorder, answered, "No, that's just the wording."
Fox said, "When they appoint, they hire. That's just the terminology they use. It (may have been) the wrong terminology to use. We should not have said that."
Billiter noted, "A lot of people think that it means council is going to be able to put anyone in the recorder's position. That is not the case."
Fox interrupted, "They also think the guy doing the appointing is the mayor. These are the people right here, who do the hiring."
"The people still get to vote on it," Casteel said. "If we have a referendum and they vote it in, it would be very difficult to ever change that. If we drop it and leave it alone, they are still going to vote."
Wright said, "That's what I want."
"It's just like anything else, it becomes a popularity contest," Fox said. "You do not have to know a thing about finances, accounting, or computers. All you have to do is be 18 and live in Paden City."
"But can we change that?" Ferrebee asked. "Keep it the way it is, but put stipulations in place."
After a discussion, the council decided to confer with their attorney about the legality of setting forth qualifications to run for the office of recorder.
Probst, who was in favor of the referendum, changed his mind and made a motion to drop the matter. "This time around, we should just drop it and leave it the way it is. I was set to let the people vote on it, but anything could happen. Right now, until we get some questions answered. . ."
Fox interrupted again, "In a general election, we had 300 people show up. We let 300 people make a decision for all the residents of Paden City because they don't show up to vote, so you're not getting a true picture of what the people want."
"Look here," said Casteel, pointing to the empty seats in the council chamber. "We have three people here, that's it. Sometimes we don't have any!"
The council made a formal motion to drop the ordinance change, which pass with no opposition.
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In other matters on Saturday, Susan Wade was concerned about the traffic on state Route 2 at the north end of town. "The traffic is totally out of control. It's ridiculous," she said. "They start at Convenient and floor it just like they're going up a steep hill to get out of town."
"I think you've probably noticed in the last two or three weeks," said Fox, that the new police force is out there. She agreed and said the traffic is better behaved when a police officer is positioned in the area. "I don't think they have enough paper for all of the tickets (they could write)," said Wade.
She also complained about the loud engine brakes on trucks and loud mufflers. Council said the mufflers would fall under the city's noise ordinance.
"We really don't know a lot of things that happen in the town unless someone comes and tells us," said Probst, stating that was part of the reason for the meeting.
For non-emergency issues citizens are encouraged to call the police department at 304-337-2281. From 4 p.m to 8 a.m. the call will go to the office or the cell phone of an officer. For emergencies, dial 911.
The many issues of concern for Mae Bonner dealt mostly with keeping Paden City clean and neat. She hates to see people putting their grass clippings in the street, plugging up storm drains. Fox said the city does have an ordinance that says it is illegal to blow grass trimmings out into the street. "That was a change that came about in just the last five months or so," said Fox. "If you see it, call the city and let them know."
Probst said once they sent out letters asking people not to put their grass clippings in the street. It looked like the offense doubled after residents received the letters. "We're all in this together," he reminded, noting they all need to work on keeping the city clean.
Bonner was further concerned about the elderly who can't take care of their property. The mayor encourages local churches to step up and help out some of those people.
During the last several months city council has passed several ordinances dealing with keeping the city orderly. "We're finally getting enough ordinances so we can do some stuff," said Probst. "Hopefully in the year to come you'll see some changes."
"Are we going to plan for any street improvement this year?" asked Saundra Johnson.
The street fund has approximately $125,000 in it. "To do one street it probably takes $50-60,000," said Fox, noting they can't do three streets and deplete the fund because they have to maintain the streets as well.
Casteel pointed out that when there is a line break and the part of the street disturbed is replaced, in five to six months there is a sink hole there. "We're doing something wrong and we want to change that," he said. They are now asking city workers to tamp the soil instead of just using the back-hoe.
Wright said the city is considering paving Seventh Avenue from end to end since the new water lines are completed on that route. But the cost to pave it in its entirety is more than the city has, according to Wright.
However, Johnson and Probst said water runs down the top of East Main Street from Seventh Avenue all the time. "That is probably something with storm sewers that we should look at," said Ferrebee.
"It's almost down to dirt and gravel in some spots," said Trader.
"It needs to be (paved), it's pathetic," said Ferrebee, noting it is the only street that goes the length of the town as a state Route 2 alternative.
McWilliams offered that if Seventh Avenue is an official evacuation route, the city might be able to get grants for it. Council agreed that was something to look into.
McWilliams, asked if state representatives were invited to Saturday's meeting. When council replied in the negative, he countered, "The state isn't just in Charleston. The state's right here."
Johnson wanted to know if council had any ideas of how to get more people involved in the city.
"Instead of people voicing their complaints on Facebook, they should have come to this meeting'" said Trader.
"This is the first, but it won't be the last," said Probst.
"I don't think the people in the town are informed enough of what's going on," said Johnson.
There were questions posed about the money missing from police department, a situation that is under investigation. "We're not at liberty to say," said Fox. However, he did say the money taken was confiscated money, not public funds.
"When this investigation is through and when this investigation is over with, the citizens of Paden City will know about it," declared Fox.
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Under announcements, the council voted Monday to grant permission for the Paden City Little League to hold "Tag Day" on March 31 from 10-11 a.m. They also granted permission for the organization to hold the annual "Opening Day Parade" on April 28 at 9 a.m.