It was determined at the Sistersville City Council meeting on Monday that Mayor David Fox will leave office before his current term expires in March.
To that effect, a new mayor will be appointed by council and voted in at a special meeting Aug. 19 at 7 p.m.; that time is according to Sistersville Recorder Julie Schleier. A newly appointed mayor does not have to be on council or hold a current city position. To remain in the position of mayor, the appointed person would be required to run for election when the current term expires in March.
Fox's agreement to resign next week came about as a result of public forum questions from resident Mark Klages about the mayor's current Wheeling residency. Mayor Fox stated that he had asked attorneys about the situation and it was his understanding that he could finish his term because he still owned a house in town.
"All I know is that, in accordance to the (West Virginia) code, it says that you must be a resident with eligibility to vote in any election that comes up," said Klages. "What I'm looking for, council, is a date for when the public is going to be told what the process is for the replacement. There are a lot of people out there just hanging in the balance who just want to know."
"Have you changed your driver's license?" City Attorney Carolyn Flannery asked Fox.
"Yes," he said. "I just did that this last week."
"So would you be eligible to vote in the next municipal election?" she asked.
"Probably not," he said.
Flannery questioned his attempt to finish his term.
"At some point, were you going to resign?" she asked.
"No I wasn't," he said. "I was going to finish my term."
Still relating to Klages' questions, council discussed the process for appointing a new mayor to serve until the end of the current term.
"If I can't be mayor, I pick who I want," said Fox. "That's how it is."
"Is that according to the West Virginia code?" asked Klages.
"That's according to our charter," said Fox.
"Where can the city follow that so we can educate ourselves on that process?" asked Klages.
"I am correct on this, am I not?" asked Fox to council members present.
"That's what they've done in the past. Whenever the mayor is gone, they appointed somebody."
"I think council picks within," said Councilman Bill Rice.
"I'm not certain about that, Bill," said Fox.
"I don't have the book in front of me," said Rice. "But that's what they always told me. The council picks the replacement until the next election."
"I think I've read where the mayor picks his successor," said Fox.
Upon Flannery's review of the charter, it was determined that it is the council's duty to appoint and vote in a replacement for elected positions until the next election.
"If I can't finish my term, I will gladly step down and let one of these fine ladies or gentlemen take my spot," he said. "Would any of you like to volunteer to take my spot? Let's see a show of hands."
No council member volunteered.
"Regardless of that, you can't take any action tonight," said Flannery, citing that the appointing of a new mayor would have to be on the agenda.
"I'm just curious," he said. "If you want to (be mayor), let me know."
Fox also questioned members of the public who were in attendance.
"You guys want to be mayor?" he asked. "Volunteer. We'd like to have you."
There were no volunteers.
"Zero percent of your audience wants to be (mayor)," he said.
Although the appointing of a new mayor is open to members of the community not currently involved in city government, Councilman Rice stated his opinion that they should appoint someone on council.
"You wouldn't want to bring somebody in here off the street that knows nothing about being the mayor or city council," said Rice.
"Now there isn't anybody in the city like that, Bill," said Fox.
If a member of council were to be appointed, that would open up a council seat. Fox discussed the difficulties of filling all of the positions.
"This is the first time in the eight years I've been here that I can remember having eight councilmen," he said. "That's just within the last month or two."
Council determined to add the appointing of a new mayor to the agenda for a previously scheduled special meeting to take place on Aug. 19. Also at that special meeting will be a public hearing regarding an ordinance to delete the Planning and Zoning ordinance, as well as a vote on the possibility of hiring part-time Officer Rob Haught as a full-time officer contingent to the resignation of Officer Mike Owens, who is looking at employment with another department.
The council entered executive session to discuss a pay raise for Recorder Julie Schleier. Schleier left the room during the executive session discussion, while members of the public were made to leave the building. Upon reentering the normal meeting, council approved Schleier a raise of $2,500 a year.
Although Councilman Bill Schleier, husband of the recorder, did not vote on the raise, he was present for the discussion in executive session. At the time of the vote he did not voice that he abstained or cite reasons for abstaining during the vote. After the meeting he told the Tyler Star News he abstained from voting on the matter.
Rice was the only council member to vote against the pay increase.
"Julie, this has got nothing to do with you or your performance," he said, citing the recent breakdown of pool numbers and other financial uncertainties. "I'm afraid of the overage, and I don't know for sure what it's going to cost us toward the end of the year. That's the only reason why I'm voting the way I'm voting."
"Motion carries," said Fox.
Tim Meeks of the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Council was once again present to present a drawdown report for the Hanford City Sewer Project. The total amount was $86,036.67, and council carried a motion to accept the report.
Sistersville Planning Commission President Connie Boyd and Secretary Barbara Vincent were in attendance to reserve park dates for the 45th annual West Virginia Oil and Gas Festival.
"The dates are September 12 through 14," said Vincent. "However, I'd like to reserve the park from September 7 until September 17, so that gives us time to set up and take down and clean up."
The planning commission also offered to pay the city $300 for the removal of dead limbs coming down on both sides of Tanyard Run, the creek running through the park. The festival requests were approved.
The festival parade will occur at its usual time of 1 p.m.
The council completed the first reading of an ordinance to delete, in its entirety, part 13 of the codified ordinance of the city of Sistersville titled Planning and Zoning, adopted in 2006 for the purpose of (rebilling or rebuilding) zoning regulations within the city of Sistersville.
When asking the public about the general consensus of the 2006 zoning ordinance, Vincent said, "We were told we're a little town trying to act like a big city."
Reverend Bill Dawson attended to propose events celebrating Heroes Day on Sept. 8.
"We did this two years ago," he said. "(Delegate) Roger Romine and Governor Earl Ray Tomblin and (Mayor) Dave Fox all supported it. It was very successful."
Heroes Day activities at the Sistersville City Park will include the presence of AirEvac choppers, a visit from Smokey the Bear, fire truck rides for children, free blood pressure readings from Sistersville General Hospital, a possible drug-finding demonstration by a K9 unit, and a parade at 2 p.m.
"This is going to be free for everyone in the community. We're going to invite units from surrounding counties and have a day to celebrate the fire (departments), EMS, law enforcement, and active duty military. Then on September 11, all churches and organizations that have bells are invited to commemorate when the planes crashed by ringing their bells for one minute each time at each interval."
Council approved Heroes Day events. They also approved Marble Festival activities for Sept. 27-29.
Under committee reports, the planning commission proposed the idea of placing a miniature golf course at the park, behind the basketball court and playground.
"That'd be a real good idea," said Fox.
The planning commission expressed interest in helping with the pool next spring. They offered to buy paint for the pool and, regarding the success of the recent Elks Free Swim, said that they would like to get other organizations to sponsor similar events.
The council then reviewed the possibility of forming a Park and Pool Board.
"I'd love to see that kind of unity in the town again," said City Commissioner Daniel Grimes of the efforts of past Park and Pool Board members.
An anonymous donor has offered to fund signs for each end of town. The council approved this measure and will start looking for locations to erect the signs, which will reportedly say "Not big, but busy." One will feature the image of the Sistersville Ferry Boat and other will feature the image of city hall.
Among other approved items were: the minutes of the regular meeting on July 8 and special meeting on July 16; permission to pay the Elks an annual $1,000 to go toward the Senior Center; paying hospital accounts payable of $366,205.85 and payroll of $323,869.87; city bills of $5,832.46, and the purchase card charge of $20,867.68.
Officials present at the meeting were: Mayor David Fox, Commissioner Daniel Grimes, Recorder Julie Schleier, City Attorney Carolyn Flannery, Police Chief Ben Placer, and council members Mitch Corley, Ann Doig, Richard Long, Colin Marrin, Bill Schleier, Craig Pritchett and Bill Rice.