Lewis County Commissioners were presented with the City of Weston’s application for annexation at the September 10 regular meeting. Weston City Finance Director Dodie Arbogast, City Manager Kristen Droppleman, and Weston Mayor Julia Spelsberg were all in attendance, as were several city and county residents. Attorney Matthew Elshiaty of Kay Casto and Chanay of Morgantown was also present to speak on behalf of the city.
Arbogast said they have met the requirements and those requirements show what the city’s intentions are. She added the best way to show they did the application correctly was by enlisting the help of outside counsel through Elshiaty and his law firm.
Elshiaty addressed commissioners, thanking them for their time.
“This is just a threshold determination today,” he said.
He elaborated by saying that they are presenting the application for commissioners to look at, and they in turn will ensure all requirements were met.
Elshiaty asked that they accept the application and then move forward to a public hearing. The annexation will entail a 135.71 acre expansion of the city’s boundaries.
“That’s roughly a 10 percent increase to the boundary size,” he said.
Elshiaty told commissioners that the city made a “conscious decision” to not annex in private residences and hotels along Route 33 E.
“As for the hotels, the city is conscious of the county’s revenue streams,” he added.
Elshiaty said the city’s approach to annexation was how to build business and the community, and at the same time how to plan for the future and look forward instead of looking behind. He also discussed the city’s one percent municipal sales and use tax, adopted in 2017.
The annexation application also states that residents who are subject to the municipal fee and qualify for a Homestead Exemption would be exempt from paying said municipal fee.
Other points listed in the application include using growth to expand emergency services, such as police and fire. Weston would like to add new parks, recreation areas, and a community center. They also feel that annexation would provide opportunities to fund more road projects, install street lights into the new neighborhoods, and to finance clean-up of riverbanks, unsafe structures, and other city property.
Commissioner Agnes Queen made a motion to hire an outside attorney to address the application. Commissioners approved this action. Lewis County Prosecuting Attorney Christy Flanigan can not take on this task, due to a conflict of interest with Weston City Councilman Richard Flanigan.
Citizen Randy Bohan addressed commissioners regarding the application. He listed four points as to why he disapproves of the annexation: Lack of support for current city businesses, lack of embrace for current city residents, dilapidated structures and junk cars are not being taken care of in a timely manner, and the lack of truthfulness and transparency in city government.
Kevin Amtower of NAPA spoke against annexation, as well. He told commissioners they do not wish to be brought into the limits of Weston. The county has amenities that serve them well, he added.
Resident Bob Nicholson spoke in favor of annexation, citing that commissioners can really make something of Lewis County by voting in favor of the application.
Nicholson continued by saying that the county is a great county and Weston is a part of Lewis County, but Lewis County is a part of Weston, as well.
“Weston is a fantastic place, but would be so much better if we could annex,” he said.
Lewis County employee Gary Foster also spoke out against annexation, first saying he was on his own time, and not functioning in the capacity of a county employee. He began by saying he is sure everyone wants what is best for Lewis County, but added he is unable to contact his representative leading him to believe no one can work with any city official.
“We’ve got to work together, and with the current elected [officials] in the city building, you’re not going to be able to work together. They’re not taking care of what they have now,” Foster said.
Commissioners made no decision beyond hiring outside counsel.
In other business, James Gum at the E-911 Center brought commissioners up to date on the lightning strike that hit the tower Sept. 6. He said initially the strike took down radios and phones. They operated on portables and back-ups for a few hours.
The end result, Gum said, was damaged card channels and siren radios. He does not know the cost yet to replace the affected equipment, but thinks it will be in the $5,000 area.
“Everything’s working, but we do need to make repairs,” Gum said.
Ezekiel Brightbill was sworn in as a new Lewis County Sheirff’s Deputy. Brightbill began working this week, and LCSD Sgt. Chad Moneypenny said the department is pleased to have him on staff.
“I know he’s going to do good things,” Moneypenny added.
Commissioners will not meet Sept. 17 and Sept. 24 due to out of town training.