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Five cities present home rule plan in Bridgeport

The Municipal Home Rule Board held its fourth of five regional meetings in Bridgeport to hear Buckhannon, Clarksburg, Fairmont, Morgantown and Shinnston's presentations on Monday.
The five cities are vying for one of 16 available spots in the Home Rule Program, which allows a shift in some power from the state government to the municipal government.
"It's a great opportunity for the city to be able to focus on local issues and really to get to the problem and actually take steps to solve those issues that really impact our residents and our community," Clarksburg City Manager Martin Howe said.
Howe and Clarksburg were the second city to present and, like the others, he said it was a culmination of months of preparation since the expansion of the program was announced.
"We've had it for a long amount of time it just presented a great opportunity to present it today and we're looking forward to the decision by the home rule board."
Each city was given 60 minutes to lay out their plan for how they would use the shifted powers. Then, 30 minutes was set aside to allow members of the public to speak out for or against their city's home rule bid. The board was pleased with the input they received from several community members from each city.
The five members of the Municipal Home Rule Board have now heard from 17 cities over the past four meetings. Chairman Patsy Trecost said they have learned while no two presentations have been alike, there are common themes.
"What we're finding also though is a lot of the cities are fighting the same fights and they're fighting the same battles," he said. "They want to make their strengths stronger to be able to help where they're deficient at and just make the city better. Legislation is allowing the cities to manage themselves a little bit more."
Monday's hearing was unique in that it provided an opportunity to those responsible for the legislation to see the process for applying for home rule in action. 
With the legislature in Bridgeport for the three-day interim session, the Joint Committee on Government Operations made the trip to sit through several presentations.
Delegate Jim Morgan (D-Cabell, 16) chair of the House Committee on Government Organization Jim Morgan said he hopes with legislators able to view the process of applying for home rule, it will lead to future actions at the state capitol.
"My hope is that some day West Virginia will have home rule laws and everybody who wants to would be able to participate, of course with guidelines and legislation," he said. "To see how they are going to arrive at what they can do, I think it's important for them to come to a meeting like this."
The final meeting is scheduled for September 8 at the Holiday Inn located in Martisnburg. Presenting will be the host city, Martinsburg, Charles Town, Ranson and Bath.