Workshop scheduled in Morgantown to address budget concerns, first reading passes

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Morgantown city council passed the first reading of the FY 2021 budget, but added a budget workshop for March 17 to address the primary concern- keeping SAFER grant firefighters.

City manager Paul Brake explained the budget must be approved by council and in Charleston for approval by March 17, so passing the first reading was vital to meeting the due date.

Councilor Zack Cruze expressed frustration that council is pushed to consider, debate and vote on important issues with little time to prepare.

“I’m not sure why things are being presented to us at the very last minute when we have no time to discuss it because we’re at the deadline,” Cruze told Brake.

Councilor Ron Dulaney echoed the same feelings but honed in on the firefighter issue.

“I’m confused why we’re in this situation tonight, where it’s going to take some time to figure this out and we’ve had two years to figure it out,”Dulaney said.

Brake explained that an option to raise the municipal service fee to $4 was declined by council that would have funded the firefighters.

On keeping the firefighters, mayor Kawecki and deputy mayor Rachel Fetty want to try to keep the positions on the fire department, but added the grant was pursued under the assumption annexation would be successful and the extra firefighters would be needed.

Councilor Selin would like to explore an increase in the fire service fee because the fee is paid by people who would receive the services.

International Fire Fighters Association Local 313 president Jayson Nicewarner urged council to fund the positions, not only for the safety of fighters, but for the community as well.

“The federal government would award a city $1.7 million grant for three years just to see it thrown away after three years,” Nicewarner said.

Councilor Barry Wendell told his peers it’s important to remember the commitment that was made in 2017.

“It’s a fact that we did say we were going to maintain these positions when we approved the grant, it’s one of the first we did when I came on council in 2017,”Wendell said,”We said we will find away to fund these positions and I think we need to do that.”

Councilors Cruze and Dulaney voted no on the first reading.