CLENDENIN, W.Va. -- For the past four or five years, the biggest bone of contention in the town of Clendenin has been the town's four-wheel-drive mini truck.
Now, the controversial vehicle is going on the auction block, to be sold via sealed bids.
"It was a political hot potato," Clendenin Mayor Gary Bledsoe said this week. "It still is, to this day."
The Clendenin Town Council agreed to buy the small utility truck around 2008, under the administration of then-Mayor Bob Ore. City officials used the vehicle to haul brush and debris and carry salt on the town's more narrow and hilly streets, where it's hard to get a full-sized truck.
However, mini trucks cannot be legally registered under West Virginia law, and town officials spent years trying to navigate a maze of regulations in an attempt to get the vehicle street legal.
In the end, the Town Council approved an ordinance legalizing the use of the mini truck within city limits, but Bledsoe and others in town questioned the legality of the arrangement.
When he was running for mayor, Bledsoe promised to find out, one way or another, if it was legal to use the vehicle in town. If someone in state government told him Clendenin could legally run the mini truck in town, it would keep plying the streets. If not, Bledsoe said, the vehicle would be sold.
Town officials got a legal opinion in writing earlier this month from the state Division of Motor Vehicles, and the news wasn't good for the future of the mini truck.
"Generally speaking most mini trucks do not meet federal safety standards and cannot be registered with the state or operated upon the highways," wrote John Bonham, assistant general counsel for DMV. He said cities can't pass their own ordinances that superseded state law.
Bledsoe -- who defeated Ore and another challenger in the election for mayor in June -- said he doesn't have anything against the truck itself. He just didn't want the town running it illegally.