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Dunbar council raises criminal, motor vehicle court costs

By Marta Ree Tankersley

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Dunbar's City Council meeting got off to a rocky start Monday evening when council members made motions to table three ordinances that had already passed a first reading.

Two of the ordinances will increase court costs for both criminal and motor vehicle violations. Council approved both on Monday.  

The first, an ordinance for urban agriculture, was tabled so members could further discuss what should and should not be included in it.

Councilman Steve Arnott said he would have voted against it, as written, because it excluded the small animal clause that is included in the city of Charleston's urban agriculture ordinance.

The second and third ordinances -- which address a $50 police escrow fee for equipment costs and increases in criminal fines -- were questioned by Council President Dana K. Hayes. He made motions to table both because "there was concern about how they were written." 

When the motions to table the bills went to a roll-call vote, they both failed. The ordinances then passed the second reading and are now approved. 

Councilwoman Connie Thompson cast a no vote on both.

"I think the police escrow fee of $50 is excessive," she said. "All the fines are already increasing to make them equal to the fines charged in neighboring cities. Maybe they should go up, but the problem is that the extra fee is attached."

The police escrow fee will be set aside to pay for maintenance and repairs of police equipment like cars and radios, she said.

According to the ordinance, which goes into effect Nov. 1, the new fee for an expired motor vehicle registration is $75, plus court costs of $38 and the police escrow fee of $50. That brings the total cost to $163.

Thompson warned residents: "Don't get a ticket because it's going to cost you."

Council also passed the second of three readings of an ordinance providing for the second phase of the $12.5 million storm drainage construction project, which is set to begin in January.

The third and final reading of the sewer bond ordinance will be held at the City Council meeting Nov. 4 following a public hearing on the matter at 6 p.m.

Sanitary Department Director Ron Byrnside reported that bids for the three projects that make up "Phase 2" are all within budget.

Rover Construction of St. Albans expects to be awarded two projects and Fields Excavating of Kitts Hill, Ohio, expects to be awarded one project.

"The Department of Environmental Protection will have final approval on awarding bids, provided all the documents are in order," Byrnside said.

In other news:

* South Charleston High School Principal Mike Arbogast presented council members with an informational packet on activities and initiatives at the school.

"I want to keep lines of communication open, so you know what's going on in your high school," he said.

* Police Chief Earl Whittington, who celebrates 29 years on the force this week, reported that 33 candidates were tested Saturday in an effort to fill vacancies in the department.

* Former building inspector Bill Cunningham reported that EPA regulations are now in full effect for the city.

This means the city is required to educate the public on "proper disposal of yard waste and proper techniques for fertilizing yards," as well as other practices that affect storm drainage, he said.

* Dunbar Recreation Consultant Aaron Settle announced the city's Bon Fire and Boo Bash is scheduled for Saturday from 4 to 9 p.m. at the Ames lot.

There will be carnival-like games, candy, a costume parade, free hotdogs, and the movie "Hocus Pocus" will be played after dark, he said.


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