MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – On Tuesday, Monongalia County leaders came together for a leadership forum about the biggest challenges the community is facing and how to overcome them.
On the panel was Granville Mayor Patricia Lewis, Morgantown Mayor Jenny Selin and Morgantown County Commissioners Tom Bloom and Sean Sikora.
Lewis has been mayor of Granville since 1991 and said during that time the town has seen a lot of progressive changes. She mentioned one of the town’s biggest challenges is the presence of dilapidated and abandoned properties. Lewis said they have code enforcement and zoning board but out of state and out of town owners with no interest make it become a challenge.
Mayor Selin, who has been on city council for nearly 15 years also said Morgantown biggest challenges include dilapidated and abandoned properties. She said she believes there is enough student housing and posed an idea to open those houses to others are being refurbished.
“I would say having homes that are affordable and kept up and able to be used by individuals who come to Morgantown to work all through the spectrum, so pretty much at every price point, having enough homes available so that we have a workforce that doesn’t all have to commute in and are well housed,” Selin said.
During discussion of the biggest challenges topic Commissioner Bloom said that the county has a serious drug problem. He said it’s affecting all types of people and the workforce. He raised concerns that when businesses come to the community, they ask three questions. What is the educational program? What is the quality of life? And do we have to work force to pass a drug test?
“This is not just a government problem we need your help and your guidance because that’s the only way we’re going to solve that part of it,” Bloom said about the drug issue in the county.
Early in the two-hour discussion, the panel was asked what can be done to better improve how the municipalities work together. Commissioner Sikora said it’s important to pause and look at the areas where the municipalities already agree and work together. The police, fire and animal control departments in each of the counties provide assistance to each municipality.
Lewis said a while back there was an effort to try and have the municipalities work better together. She said it was open to Blacksville, Granville, Star City, Westover and Morgantown and spear headed by the county commission but then fell through. While discussing how to work together with other municipalities Mayor Lewis said in her opinion there has been a lack of respect for her municipality because they are the smallest.
“Sometimes the smaller municipalities are just kind of left out, hanging out to dry by themselves.” Lewis said when discussing how the municipalities share services and equipment.
The panel was also asked if they think it’s feasible to consolidate services within the counties.
“I don’t think the only issue is can we consolidate and make sure that all of the police departments are working together or all of the fire departments working together but how can we moved close to some of this goal while still keeping some of our projects going,” Selin said.
Sikora, who is serving his first term on the commission and represents the central region, said there are areas where the municipalities could consolidate but they may never get to a metro government.
“People don’t want to lose their identity and there’s a lot of areas where people don’t want to give up their power … we’re a while away from seeing something like that but we can certainly talk about it and certainly look towards the future of those types of endeavors,” Sikora said.
The event was hosted by the Governmental Affairs Committee of the Morgantown Area Partnership.