MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WBOY) — The formerly proposed Panhandling Ordinance, now titled the “Ordinance Regulating Pedestrian and Vehicle Safety,” is beginning to move forward once again in Monongalia County. During Wednesday’s commission meeting, the proposed ordinance passed through its first reading.
Before it can be put into law, it still must go through a second reading and public hearing, which will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 11. The ordinance aims to keep people from being in road medians and keep drivers from stopping on the road to interact with pedestrians.
“99% of the public wants it,” Monongalia County Commission President Tom Bloom said. “If you have a child, would you let them play in the median? Of course not because it is dangerous and that is all the ordinance is and people are trying to make it out to be something else.”
While this ordinance does not use the word “panhandling,” those opposed to it claim that it is unconstitutional and allege that it would infringe on what they say is the right to panhandle and to give money to panhandlers in public spaces. Throughout the process, multiple first responders and attorneys have looked over the document.
“I also have several senators and House of Delegate members that are looking to introduce it so it would be a statewide [legislation],” Bloom added. “I can tell you that the State of Alabama just passed it and it’s been in place there for the last several months and it seems to be working.”
The ordinance was on the doorstep of being passed back in August, but the commission decided to amend it based off of suggestions from Star City Police Chief Jessica Colebank and Monongalia EMS Executive Director Forest Weyen. Both of their suggestions were included in the revised version.
“I felt good the first time, but we did miss some things with the EMS units that we thought were covered by the state,” Bloom said.
To read the ordinance, click here.