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City Council moves elections to Saturdays

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Voting may have just gotten easier for Kanawha County schools in the city of Charleston and its residents. At least that's the intent, as Charleston City Council members approved amendments to the city's election charter Monday evening.

Charleston's 2015 city elections -- both the primary and general -- have been moved to Saturdays. The general election is scheduled for Saturday, May 16 that year.

The idea behind the decision was to make voting less disruptive for Kanawha County public schools in the city that are used as polling places for municipal elections.

Officials elected on May 16, 2015, will take office the third Monday in June, according to the charter.

Council President Tom Lane said that in the 2015 elections, the mayor and council members' terms of office would be shortened by about six months because of the election date. Those shortened terms will begin in June 2015 and end in January 2019.

All following terms will run the usual four years, according to the charter.  

The city is also planning to save up to $300,000 each election by having municipal races correspond with state and county off-year elections. This will begin in 2018, according to the charter.

Councilman Jack Harrison said the new charter, one that was discussed over the course of the year by a nine-member task force, "came out of that process as one that was a total agreement."

Harrison added that he hopes the changes to the election schedule will increase voter turnout.

"At our last general election, I think we had 12 percent turnout," Harrison said during Monday's council meeting. "That's poor."

Mayor Danny Jones called the changes a good deal.

"We've done several significant things here in the last 10 1/2 years, and this is certainly one of them," Jones said.

In other business:

| Jones appointed a nine-member "committee on redistricting" to work on changes to the city's wards due to population decline. The committee is comprised of chairman Brent Burton, Harrison, Bobby Reishman, Mary Jean Davis, Jerry Ware, Mike Stajduhar, Shannon Snodgrass, John Miller and Sam Minardi.

Council adopted the following resolutions:

* Authorizing Jones to receive and administer grant funds to programs in the Metro Valley Highway Safety Program, which is made up of Kanawha, Boone, Clay and Logan counties. The $545,000 comes from the Governor's Highway Safety Office.

* Increase the contract price with Allmon General Contractors for the concrete curb sidewalk project by $26,725. The change increases the price from $187,000 to $213,725.

* Authorizing a settlement claim of $17,500 for alleged water damage at 709 Mayflower Dr. The city will receive an easement for the installation and maintenance of a storm water pipe on the property.

* Authorizing $540,813 to be transferred to the city's stabilization fund. City Manager David Molgaard cited shortfalls in B&O tax collections as the reason for the transfer during Monday's finance committee meeting.

* Authorizing the Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau to lease office space from the city at 601 Morris St.

* Authorizing the mayor to accept a deed from the West Virginia Division of Highways for the Court Street Pump Station, located between Dryden and Welch streets.

Reach Rachel Molenda at rachel.molenda@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5102.


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