By Kaylyn Christopher
Times West Virginian
Fairmont residents could soon have access to a quicker and more convenient method of paying their city utility bills.
At Tuesday’s Fairmont City Council meeting, council members heard the first reading of an ordinance that would approve the $360,000 purchase of the WesBanco building on Merchant Street, located on the city’s East Side.
If the ordinance passes at the Nov. 26 council meeting, Mayor Ron Straight said the building will house the city’s collections department, which is currently located on the third floor of the J. Harper Meredith Building downtown.
City Manager Jay Rogers said one major benefit to the move will be added security.
“Two of the biggest concerns we have at the current location are security and parking,” Rogers said. “It’s hard to get a building that is more secure than a bank because of all the security features they already have in place.”
In addition, a drive-thru option will become available to customers, which Straight said could help alleviate traffic congestion that often occurs in the parking lot of the J. Harper Meredith Building.
“It will expedite the process so people don’t have to get out of their cars,” Straight said. “People can just go through the drive-thru and keep on their merry way. You don’t have to keep driving around the block to find a parking spot.”
According to Rogers, city customers will be able to use the Merchant Street facility’s lobby as well as the drive-thru lane to meet their needs. Bank customers will continue to have access to a drive-thru as well, but will no longer have walk-up services.
“WesBanco no longer desired to have a walk-up location at that facility, so that allows us to have the entire lobby of the facility,” Rogers said. “They will maintain the drive-thru for their customers, but then they have added a separate drive-thru lane for city customers.”
If the city approves the purchase of the building through the Fairmont Building Commission, WesBanco will lease the portion it will use for its drive-thru.
Because WesBanco would be eliminating its walk-up services, all available parking at that location would be for city customers.
Rogers said the inside lobby of the facility will be divided into separate lines that designate specific customer services. In addition, a drop box option would be available.
“That way, on nights and weekends, customers will be able to make a utility bill payment at that location.”
Straight said the reading of the ordinance Tuesday was just the first step of the process, but he hopes residents will see results and be able to use the new location soon.
“This is just phase one,” Straight said. “We’ve still got things like construction to go, but when that’s done then we’ll be ready to roll.”
Also at the meeting, council heard the first reading of an ordinance that would approve the use of automatic license plate readers.
The automatic license plate readers would be used within the corporate limits of the City of Fairmont to scan and photograph license plates. The information captured by the readers would be sent to the West Virginia Intelligence/Fusion Center, a division of the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety.
Rogers said that for now, a license plate reader would only be installed on one cruiser.
“It’s a test,” Rogers said. “What it really allows us to do is be able to scan license plates for any outstanding warrants or violations that there may be.”
According to Rogers, the automatic license plate readers will provide useful information about out-of-state residents.
“It’s a quick and easy way to be able to scan that license plate and be able to get information from the Fusion Center that there are outstanding warrants or issues with perhaps someone that’s from out-of-state and not inside your local database,” he said.
The public hearing for that ordinance is set for Nov. 26.
In other business:
• Council accepted an award in the amount of $25,000 from the West Virginia Development Office Participation Grant Program on behalf of the Fairmont Parks Commission for improvements to Palatine Park.
Rogers said the process for this grant started before the transfer of properties between the county and city related to the riverfront development project. According to Rogers, the funds could be used for things such as signage and/or the two projects proposed by the city for Palatine Park: a two-story pavilion and a marketplace structure. It could also be internally transferred to the Marion County Commission.
• Rogers said the city staff is still working on a home rule application for the City of Fairmont.
“We haven’t lost sight of that amongst the other things that we’re involved in,” he said.
• Council heard the first reading of an ordinance approving the terms and conditions of a collective bargaining agreement between the city and the International Association of Firefighters. The public hearing is set for Nov. 26.
• Daniel Baldwin was reappointed to the ICC Board of Appeals for a five-year term to end Dec. 12, 2018. Rick McElroy was appointed to fill a vacant spot on the ICC Board of Appeals for a term to end April 14, 2017.
Email Kaylyn Christopher at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @KChristopherTWV.