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Council to vote on parking increase

by Paul Leakan

STAFF WRITER

(Thursday, July 2) Some motorists feel shortchanged by Clarksburg City Council's proposed parking rate increases. Others, welcoming upgrades to downtown parking facilities, don't mind feeding the meters more change.

Either way, the moment has come.

Council decides tonight whether to increase parking rates during its 7:30 meeting at the Municipal Building on 222 West Main St.

If passed, the ordinances will increase on-street and off-street parking meter rates to 50 cents per hour and monthly rates by $5. The increase would mark the first council-regulated parking increase in 20 years.

The meter rate hikes, generating an estimated $124,967 in yearly revenue, would help upgrade the Hewes Avenue parking garage and the Clarksburg-Harrison County Library parking lot.

The city plans on spending an estimated $901,500 for improvements to the Hewes Avenue garage. The library lot's face-lift, costing an estimated $218,650, would add 24 free spaces for library patrons and employees and 35 metered spaces.

The Clarksburg Parking Authority granted its approval of the measure on June 4. And every member of council, except for Mayor Louis Iquinto, voted in favor of the ordinance on June 18.

The public can speak for, or against, the proposal during the final reading and public hearing tonight.

Council may also pass an ordinance to approve an employment agreement and salary compensation for Clarksburg City Manager Percy Ashcraft.

Ashcraft, a former member of the West Virginia House of Delegates, has been city manager since December 27, 1995. His current contract expires on Dec. 31, 1998.

Terms of the latest agreement extend Ashcraft's contract by two years, beginning January 1, 1999 and ending December 31, 2000. If passed, the ordinance will also increase Ashcraft's base annual salary, currently $57,694, to $61,000. Ashcraft would also get $300 a month for using his vehicle for city-related activities.

Ashcraft was unavailable for comment at press time.

Council may also pass an ordinance that sets regulations for private towing companies and how they serve the city, especially the Clarksburg Police Department.

Regulations need to be made because the city, especially the police department, calls on area towing services so frequently, according to Jim Hunt, city council member.

Under the ordinance, area towing companies must be able to accommodate at least two vehicles for storage, Hunt said. Towing companies able to meet the city's regulations would then be called on a rotational basis.

The regulation is necessary to be fair to all towing companies by eliminating preference, Hunt said.

"If you're out on a wreck, and the person has no preference as to who to call for towing, one company could get more preference than others," he said. "We need a policy to deal with that."

In other business, council will:

Consider the second and final reading of an ordinance regarding changes to sign regulations in the city's comprehensive plan. If passed, the measure would allow businesses to hang manufacturer's banners, which had previously been prohibited.

Discuss the latest results of the city's Loss Control Program. The program investigates the city performance in areas such as workplace safety, accident investigation, risk management, training and inspections.

According to the City Manager's Report, the city fared well in a majority of the 22 categories that were graded.