By CARTER WALKER
Times West Virginian
FAIRMONT, W.Va. — Fairmont City Council did not set a public hearing on a proposed repeal of the human rights commission ordinance on Tuesday, sending the issue to a ballot vote in November of 2018.
“I don’t think anybody on council was going to change their mind on the Sept. 12 vote,” Mayor Tom Mainella, who voted for the ordinance, said.
On Sept. 12, city council passed the human rights commission ordinance in a 7-2 vote after a 3 1/2-hour meeting in which more than 80 people spoke on the subject.
Mainella said to avoid a repeat of that contentious meeting, the council chose to let the issue go to a public vote, since a vote by council reaffirming their Sept. 12 vote would have the same effect.
Supporters of the commission said it was created with the intention of repealing the old human rights commission and reinstating the commission to serve in an educational capacity which had less quasi-judicial powers, but opponents said the inclusion of two new classes, “gender identity” and “sexual orientation,” in the wording of the ordinance left it too open to interpretation.
The ordinance, No. 1751, was back on the agenda after a petition by the group Keep Fairmont Safe successfully acquired the threshold amount of signatures needed to send the item back to council consideration.
“I think both sides were happy with it, that it’s going to go to the community,” Kandace Nuzum, a representative of Keep Fairmont Safe, said. “That’s what it’s all about, for the people to decide.”
Also at the meeting, council voted to approve the acquisition of a dilapidated apartment building on Albert Court, with the intent of demolishing the property.
Council adopted two resolutions.
The first resolution was the acceptance of a grant from the Department of Justice for the hiring of two police officers.
The second resolution urges Fairmont citizens to patronize independent and locally owned businesses.
City council will hold its next meeting at 7 p.m., Dec. 19, at the Public Safety Building on Quincy Street.
Before the meeting, several council members took a tour of the newly renovated Miller School.
The school, which was built in 1914 and closed in 2007, was renovated by the Fairmont-Morgantown Housing Authority and will be used for affordable housing for those 62 and older.
The project cost just over $8 million and took 18 months, Executive Director John Martys said.
“It’s been literally night and day,” Martys said. “All of the walls were peeling. … The wooden floors were heaved up; the roof was totally deteriorating.”
The building can house 66 residents, and Martys said the authority hopes to start moving people in starting in January. He added that the next project will be the former Cook Hospital, and they hope to start work in the summer.
“Any time you can get someone to come in and refurbish an old building and keep the integrity pretty much the same, it’s amazing,” council member Ron Straight said. “It looks great; I wouldn’t mind living here.”
Email Carter Walker at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @carterw284.
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