Huntington Mayor Details His Vision in State of the City

By: Amanda Barren; Andrew Colegrove Email
By: Amanda Barren; Andrew Colegrove Email

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Mayor Steve Williams addressed City Council and residents Friday in his first State of the City address.

Williams is looking to generate revenue through fines, collecting nearly $4 million in unpaid business and occupation taxes owed to the city. He repeated what he said shortly after taking office that he will not raise taxes.

"Four and a half million dollars is ten percent of our budget,” he explained.

As a part of his initiatives he wants to hire 11 people. Williams said of those 11 hires, nine of the jobs would be directly connected to revenue generation -- in part through his initiatives of code enforcement and Business and Occupation Tax collection.

He believes the people hired would collect more money than their salaries -- in some cases double or triple their cost to the city.

Williams is also vowing an ordinance that will force people to remove things like couches and mattresses from outside their homes. He believes this will add to an overall boost in the quality of life in Huntington.

"Those are the individuals who are drawing down the property values elsewhere," he said. "We are going to be very active in doing what is necessary."

"I'm very excited about the initiatives the mayor has laid out,” Councilman Dave Ball said. “It's very ambitious types of initiatives, but ambition is what we need.”

"He put the folks on notice,” Councilman Mark Bates said. “If you're not in compliance, we're coming after you."

Bates says they'll be looking over each new proposed position.

"I'll look at it individually,” Bates said. “If there's a merit and it can be paid for, obviously I'll support it."

Williams says the plan is built to be flexible, and if those new positions don't work the way intended, they'll make adjustments.

"It's only one position at a time,” Williams said. “The intention is to be lean, so when we find inevitably that we'll have to make adjustments, we'll be able to do it at a moment's notice."

Budget hearings begin later this month. Those hearings will go on for three or four weeks.

The mayor is also proposing a host of other initiatives, including the following:

  • $1 million for paving

  • Creating and encouraging business by starting a business concierge service -- someone to walk entrepreneurs through the process of paperwork, licensing and other red tape that often leaves people confused and frustrated

Williams is also interested in starting an Arts Council. He says this can happen without taxpayer dollars by encouraging the groups who already call Huntington home -- to take it a step further.

"It's (the office of Mayor) the bully pulpit," Williams said. "The city won't be doing this. It's leadership. I am reaching out to all of the people. Come, let's come together and talk among ourselves and lets bring this chorus into a wonderful melody."

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