Montgomery combats financial challenges
Montgomery residents and city officials are trying to combat years of financial challenges.
West Virginia Institute of Technology left the town several years ago. Montgomery suffered a $15 million economic hit.
Montgomery resident Rick Petry said the town was prosperous when the coal businesses was booming. "The loss of jobs has been really bad," he said. "It's hurt our area very much. We'd like to see our town survive."
Now, Valley High School, where many Montgomery residents attend, is closing at the end of the 2019 school year.
"It's very difficult for any small community when calls are made from outside the area to close down your economy," Mayor Greg Ingram said.
"When you've lost your local high school, your college, the business, the housing depreciates. That's just going to be another kick in the leg for us," Petry said.
To combat the financial loss, Mayor Ingram introduced a user fee for streets. The fee was passed on Tuesday, and it goes into effect in July.
Anyone who works in Montgomery, but lives outside of the city, will pay $1 per week for the first year. The fee will increase to $1.50 for year two, and $2 for year three. The money would be used to pave and fix roads.
This addition comes after the municipal fee was increased by $30 per year last year.
"This is still not anywhere close enough to recover from the past years of neglect," Mayor Ingram said.
"If it'll keep us alive, I'm not against paying it," Petry said.
Mayor Ingram said the town will soon apply for the Home Rule. The application is submitted to the Department of Revenue to change the business and occupation tax to a municipal sales tax. He said they also want to explore taxing internet sales.
"We realized that small town West Virginia, any of them, including Montgomery, have been starved to death by bigger municipalities," Ingram said.
The mayor said they are also planning to add walking and boating trails to the area, and hopefully boost food traffic through Montgomery.
To beautify the area, Mayor Ingram is working to tear down vacant buildings. He said they have 35 vacant structures, and seven buildings will be torn down in the next year.
"We hate to lose the history, but we still have to keep it safe and beautiful," Petry said.