WEIRTON - With a low voter turnout for recent city elections, Weirton officials are looking to save on the costs by eliminating the primary election altogether.
City Clerk Nicole Davis-Schuetzner said in order to eliminate the city's primary election, the city charter would have to undergo a change to remove Article 8 Section 2 and the language from all other subsections, along with a one year extension of the term of the current administration in order to coincide with the county election.
Last May former Councilman Max Fijewski introduced a resolution passed by city council to seek a way to reduce the costs of the election, which totaled $48,000, and while it is something the city budgets for, the number of voters doesn't justify the expense, officials said. Schuetzner said she was charged with forming an election committee which consisted of herself, Ward 4 Councilman George Ash, Ward 7 Councilman Terry Weigel, City Attorney Vince Gurrera and Hancock County Prosecutor James Davis. She said the group met several times to go through the entire financial breakdown of the costs and discuss different ways of saving money through the election.
The major expenses that come with the election are with supplies due to a paper ballot and advertising, which is required by law.
"We discussed combining polling sites and reducing poll workers but no big savings would have come from that," she said. "Then, we kicked around the idea of eliminating the primary election and just have a winner take all scenario."
Schuetzner said she had to go through the Secretary of State's Office and the municipal guide book in order to see what legal action could be taken in order to move forward with the idea.
She said because the city election is non-partisan, the primary is able to be stricken but the time frame currently in place for Weirton elections is off by one year from the local counties.
In order to truly save half the costs expected by eliminating the primary election, Schuetzner said the charter change would remove the language from the charter and extend the current administration term by one year then returning to the normal four-year terms. She said the city would still have to have its own registration books since the boundary lines for the city election are different than those of the counties but she will be preparing to have those discussions with the county clerks if the change passes.
If the ordinance is passed by Weirton City Council on Monday, a public hearing must be held within 30 days to allow residents to voice their concerns. Schuetzner said if even one written complaint to oppose the measure is submitted by the public hearing on June 11 then the ordinance would have to be put to a vote by the public and appear on the November election.
"If the people vote it down, then it will remain a dead issue for one year before it can come back to council and the public for another vote," she added.
City council is set to have the first reading of the ordinance on Monday at 7:30 p.m. on the second floor of the Weirton Municipal Building.
(Dickson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)