The following Ordinance was passed by the Council of the City of Weirton, WV via a first reading on March 7, 2022, at 7:00 p.m., at a Regular Meeting of Council, and a second reading on April 11, 2022, at 7:00 p.m., at a Regular Meeting of Council, so as to permit the City of Weirton to place a lien on real property located within corporate limits for unpaid and delinquent fire, police, or street fees, with notice and appeal rights as provided in accordance with W.Va. State Code § 8-13-13(d). A copy of the ordinance can be obtained by contacting the Weirton City Clerk’s Office at 304-797-8500 x1045.
ORDINANCE NO. 2187
AN ORDINANCE TO AMEND AND RE-ENACT
POLICE AND FIRE SERVICE FEE FOR THE CITY OF WEIRTON
WHEREAS, on September 9,2002, the final reading and passage of Ordinance No. 1354 occurred thereby reenacting a Police and Fire Service Fee as provided by WV Code 8-13-13 upon property owners of structures within the City of Weirton based on the premise that municipalities incur expenses for furnishing, installing, implementing, or improving police and fire protection services rendered to citizens; and,
WHEREAS, the West Virginia Supreme Court decisions recognized that the purpose of WV Code 8-13-13 was to allow municipalities to enact ordinances to defray costs of the aforesaid services by imposing fees on citizens as the users of such services; and,
WHEREAS, it was and still is the intention of the Common Council of the City of Weirton that the Police and Fire services shall be continued, maintained and improved, in part; at the expense of the owners, occupiers or tenants of such buildings and structures within the city and, in addition, at expense of owners of vacant buildings and structures, with said occupiers of buildings and structures and owners of vacant buildings and structures be declared to be users and beneficiaries of such police and fire services as contemplated by West Virginia Code 8- 13-13; and,
WHEREAS, said service fees were evaluated based upon the recognition that structure sizes and uses dictate expenses incurred for police and fire services; and,
WHEREAS, said original Ordinance No. 1354 defined terms, imposed rates, established payment periods and practices, created an appeal board and established collection responsibilities for the City's Finance Director to be discharged via the Hancock or Brooke County Courts; and,
WHEREAS, on September 8,2014, the said Ordinance 1354, by the passage of ordinance 1780, was amended to allow payments of said police and fire service fees to coincide with county property tax due dates thereby allowing payments by September 30 and March 31 each year and delinquent thereafter; and,
WHEREAS, on November 12, 2019, Paragraph II (d) of Ordinance 1354 establishing a $50.00 flat fee for owners of residential buildings was amended to increase said residential fee to $75.00 per year; and,
WHEREAS, despite being required by law to pay said fee, some property owners continue to ignore the duty to do so under the city Ordinance; and,
WHEREAS, West Virginia State Code§ 8-13-13 (d) permits a municipality to enact an ordinance permitting the municipality to place a lien on real property located within corporate limits for unpaid and delinquent fire, police, or street fees, with notice and appeal rights as provided in the State Code.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE COMMON COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF WEIRTON, BROOKE AND HANCOCK COUNTIES, WEST VIRGINIA, that Police and Fire service Fee Ordinance No. 1354 the City of Weirton’s Ordinance (previously No.1288) will be amended such that Title of said section is: “IV. Protests and Collections” the third unnumbered paragraph of said section "IV. Protests and Collections " be amended to read:
(a) Liens. Liens may be filed in the Office of the Clerk of the County Commission of Brooke or Hancock County as determined by location of the subject property on real property located within the municipal corporation limits for unpaid and delinquent fire and police fees or charges, or for any other fee or charge for which a lien may be authorized by the provisions of West Virginia Code 8-13-13(d). Before any lien is filed, the Finance Director shall give the property owner written Notice, by certified mail return receipt requested, that the City of Weirton will file a lien unless the amount of the delinquency stated in the Notice is paid in full by the date stated. The date stated in the Notice of Lien shall be no less than ninety days from the date the Notice is mailed.
The amount of the delinquency stated in the Notice of Lien shall become final and conclusive and not subject to administrative or judicial review unless the property owner takes one of the following steps:
(1) The property owner remits to the City of Weirton the total amount of the delinquency stated in the Notice of Lien. The timely payment of the amount of the delinquency stated in the Notice of Lien does not prohibit the property owner from filing a Petition for Review.
(2) The property owner timely files a Petition for Review of the Notice of Lien requesting an administrative hearing as hereinafter set forth.
(b) Administrative Review Procedure. The property owner may file a Petition for Review of the Notice of Lien requesting an administrative hearing before the Judge of the Municipal Court. The Petition for Review must be filed with the Municipal Court Clerk within thirty (30) days of the date of the mailing of the Notice of Lien. If the 30th day shall fall on a Saturday, Sunday or legal holiday, the filing period shall be extended to the next regular business day. The Petition for Review must be in writing and verified under oath by the property owner. The Petition for Review must set forth with particularity the items of the Notice objected to or contested. The Petition for Review must further state the reasons for each objection or contested fact. Fairness and equity shall not be issues. The Petition for Review must state an address of the property owner for purposes of service of all papers and hearing notices. The Petition for Review must set out a copy of the Notice or have a copy of the Notice of Lien attached.
(1) Upon the timely filing of a Petition for Review, the Municipal Court Clerk shall assign the Petition for Review a case number.
(2) The property owner at the time of filing the Petition for Review must serve a copy of the Petition for Review upon the Finance Director.
(3) The Finance Director shall have ten (10) days from the date of receipt of the Petition for Review to file an answer with the Municipal Court Clerk stating the nature of the case, the facts relied upon by the Finance Director and an answer to each question presented for review. The Finance Director shall serve a copy of the answer upon the property owner.
(4) Upon receipt of the answer, the Municipal Court Clerk shall assign a time and place for an administrative hearing before the Judge of the Municipal Court and shall provide written notice of the hearing to the Finance Director and to the property owner at the address provided in the Petition for Review.
(5) The administrative hearing before the Judge of the Municipal Court is heard de novo, however, fairness and equity shall not be issues. The burden of proof shall be on the property owner. The decisions of the Judge of the Municipal Court shall be in writing and contain a statement of findings of material fact and conclusions of law. The Judge of the Municipal Court has authority to affirm, reverse, modify, or vacate the decision to record a proposed lien. All decisions of the Judge of the Municipal Court must be issued within a reasonable time, not to exceed thirty (30) days from the close of the hearing. Unless a timely appeal is taken to the Circuit Court with jurisdiction over the subject property, the administrative decision of the Judge of the Municipal Court shall be final and conclusive and not subject to additional review.
(c) Appeal to Circuit Court. Either the property owner or the Finance Director may appeal the decision of the Municipal Court to the Circuit Court of Brooke or Hancock County, West Virginia within thirty (30) days of the date of mailing of the notice of final decision. In addition to filing a petition for appeal with the Circuit Court, a copy of the petition must be filed with the Municipal Court Clerk and served on all parties appearing before the Judge of the Municipal Court. Upon Notice of appeal the Municipal Court Clerk shall transmit the entire record of the proceeding to the Clerk of the Circuit Court. The Circuit Court shall make a decision on the record below. New testimony may only be taken in cases of an alleged irregularity in procedure. The Circuit Court may allow oral argument and may require written briefs.
(d) General Provisions.
(1) No user fee, collection cost, legal fees, interest or related costs shall be subject to challenge greater than five years after the earlier of the date of billing or the date of service.
(2) Upon the expiration of ninety days from the date stated in the Notice of Lien and upon entry of a favorable final order by the Judge of the Municipal Court, notwithstanding any appeal to the Circuit Court, the Finance Director may record an appropriate lien unless a stay of the recordation of said lien is entered by the Circuit Court.
(3) All time limitations provided for herein are jurisdictional and exclusive.
(e) Severability. If any provision of this section or the application thereof shall, for any reason, be adjudged by any court of competent jurisdiction to be invalid, such judgment shall not affect, impair or invalidate the remainder of this section, but shall be confined in its operation to the provision therein directly involved in the controversy in which such judgment shall have been rendered, and the applicability of such provision to other persons or circumstances shall not be affected thereby.
First Reading: March 7, 2022
Publication Date: March 28, 2022
Second Reading: April 11, 2022
Harold E. Miller