New Council Chairman Shares Filling Glass Little Fuller Image of Huntington

by Tony Rutherford HuntingtonNews.Net Reporter
New Council Chairman Shares Filling Glass Little Fuller Image of Huntington

HUNTINGTON, WV (HNN) – When Mayor Kim Wolfe and the new council members were installed, they found that the new Mayor was ever optimistic, even when the word “cautiously” has to be placed ahead of the adjective.  Instead of seeing a half-empty city, he and many council members view Huntington as a glass half full in need of shining.

On President’s Days, Huntington received the welcome news that Level One Fasteners would purchase the HMDA owned industrial park that was once the bustling Owens Illinois glass plant. With additional growth on the horizon, Bates sees more “potential economic good news” for the city, yet cautions that the increases are “contingent upon not losing any major amount of jobs” at other companies. “Usually you add a few here, and lose a few there.”  This year, though, the hope is that expansion will dominate.

Thursday begins the first of four 2011-2012 fiscal year budget hearings. The line by line scrutiny begins 15 minutes following the work session.

New council chairman Mark Bates has shared a few of his primary objectives for the coming year. They include developing a recycling program with collection point in four city locations , finding more bucks for additional street paving, retaining the Constituent Services liaison position, and making the most of the lean revenue that the city will receive.


Bates and many fellow council members want to find money to preserve Jimmy Johnson’s job as the mayor’s constituent services liaison. Admittedly, Bates did not embrace the requested position when the mayor took office; he’s now a believer. 

The chairman told of a two recent interactions with liaison Jimmy Johnson, who in each case had the issue (be it concrete or trash) resolved in less than 24 hours.

Since most council members have full time jobs, Johnson has become the ‘go to’ person for members and constituents. He already knows the interagency overlaps which allows him to contact the right individuals for resolution.

Looking at Huntington’s positives, Bates quickly points to the job done by the Huntington Police Department under Chief Skip Holbrook to send  drug dealers packing.

“I’m encouraged that the crime rate has gone down. The administration has made good on ‘taking our city back,’” Bates said, explaining how the user fee has re-built the department from its low in 2002, which proved to be an ‘open for crime’ invitation.  And, the police department has made no request for additional personnel in the upcoming fiscal year.

Acknowledging the need for  stringent law enforcement had been “dire,” Bates acknowledged that the two other public safety related departments --- the fire department and the public works department --- have continued to be understaffed and without a pay raise. His crystal ball does not foresee any changes within the next one or two years based on current economic conditions.

However, he stressed that both departments have obtained new equipment and the fire department has retained its ISO 2 insurance rating for the city despite bare bones budgets and staffing.


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