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Council continues home rule discussion

By Staff | Mar 11, 2016

Town council held their regular monthly meeting Tuesday at the Shepherdstown Community Club to accommodate the anticipated increase in attendees to discuss the home rule proposal.

Council members discussed normal business and heard several event requests.

Among the events proposed and granted were, the May Day parade to be held Saturday, April 30, Dog Fest on May 14 and 15, Garden Fest, May 21 and 22, and the Farm to Fork dinner to be held on June 12.

Council had the second reading of the non-discrimination ordinance, and it passed with no objection.

The balance of the meeting was dedicated to the home rule proposal.

Police chief, Mike King was on hand, as well as Sarah Smith from the Alcoholic Beverage Control to clarify the current limitations of the police department regarding alcohol infractions, and how it could be different under home rule.

“There was a lot of talk about stings and compliance checks,” said Chief King. “These are conducted by ABC, not the police department. We do not have the right to walk into a bar and check identifications to see if people are of age. That’s ABC’s function. People see us there if they (ABC) find someone who is underage. The ABC cannot charge these people. We have to be the ones to come in and place the charges on the people.”

The ABC is required by law to conduct a certain number of compliance checks to make sure bar and tavern owners are abiding by what their licensing dictates. Current protocol dictates that there has to be a complaint of an alcohol infraction such as underage drinking, a bar staying open later than allowed and over-serving of an individual. Once a complaint is registered with the ABC, and an ensuing investigation occurs, then the police can go in and take action, preventing a timely response to a situation. The home rule proposal would allow the police the same authority as the ABC in terms of being able to conduct an investigation if a complaint occurs.

Catie Delligati, town prosecutor for the corporation of Shepherdstown, has been working with the Department of Commerce on the home rule proposal, and wanted to remind attendees that just because something is suggested in home rule application, it doesnt mean that the town has to enforce it. Also, the items can be amended at a later time.

Several items in the home rule proposal would require an ordinance to be passed, so the public would have ample opportunity to weigh in at the public hearings.

Some of the attendees said that they didn’t know about about these hearings until the process was well under way and want to improve communication avenues between town council and the public.

The council deliberated each section of the home rule proposal and decided to keep most of it as is with just a few exceptions. No one on council was in favor of traffic cameras in town, but agree that a reduction in speed limit and traffic calming devices are necessary for public safety. Additionally, a compromise was proposed to say that bars should stay open until 3 a.m., but that the police department could be granted more autonomy regarding alcohol issues. Both of those items have been hotly debated at the council meetings.

There will be a special meeting on Tuesday, March 15 at 6:30 p.m. for the first reading of the home rule application.

The home rule proposal, as well as town ordinances and meeting minutes are all available online at www.shepherdstown.us.