Parkersburg City Council passes B&O exemption, bridge agreement


PARKERSBURG — A $200-a-quarter B&O exemption for all filers and an agreement for the new owners of the Memorial Bridge to establish a demolition fund were among the items approved on a loaded Parkersburg City Council agenda Tuesday evening.

If passed on final reading at council’s June 28 meeting, the business and occupation tax ordinance would exempt the first $200 due each quarter for anyone filing the tax within the city limits. It also removes sections assessing B&O on the extraction of natural resources, manufacturing and utilities.

Finance Director Eric Jiles said Wednesday that the manufacturing and utility rates were reduced to zero in 2015 when the city made B&O reductions in exchange for assessing a 1 percent municipal sales tax under West Virginia’s home rule program. The utilities provision also included a charge on toll bridges, but that was eliminated at the state level, he said.

The natural resources assessment already excluded coal, per state law. The city still charged it on timber and other resources, but “we may get a hundred-and-some dollars a year on those categories,” Jiles said. “It really didn’t have much of an impact.”

The primary effect on the budget comes from the across-the-board $200 exemption, which is expected to decrease B&O revenue by an estimated $700,000 a year. Starting in mid-2020, the city had offered a $500-a-quarter exemption to some businesses in an effort to provide relief from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, but that expired in December.

Sales tax revenue for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1, is estimated at $6.5 million.

The first reading of the ordinance passed 7-0, with Councilwoman Jesse Cottrille absent and Councilman J.R. Carpenter recusing himself because he owns a business downtown that is subject to the tax.

A resolution authorizing Mayor Tom Joyce to sign agreements with Parkersburg Bridge Partners regarding a fund to pay for the eventual demolition of the Memorial Bridge also passed 7-0, with Council President Zach Stanley recusing himself because he works for United Bank, where the fund would be established.

Councilwoman Sharon Kuhl asked about the absence of a specific amount for the company to deposit in the account in the agreement. City Attorney Blaine Myers said the agreements were negotiated by attorney Terrance Rodgers of the law firm Kay, Casto and Chaney on behalf of the city. The initial deposit amount will be $50,000 a year, starting in 2023.

It’s intended to accumulate enough money, factoring in interest, to demolish the bridge, should it be necessary, after the projected 50-year service life following the rehabilitation project now underway, Myers said. The amount will be reviewed and changed if needed over time, he said after the meeting.

“That can be adjusted in future years,” Myers said.

Topics not on the agenda also generated discussion, including recent LGBTQ+ Pride Month events at City Park.

During the public forum, Liz Hamperian, president of Out MOV, thanked the city for its assistance in making their June 4 Pride in the Park event a success.

“We are happy to report that we had a safe day without any incident,” she said.

Vienna resident Sean Keefe took issue with a separate June 11 event, PrideFest, that also happened at the park and was presented by organizers as a family friendly activity.

“We shouldn’t allow drag queens to entertain children on public property,” he said. “That’s not an appropriate use of city property.”

Keefe said it would not be appropriate for a strip club to be at the park either.

Asked Wednesday about the comments, a representative for Parkersburg Pride said via email that the speaker mischaracterized the event.

“There is nothing at all wrong with a person dressing up in beautiful costumes and makeup,” the message said. “We’re very proud to have brought performances to the MOV from our own queens and professional performers from Las Vegas who used their craft to send messages of love, belonging and acceptance.”

Evan Bevins can be reached at

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