Benefits Reaped from Town Centre and its Roads

Morgantown Dominion Post
4 January 2009
By Kathy Plum

Those 25 mph speed limit signs at the University Town Centre aren’t just for show — roads at the shopping complex are owned and maintained by the Town of Granville, and town police enforce the law there.

From Jan. 4 to Dec. 9, Granville Police wrote about 735 tickets, according to the department’s record software, which went online this year. More than half of those, around 430, were written at the University Town Centre.

Money for the town comes with the tickets. In fiscal year 2004-2005, revenues from police fines, fees and court costs were estimated at $5,000 for the year.

This fiscal year — 2008-2009 — Granville looks to collect about $100,000 in police fines, fees and court costs.

The 2008 figure for tickets written is on a par with citations written in prior years, according to estimates by Granville’s Deputy Municipal Court Clerk Jeff Gilchrist. Gilchrist estimates Granville police wrote 909 citations in 2007, 478 of them at the Town Centre.

For 2006, he puts the numbers at about 468 citations written, with at least 172 at the Town Centre. The town had only one officer working the first two months of that year, accounting for part of the difference. Gilchrist didn’t begin keeping track of where the tickets were written until August of that year, so any written at the Town Centre before then aren’t in the 172 total.

“We do not want everybody thinking we are a speed trap,” Gilchrist said. Tickets are written not just for speeding, but also for public intoxication, DUI, shoplifting, illegally parking in a handicapped spot or fire zone, possession of a controlled substance, open containers of alcohol and other violations.

“That was part of the agreement, that we would give them 24-hour police protection. That was part of the agreement when they approached us,” Granville Recorder Michelle Boyers said.

The mall was built on 80 acres of the old Arkwright mine, which was annexed by Granville. Stores began opening in 2005, and the expansion continues. Opening soon will be a Red Lobster restaurant. A 15-building, gated community complex, The Exchange, is in the works.

Granville owns and maintains four roads at the Town Centre. The four-lane road leading up the hill from the traffic lights is University Town Centre Drive. The other, twolane roads are Mountaineer Drive, which goes up the hill and around behind the Hollywood Theatre; Lewis Drive, which goes to the Cracker Barrel restaurant; and Emmett Drive, which goes behind the Sheetz at the bottom of the hill.

The town maintains all those roads, including winter maintenance.

“We just don’t do the parking lots,” Gilchrist said.

Full coffers

Coal may have been mined here once, but it’s become a gold mine for Granville in its new life as a shopping complex.

In fiscal year 2004-2005, the town’s budget was set at $168,000. Along with the $5,000 from police fines, fees and court costs, the town expected to collect $30,000 in business and occupation (B&O) taxes. The town had two full-time street workers and one full-time police officer.

That’s a far cry from the current, 2008-2009 fiscal year estimates of a $2,656,060 budget. This fiscal year, along with the $100,000 in police fines, fees and court costs, the town is expecting $1.75 million in B&O taxes. Granville now employs six people in the street department, Gilchrist, a secretary, 11 full-time police officers and three part-time officers.

By early December 2008, the court had collected about $38,224 for fines, court costs and restitution. There was an outstanding balance of more than $31,000.

The officer who writes a ticket gives the recipient seven to 14 days to contact the court. Many phone, Gilchrist said, and about half pay the whole amount immediately. The rest enter into a payment plan.

By state law, West Virginia residents can be given up to 180 days, about six months, to pay. They have to make payments at least once a month. Nonresidents get 90 days.

Nonresidents get less time because West Virginia has a limited time to ask their home state to suspend their driver’s license for unpaid fines and court costs, under the terms of the Nonresident Violator Compact developed by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Gilchrist estimates he requests an average of 15 suspensions a month. In 2007, he requested 107 suspensions.

“I’ve had people do good for five months and forget the last month and you can’t reach them,” Gilchrist said.

Roughly 121 of the total 735 citations issued in 2008 were voided as well. That could be because the officer didn’t put the proper code citation on the ticket, because the person is found innocent or because the recipient proves innocence, Gilchrist said.

For example, someone is cited for no proof of insurance because he can’t find the certificate of insurance in the car but brings it to the court later.

Gilchrist worked for Granville’s street department and part time in the office until March 2006, when paperwork created by the additional tickets created a need for someone full time. That’s about when town secretary Tammy Wilson was hired too.

Sharing the wealth

Not all the money Granville collects through citations goes to the town coffers. Some of the fees are mandated by the state and go elsewhere.

Fees piled on top of the fine and the town’s $10 municipal court fee include $8 for the Crime Victim Compensation Fund, a $40 regional jail fee, $10 Community Corrections Act fee, $2 Law Enforcement Training Fund fee and $5 county teen court fee. When the citation is for a nonmoving violation, such as shoplifting, the state doesn’t charge the Crime Victim Compensation Fund and regional jail fees.

So total fees on a speeding ticket, for example, are $75. On a nonmoving violation — shoplifting, for example — they are $27.

Like the money collected in court, not all the B&O taxes stay in town. Granville didn’t have $2.5 million to install infrastructure when the Town Centre was built, so it agreed to give 40 percent of the B&O collections to Interstate Development of Bristol, Tenn., who built the infrastructure, until it is repaid. Granville still owes $1,572,111 on that bill.

Not all businesses that the public perceives as being part of the Town Centre are subject to the 60/40 B&O tax split. One hundred percent of the B&O taxes paid by the hotel now under construction, Cracker Barrel, Walmart and Sam’s Club go to Granville because they were not built by the original developer.

“It’s exploded,” Boyers said. “With that, we’ve brought a lot of things to our employees: health insurance, life insurance, disability insurance, retirement.”

The town’s approximately 750 residents are benefitting, too, she said.

“We did not offer 24-hour police protection before,” Boyers said. “And basically when it’s snowing we now have around-the-clock street maintenance.”

The town has also put in a walking trail, playground equipment in the park and is working on lights for the softball field and street lights.

“I just don’t think people realize what a benefit that is,” Boyers said of the Town Centre.

“Before, we were basically surviving on a shoestring budget.”