Morgantown mayor suggests student fee due to fires

MORGANTOWN (AP) — Mayor Jim Manilla says Morgantown needs more police officers and firefighters to deal with street fires and other incidents following West Virginia University sports events, and the students should help pay the cost of hiring them.

Manilla tells media outlets that he is considering asking the university to assess a $20 student impact fee for each WVU student each semester. The fee would generate about $1.2 million in revenue for the city annually.

“This is public safety,” he said. “They (WVU) need to pay their fair share.”

About 40 street and trash container fires were set Saturday night and Sunday morning following WVU’s 48-45 win over Texas. Five people were charged with malicious burning, the Morgantown Fire Department said.

University spokesman John Bolt said four of those charged are students who will face disciplinary procedures.

Police officers wearing riot gear used pepper spray and CS gas to disperse an unruly crowd of about 1,000 people who gathered in the streets in the student-dominated Sunnyside area. Several officers suffered minor injuries when they were hit with bottles, rocks or other objects thrown by revelers, the Morgantown Police Department said.

Ten people were arrested on charges ranging from battery on an officer to alcohol-related offenses.

University officials plan to review videotapes and any student identified as breaking the law will face civil and school penalties, which could include expulsion, said Ken Gray, WVU vice president of student affairs.

“It’s unfortunate that despite the coordinated efforts of the University — including students, law enforcement and the administration, and City of Morgantown officials, there remain a few individuals who choose to celebrate West Virginia University athletic successes unsafely and inappropriately,” Gray said in a prepared statement.

“We will continue to seek ways to stop this kind of behavior including through education, communication and cooperation,” he said.

On Sept. 30, a street fire that was set following the West Virginia-Baylor game destroyed three vehicles and damaged a house.

“Whatever good has been done in the past has been all wiped out,” Manilla said. “We’re getting close to an injury or loss of life.

“I know we need more police officers,” he said. “It’s pretty obvious at this point.”

Manilla planned to meet with police and fire officials and the city manager this week to discuss the incidents.

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