Following a weekend that saw 29 fires set near the campus of West Virginia University following the football team's victory over the Universtiy of Texas, Morgantown Mayor Jim Manilla plans to ask city council to consider imposing a $20 student impact fee per semester on every WVU student.
The fee would raise about $1.2 million annually and would be used to hire more police officers and firefighters to respond to situations like this weekend, when about 1,000 people took the streets, setting couches on fire, throwing rocks, bottles and other objects, and even tearing out a new light pole in the Sunnyside area of Morgantown.
The mayor said the violence that occurred Saturday night into Sunday morning reached a new peak, and he and other community leaders are worried about what will happen in the coming weekends as the undefeated football team continues through its schedule.
"The police chief said it was really bad. At one point they (police) had to back away and put their riot gear on and go back in," Mr. Manilla said.
State police, university police, the Monongalia County sheriff's department, Granville and Westover police were called to assist the Morgantown police. Five people were charged with malicious burning and 10 others face charges ranging from battery on an officer, to escape, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest/obstructing an officer and battery.
Mr. Manilla said the impact fee would be part of a long-term solution to the problem by providing more police and firefighters to respond and prevent violence.
But, he said, the university and city officials need to come up with short-term solutions as well for the remainder of this year. Mr. Manilla said he would like to see the university immediately expel any student who participates in fire setting or violence.
A statement released Sunday by WVU Vice President of Student Affairs Ken Gray said: "Students among those charged by civil authorities will also face school penalties, which again can include expulsion."
The statement also said the behavior of the students involved in the violence in reaction to the football team's victory "is unacceptable and detracts from the team's achievements."
Mary Niederberger: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1590. First Published October 8, 2012 12:45 AM