First County Commission Candidate Forum not a staid affair
On Tuesday evening at the Greenbrier Valley Theatre, six candidates, including incumbent Karen Lobban, each presented their case for claiming the one open seat in the next election for Greenbrier County Commission. Former commissioner Lowell Rose, Bobby White, Ed Delong, Christian Giggenbach and Sue Spicer joined Lobban in introducing themselves and expounding on their positions. Questions posed by the attending public were delivered by forum moderator Radio Greenbrier’s Mike Kidd.
Topics under discussion included how to ensure a safe water supply in light of recent events: the status of the public pool money allocation to New River Community and Technical College (NRCTC); the possibility of expanding from three to five commission members; continuing support of the arts during tough fiscal times; and supporting the Greenbrier County Humane Society.
The lead-off question concerning water safety was generally agreed upon by all candidates to be a municipal issue as cities control the public water supply. Spicer did state. “The commission may be able to assist in the acquisition of state or federal funds and grants for certain water projects.’” Lobban held that a plan of having two water sources and two water storage tanks would be a good idea. Delong added. “White Sulphur Springs has the safest water around and has a standing offer to help other communities with a safe water supply.” He also noted that there have been some complaints about the taste of that water as it is very high in calcium.
A stimulating discourse arose regarding the pool money which the county commission had previously approved and allocated to renovate as a public use swimming pool within the campus of NRCTC. Several of the candidates threw the current commission under the bus for having “illegally” used commission controlled monies for the pool. Both Rose and White suggested holding the commissioners personally responsible for this money and the legal fees involved in trying to solve the problem.
Lobban stated. “I know now we should not have done that,” adding that she had papers giving allowance for the use of that money for recreation. She also said the college returned some of the money. and that the litigation could have been prevented if the other two commissioners had agreed to negotiate.
The issue of supporting the arts using the Arts and Recreation budget funded by hotel and motel bed taxes, brought another general show of support. It was agreed that the arts bring in a great amount of tourism dollars, which in turn benefit all county businesses. White’s question was, “Do we fund projects such as parks to be built and, then not know how they are to be maintained?” He added. “I think this money is a slush fund and the money is handed out too loosely.”
Giggenbach pointed out that the Arts and Recreation Committee had not been asked by the commission if the funding for the pool was legal use of the money. Delong added that the money for the pool is lost and he doubts litigation will change that. Giggenbach said, “This could not happen if I am on the commission as I will always refer to the state constitution in order to prevent the commission from making illegal decisions in the future.”
In expanding the number of county commissioners from three to five, only Giggenbach was all for it. The size of the county being a factor, an increase from three to five commissioners would allow better representation, he said. Lobban and Spicer both posed the question of where does the money for $36,300 plus benefits for each commissioner come from. Rose opined that the matter could be proposed to the public to vote on. Delong said that only two of the 55 counties in West Virginia use five commissioners. He suggested asking them how it works and how to pay for it.
All were clear about continued funding with oversight for the Humane Society. However. White had this to say, “We need to have an idea on how the money is spent …grants cannot support everything, do we want more taxes and can anything stand on its own two feet?”
In closing statements. Karen Lobban said, “Everything I said I would do. I have done. I have brought a necessary water project to the western end of the county. I am asking for one more term to push for a Court house annex. The money we would save in renting the space we are using now could pay for a new building.”
Bobby White said, “I know I can make a difference. I have work ethics and am not running to enhance my resume.”
Ed Delong said, “I am the only one to show up without a bucket of notes. I have spoken off the top of my head. I can do a good job and bring my business sense to this.”
Christian Giggenbach said. “As a newspaper man of 12 years. I have built relationships with our community leaders and I pledge to make decisions for the betterment of the county.”
Sue Spicer said, “I have spent two years thinking about this, we do not have time to bicker. The county needs to be run as a business. I built my business one customer at a time. I would appreciate your support.”
Lowell Rose said, “I have been a businessman for 36 years and I understand budgets. Our county is strapped for cash. When the coal severance cuts back this year, we will have issues. Previously the commission made decisions in private, no more of that. I will be conservative with the money.”