GCC breaks lease with New River
In the first opportunity the County Commissioners have had since the ruling against the use of bed tax money for the renovation of a swimming pool on the New River Community and Technical College (NRCTC) campus was made in the civil action case Sharp, et al. v. the Commission, the Commission voted to oppose continuance of the issue with an appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeals. In the words of Commissioner Mike McClung, “I’d like to clean this thing up and cover our losses.” The vote was 1-2 with Commission president Karen Lobban the only one in favor of an appeal. “This case has set a precedent in the state and the county,’’ she said. She moved to appeal. Her fellow commissioners disagreed, and the vote went 1-2 with both Commissioners Woody Hanna and Mike McClung opposing.
Commissioner Hanna doubted the Supreme Court would rule any differently and an appeal “would be a waste of additional funds.” Commissioner McClung agreed with Hanna on point, stating Judge Vickers’ point of law was clear, and in many instances quite blunt. He said he has been opposed to this issue from the beginning.
An optional consideration was a condo deed for the Aquatic Center offered by the College last April in which the college would deed ownership of the pool portion of the building to the county. Commissioner Hanna remarked that that would have made it legal for the Commission to use the Arts and Rec funds if it had been approved. But the Commission at that time voted to await the judge’s ruling.
Hanna said the county did own the building at one time. But he said he has always felt the pool at the college was a poor location for a public facility because it is “secluded and isolated and undersized.” He was opposed to the consideration for the condo deed, as was McClung. The motion to consider a condo deed failed at 1-2, with both McClung and Hanna again opposing.
The final item on the agenda was a consideration for the lease agreement with the NRCTC, which McClung said “cleans up the issue.” The Commission moved to request Prosecuting Attorney Patrick Via notify the college the Commission has cancelled the lease and is requesting the return of the $1.3 million. That vote was unanimous.
NRCTC board of Governors president Dave Knalker, speaking to the press after the meeting as a Greenbrier County citizen and not as a representative for the college, stated, “I’m very disappointed in the commission’s decisions made this morning.”
Mary Jo Sharp, petitioner in the civil action case against the Commission’s lease with the college, was pleased with the decision to cancel the lease. “This is the decision we were hoping for,” she said. “I would like to see the money returned to the county and I agree wholeheartedly with Judge Vickers’ decision.”
In other business:
The commission approved placing Animal Control Officer Robert McClung to serve as a temporary stopgap by performing weekend animal control duty for up to one month until the county can hire another part-time Animal Control employee to cover the duties of the department. Deputy James Shortridge will replace McClung on his two days off during the week. When that position is filled and the training is completed for the job, McClung will be relieved of weekend animal control coverage.