Commissioner speaks out against Sportsplex project, $1M mass grading bid passes 2-1

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By Sarah Richardson

At the Tuesday Greenbrier County Commission meeting, tensions were high as a bid for mass grading at the SportsPlex site passed in a 2-1 vote. The bid, which totaled $1,060,117, will cover mass grading for 85 acres of the 140-acre site. Mass grading is the moving of earth and soils in order to create a solid base foundation for a building or structure. The original bid, submitted by Kanawha Stone, Inc. of Charleston, was $1,530,922, but was reduced after removing the costs of drainage work.

Situated off of Brush Road, the SportsPlex is a county-planned project to create a park and recreation area located above the Greenbrier River Trail. Construction has been underway for over two years, and ultimately the end goal is for the site to host baseball, tennis, and basketball courts, along with walking trails, horseshoes, archery grounds, and more.

Commissioner Tammy Shiflett-Tincher spoke out against the project as a whole, saying, “I am not in support of the project, it’s not a financially responsible move for the county to make.” Nearly $1M has been spent already on the land and work on the site, and after the mass grading bid was approved, the total has risen to over $2M.

“This bid includes only the mass grading and no storm drainage, which will ultimately have to be done,” said Tincher. “How long will this 85-acres go with no drainage?” She added, “There is no operating budget in hand, just a guesstimate of $200,000, but we don’t know. This sportsplex is fashioned off of Allegheny County’s, and it costs $500,000 per year to operate. Why are we trying to reinvent the wheel 30 miles away?”

Commissioner Mike McClung retorted, “When we were given the land, purchased additional land, and put this project on the rails, it was understood that the current level of funding was not adequate.” He went on to explain how it was the intention of the commission to raise the bed tax from its current 3 percent rate up to the maximum 6 percent rate. “Seems to me that it was obvious once we decided to go forward with this that we had to increase the financing by doubling the bed tax,” he added, “That doesn’t seem to be the plan anymore. The commissioner is absolutely right, the current funding won’t build the place.”

McClung joined commission president Lowell Rose in voting in favor of the mass grading bid, with Tincher voting against.

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In other news, it was announced the White Sulphur Springs EMS will be taking over the area previously covered by the Anthony Creek and Neola Rescue center, which ceased operations on July 9 of this year. WSS EMS will now cover “all the way up to the Pocahontas County line.” The commission approved a motion to allow the takeover of coverage area.

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The Day Report program will be gaining another case manager after grant funding came through to fund such a position. There were over 125 applicants for the job, and Paul Tincher was selected. The commission approved the new hire, clarifying that the county pays nothing. Also approved for Day Report was a $108,900 JRI grant contract and resolution which helps fund Day Report programs.

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Joni Harrah, the fiduciary supervisor for the county, will be transferring to fill a vacancy in the sheriff’s tax office. She has worked as fiduciary supervisor for over eight years, and the commission says they are sad to see her go.