County Commission’s funding offer held as legal; CVB accepts

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200px-Map_of_West_Virginia_highlighting_Greenbrier_County.svgThe Greenbrier County Commission voted 2-1 to transfer $450,000 from the county’s arts and recreation  fund to the Greenbrier County Convention and Visitors Bureau, subject to the approval of the loan documents to be drawn up by county attorney Patrick Via. The no-interest loan is to be repaid to the county in five equal annual payments of $90,000 beginning Jan. 1, 2018.

At the Tuesday morning meeting, GCC President Mike McClung asked CVB Executive Director Kara Dense three times to confirm that the CVB is indeed accepting the offer, made by the GCC at the previous commission meeting, and not a counter offer, in which the word “loan” was replaced by the word “grant.”

“The word ‘grant’ is troubling to this body, and it should be obvious why,” McClung said.

Dense said the word revision reflected the board’s understanding – at the time – that the GCC could not offer a loan beyond one year’s duration, and so they modified the wording of the offer, which was then approved by the board. “Otherwise,” Dense said, “the document is the same.”

Via, having consulted with the state auditor, said the code does not specifically prohibit the GCC from lending bed tax funds to the CVB.

“For now,” McClung said, “there is no legal problem.” He again asked, “Is this response an acceptance of our loan or a counter offer?”  Dense confirmed the CVB’s acceptance of the loan offer.

Commission member Lowell Rose, who voted against the motion, stated that he did not vote to approve the loan offer at the last meeting, and still doubts the legality of the loan to the CVB, despite Via’s say so to the contrary.

The CVB will now be able to activate their tourism recovery marketing plan, apply the funds to public relations and direct marketing access points: $160,000 will go toward generating attention to special events in the area, tours of Greenbrier County, and regional outreach in targeted markets; and $290,000 will be applied toward digital media, social media, and traditional media spending, which uses search engine marketing programs that incorporates a variety of search terms that includes activities and events found in Greenbrier Valley. The goal is to effectively communicate that Greenbrier County is still a viable and enjoyable travel destination, while being respectful and cognizant of the areas affected by recent flooding.

In other business:

• Roy Grimes, county recreation director, speaking on behalf of the arts and recreation committee, requested an allocation of funds from arts & recreation account to assist those municipalities hit by flood damage to get their parks back in order quickly. The funds would be repaid to the county once FEMA funds are allocated to the towns and the towns receive their insurance payments for their losses. Grimes said these arts and recreation agencies are vital to the tourism industry. The loss of fairs, festivals, and theater and arts venues create a serious situation to the county which depends on such groups to promote visitors to the county.

The commission rejected the request and instead offered to allow grant applicants that have not spent their allotted funding to change the scope of their grant. The revised applications will go to Grimes rather than to the arts and recreation committee.

• Amanda Smarr, planning and development council project director with Region 4, stated the hazard mitigation plan for Region 4 does not include language in the plan for mitigation construction. She asked for approval from the commission to amend the plan to include that language so county citizens can apply for funding to reconstruct homes damaged by flooding. The request was approved unanimously.

• The commission also approved a right of way agreement on a county-owned property, where a tower is sited,  to allow the Mountain Valley Pipeline to route their pipeline across a corner of the property. Located in a remote part of the county, the tower will not be affected by the pipeline project.

• Johnny Walkup will replace Kermit Morgan on the farmland preservation board. Matt Tuckwiller, general manager of the Greenbrier Valley Landfill, has been approved for reappointment to serve as soil conservation representative for the Solid Waste Authority.

• Approval was unanimous for a court security grant resolution and contract for $37,747.