By Peggy Mackenzie
After months of public outcry and two motions to table the fire service fee ordinance, the Lewisburg City Council moved to approve the third and final reading for the fee, with not a single citizen to witness the event, aside from the media. The vote was unanimous at 4-0, with council member Joseph Lutz unable to attend the meeting. The implementation date for the fees is Oct. 1, 2015. A copy of the ordinance with the imposed rates is available at Lewisburg City Hall.
Council also discussed the State Fair, which began its 10-day run last week, and Lewisburg Police Chief Tim Stover stated the fair traffic on Friday and Saturday was “the most backed up” he’d ever seen it in all his 27 years experience as a law enforcement officer. He attributed much of the volume to the fact that many school systems in the state were scheduled to open school on the following Monday. Thirty thousand families took to the road and headed for Greenbrier County to give their kids a day at the fair before school started.
With cars backed up beyond the Alta exit on I-64, at some point, he said, “there’s nothing we (as traffic control) can do.” He strongly urged city council to start the conversation once again to do something about the inadequacy of the infrastructure for handling event traffic in Greenbrier Valley.
“Events are growing and traffic is only going to get worse,” he said. “We’ve talked a lot about the problem, but we need to do something about it.” Mayor John Manchester agreed, stating that with the traffic jam fresh in people’s minds, it’s a good time to address this growing problem.
In other business:
• ”I need a roof to protect the assets of the city of Lewisburg,” declared Fire Chief Wayne Pennington. He requested council arrange a special meeting to approve a bid for a new roof for Fire Station #2. “Snow season is fast approaching,” he said, “and I’m in dire need of a roof.”
Discussion ensued over procedures and timing since the topic was not on the Tuesday evening agenda. Bids had been publicly posted twice for the leak in the roof, generating only a single response, which was disqualified since it came as an email and not sent via the mail, as required. That bidder did not resubmit. The remaining four bidders were given a walk-through to evaluate the leak problem, but chose not to submit a bid.
Finally, Pennington said he was driving around town and saw James Fry, a roofing contractor from Alderson, working on a job, and drove him out to the station to place a bid on the project. Fry’s bid was about half the amount of the other bid and included removal of the entire shingle roof, laying in 3/ inch plywood (replacing the 1/2 inch ply on the roof) and installing a standard seam metal roof for $39,190.
The mayor, council and treasurer Susan Honaker eventually established that due diligence had been achieved by Pennington to meet the city’s requisite number of bids to re-roof the station.
“I think there is no problem in awarding the job to Fry,” Manchester said. He called a special meeting of the council to be held Monday, Aug. 24, at 7 a.m. to vote on the measure.
• Council member Beverly White’s report from the public works department included a discussion of placing speed humps on south Court Street and Maple Street as a test project to slow vehicles in those neighborhoods. The humps are somewhat different from speed bumps in that there is a more gradual rise of three inches, which isn’t jarring unless you’re traveling more than 25 mph. The discussion also included installing “Yield to Pedestrians” signs along the L&R Trail walkways in the Graham Addition and on south Court Street to make drivers more aware of foot traffic.
Another topic in White’s report, suggested by Lewisburg resident Tony Hinkle, was to turn Lafayette Street into a one-way street. His rationale was the narrowness of the roadway. Council members agreed the impacts of such a change warrants further discussion and investigation.
• A 50/50 match grant from the Land Water Conservation Fund was approved for new upgraded energy efficient lighting to be installed for both Done Miller and Hollowell parks. The city’s match amount would pull $30,000 from the coal severance fund. Manchester said grant funds are limited and council should take advantage when they’re offered. He said the budget will need to be revised to reflect the lighting project.
• Leah Bryson presented a Green Team update with a reading of a mission and vision statement describing its goals for developing an environmental stewardship for the city to include sustainable living practices and inspiring community members to practice green living standards. Volunteers will be assembled and appointed. Four to five core members will add subcommittees as the scope of the Green Team expands.
• The West Virginia Municipal League’s All Star City Award was presented to Lewisburg for the beautification project at the Dick Pointer Cemetery, according to city recorder Shannon Beatty, who attended the ceremony. This marks the 11th year in a row that the city has received an award for its city beautification programs.