More than a dozen self-labeled “Library Supporters” brought their physical presence to bear on the Greenbrier County Commission at Tuesday morning’s meeting, as the commissioners struggled successfully to reach an equitable agreement to approve a $90,000 Arts and Recreation grant to the county’s six libraries.
“No one here wants to deny funding for the county’s libraries,” Commission President Mike McClung said.
Questions arose over the legality of using the grant funds for the libraries at the Apr. 28 commission meeting when approving the Arts and Rec Committee’s recommended grant allocations. The libraries were excluded in that split decision vote.
At Tuesday’s meeting, McClung restated his position that no court decision has been made against the legality of funding the libraries, and until then, he stated, he was for allocating the grant monies for the libraries.
Commissioner Lowell Rose, on the other hand, held that on the standpoint of property ownership alone, most of the six libraries are not on properties owned by the county. “Can we legally give the funds to the libraries?” he queried. He stated he did not want to be in a position he could not defend, citing the legal imbroglio, still in litigation, over the 2012 allocation of $1 million of hotel/motel tax funds for a swimming pool on the Lewisburg campus of New River Community and Technical College, a state-owned entity.
McClung stated that ownership of the property applies to “recreation” use only, and that the “arts” are not limited in the same way. He referenced a letter to the Commission written by the county’s attorney, Patrick Via, which, in effect, substantiated the application of the grant funds for the libraries as “a defensible decision.”
Commissioner Woody Hanna suggested if the funds were to be allocated, librarians could provide detailed documentation for how the funds would be applied to “the arts.”
Rose stated he would have no objection if that verification was included in the motion, and that the documentation, including a cost break-down, be submitted to Arts & Rec Director Roy Grimes on an annual basis. With that rationale in place, the commissioners were in agreement, and the motion was approved unanimously.
Librarian Ann Farr, at Greenbrier County Library at Lewisburg, later confirmed in a telephone interview, that the county’s libraries receive funding from the Greenbrier County Board of Education, the state, and local municipal sources, in addition to the just approved $90,000 grant from the county. She said in order to comply with the county’s arts documentation requirement, the library will fulfill that obligation with an increase to the book purchasing budget as the main thrust of its “arts definition” for literature distribution and education. Student art supplies will also be increased. She noted that the library in Lewisburg is visited by two to three tourists daily who make use of the facility’s Internet access.
In other business:
• Commissioner McClung stated the commission has appointed a four-member “blue ribbon panel” to investigate a dog shooting incident involving ACO Robert McClung, which occurred on Apr. 21. The appointees will conduct their own investigation, form their own conclusions and make their recommendations to the commission, at which time their names will be presented to the public. As public reactions to the shooting have continued to build, Hanna said it was necessary for the panel members to retain their anonymity while they parse the investigation and allow both sides to have a fair and balanced review.
Two members of the police forces around the county spoke on behalf of ACO Robert McClung at the meeting. Sheriff’s Deputy Todd Williams and Chief J.P. Stevens of Rainelle cited Robert McClung as one of only 100 certified animal control personnel on a national scale with the training to do this difficult job. “Let’s not sit at home and judge him,” Williams said. Layla Georgeopolos, former director of the Greenbrier County Animal Shelter, referred to McClung as a “kind, professional and courteous” individual who “knows his job better than anyone.”
Dog-owner Tamara Curry stated that she was not there to blame McClung for shooting her dog. Instead, she questioned whether proper protocol was followed at the time of the incident. “Why didn’t he knock at my door?” she asked.
• Rainelle’s Mayor Andrea “Andy” Pendleton announced the Fourth Annual Mayor’s Walk along the Meadow River Trail will be held Saturday, May 30. She invited all persons present to join her in walking the entire 16.7 mile length of the trail. Beginning at 8 a.m. at Town Hall in Rainelle, the first 18 people to make their reservations will ride an MTA bus from Rainelle to Nallen, where they will disembark and walk the trail to Russellville. The walk will include two trestle bridge crossings on the former CSX spur line built in 1907. Spanning both Greenbrier and Fayette Counties, the Meadow River Trail is a beautiful scenic setting for walking, biking, fishing and horseback riding. Call 304-6679233 to make your reservation on the bus.
• Cheryl Jonese, representing Prevention without Borders, an alcohol and drug prevention organization whose goal is to raise community awareness that drug prevention starts early and is the best resource available to promote good health in the community, asked the commissioners to sign a proclamation to designate the week of May 17-23 as National Prevention Week 2015.
• County Prosecutor Patrick Via asked the commission to approve a new hire, Karen Judy, for the prosecutor’s office to replace Brenda Howard, who is retiring.