By Peggy Mackenzie
At the Tuesday morning Greenbrier County Commission meeting, the commissioners took a first step in seeking to purchase a large piece of property for recreational purposes. Prosecuting attorney Patrick Via was on hand to provide the legal basis, in plain language, that approval of the signing would not be a commitment to enter into a contract to purchase, but would allow for further investigation of the option to purchase. In a unanimous vote, the commission approved signing a letter of agreement in principle with the Roger A. Boone Family, LLC with the intent to purchase real estate using hotel/motel tax funds.
During the public comment period, Cathey Sawyer came forward as a private citizen to express her concerns about the commission’s plans for a recreation center in Greenbrier County. She asked that the commission “take their time and reconsider the idea for a major recreation facility.”
“We have less infrastructure in place than do other towns around us,” she said. “We cannot compete. We already have ball fields for local users.” Her recommendation for the county was a “comprehensive playground program,” to more equitably benefit all areas of the county with play equipment and field facilities situated around the county, possibly in partnership with the schools.
“Perhaps,” she said, “we need to support what’s already here rather than to build new.”
In other business:
• Ashley Butler, administrative services manager with the Greenbrier County Health Department presented an update for the county commissioners, advising them that the state will, for the first time, make cuts to funding health departments across the state. The state normally provides the majority of the Greenbrier County Health Department funding at $300,000 a year. But those funds are growing tight. Butler said she did not know how deep the cuts will be, but that health departments may need to institute regional departments by combining services across two or more counties in order to stretch the declining funding.
Butler also said the commission needs to take note that, as a result, future obligations for the department’s continued service to local citizenry may require the county commission to fill the funding gap. Both Commission President Mike McClung and Commissioner Lowell Rose attested that the county cannot help out without cutting other services. McClung said that even if the levy was raised to create an added million dollars to the budget to cover rising funding costs, “it doesn’t mean we have an extra million to work with. Much of that money will go to Charleston.”
Butler said many services the health department provides may be lost if the cuts are deep. “There are only so many cuts you can make before you have to lay off personnel,” she said. Local control is important for establishing working relationships with other county agencies that assist in providing health care services. She cited the primary care services, which the health department has provided for the past year, that offer family planning care for needy families. In looking ahead, she said, “We are not a competitive agency; we fill the gaps, and we’re proactive. We are trying to prepare for the first cut expected to be a small one at 10 percent.”
• The commission approved the snow removal bid offer from Morgan’s Roofing and Building to clear the county’s parking lot this winter.
• In new business, the commission approved a new hire for the prosecutor’s office. Gina Rine will replace Haley Cornwell.
• Robert Ford, an employee with the county planning and permits department, made an appeal to the commission to amend the building code’s administrative policy manual to include a revision to the application of permits as well as the project plans requirement. He said residential and commercial building plans are often submitted with only an image of the front of a building and a floor plan and nothing more. In cases where a second story is part of the plan, Ford said, without signed plans from a certified architect, he cannot process the project because he has no way of knowing how to assess the load bearing points in the construction. The county cannot afford to have a certified engineer or an architect on the staff and Ford has no assistants in his department. “I can’t do it all,” he said.
Either the county must hire more people to handle the load or increase costs to residents. Without a certified planning examiner, there’s no way of knowing the frame structure for the more complicated projects,” said Rose.
Commissioner Woody Hanna suggested raising the allowable permits to those building projects under $2,000, and require that all the rest be approved by a certified engineer. The commissioners expressed concerns for the added costs to contractors who must shoulder the added responsibility and necessarily pass on the costs to their clients. After some discussion, the commission finally agreed to approve raising the limit to projects over $2,000 to be subject to having plans approved by a certified planning engineer before presenting them to the planning and permits department.
“This is what happens when government gets involved with private things,” McClung stated. “It’s not better for everybody because somebody has to pay for it.”
• The Lewisburg Fire Service Fee Appeals Board still needs a representative who resides in the northern part of the city’s first due area. Property owners who reside in Maxwelton, Echols Acres, Benedict Lane, Brush Road, Fairview and Eunice roads are eligible, and if interested, are urged to apply to the commissioners’ office at the county courthouse.