The Greenbrier County Commission elected to have a split schedule on Tuesday, which began at the usual 10 a.m. morning meeting and closed after an hour of business in order to recess to a working session.
The commission met with representatives for The Greenbrier Sporting Club and White Sulphur Springs officials as stakeholders for the funds in Greenbrier County TIF District #1.
When the commission reconvened at 1:15 p.m., the outcome of the working session was confirmed by Commissioner Tammy Tincher with her statement that the county commission “is staying with its focus on public projects.” The commission voted to set a public hearing for the submission of the TIF project plan application to the Western Development Office in April.
A report by bond attorney John Stump followed, in which he stated the draft of the TIF will have three parts: the commission’s approval of new project plans; the extension of the life of the TIF from 15 years to 30 years; and a reduction of some of the projects from the TIF, namely, the Kate’s Mountain ski resort project. Since no projects are currently active, Stump said, the impact is minimal on the current TIF. Additionally, nothing is final as it stands today, changes can be made and cost estimates can change as well. Each of these projects, Stump said, “are public infrastructure and are not directly benefiting a specific individual or business.”
Commissioner Lowell Rose said the TIF “Project Plan #2” will include: WSS water line replacement; WSS water treatment improvements and line extensions; Lewisburg water back up sources; Caldwell sanitary/storm water issues, including a drainage project to Howards Creek and waste water processing; enhancement to sewer lines and a water line to a laundry facility at the Sporting Club; water line enhancement to the industrial development area at Harts Run; storm water concerns at Church Street in WSS; and a study of an old railroad bridge.
The Greenbrier and Sporting Club projects were not mentioned, other than that a separate TIF District could be formed for the potential development of the ski resort and home sites on Kate’s Mountain.
Among other business items on the agenda:
- “Flood control dams are considered public infrastructure,” said Brian Farkas, executive director of West Virginia Conservation Agency (WVCA). Farkas is on a mission to provide financial support for small watershed flood control dams in counties across the state, having spoken before 16 commissions so far. The Greenbrier County Commission has annually approved $2,000 towards the maintenance of the Howard’s Creek Watershed Dam, also known as Site 12. But recently, Farkas said, the attorney general has affirmed that he will not support dam funding by county commissions any longer, because, based on the state constitution, commissions cannot commit to ongoing annual funding of the dams.
“This is an important issue,” Farkas said. “The older a dam gets, the more maintenance is needed. One half of all dams fail at 50 years of age. A little bit of money now could save us a lot of money later.” He introduced a cost share agreement the commission can voluntarily agree to for a $2,200 allowance that the WVCA would match, and which, he said, would withstand a constitutional challenge.
“Maintaining these dams are essential in preventing inundation of storm water flooding,” he said. The Howard’s Creek Watershed Dam, is “a high hazard structure.” “That doesn’t mean it’s in danger of failure. It means without it as a preventive measure, there would be significant property erosion and loss of life.” During the 2016 flood, the gauge on it affirmed that 150 million gallons of flood waters were effectively held back from flowing into Howard’s Creek.
Rose agreed with Farkas, stating the dam performed well when Greenbrier Valley needed it. “If it weren’t for that dam in 2016, there would have been nothing left to repair in White Sulphur Springs. It would [have been] the end of the town.”
- Lewisburg Farmers Market (LFM ) member Michael Buttrell requested permission to use the county parking lot behind the courthouse as their Saturday Market site. LFM has held their marketing day in the parking lot at the Lewisburg United Methodist Church for a number of years. The request would bring LFM and the Greenbrier Farmers’ Market to operate at the same location at the same time and day. The county’s parking lot has recently been graded and will soon be paved for the use of the county vehicles.
“It is the position of the commission to accommodate the farmers markets,” Commissioner Mike McClung said, but no agreement has been made yet about using the lot for a market. Rose recommended Buttrell attend a meeting with FFA at GEHS on Mar. 14 when the two markets and other parties will discuss the market agreements among other issues.
- The Mountain Transit Authority (MTA) has a new general manager, Tim Thomas, who announced changes to the bus schedules for the county, which will include regular daily transits with two buses running every hour from 6:50 a.m. to 6:10 p.m. on all routes, and one bus every hour to and from the airport. Thomas said he also hopes to provide service to the Meadow River Valley area (West End) of Rupert /Rainelle, which for several years has had a low ridership. He said he is working with the Economic Development Foundation for economic solutions for West End residents, for example, the possibility to establish employee shuttles for industry developments in the area. Visit www.mtawv.com for more schedule information.
- Matt Ford with the Meadow River Valley Association received approval for a blueprint community memorandum of understanding that will give regional preferential housing grant funding for older neighborhoods in a 10-year program.
- Homeland Security and 911 Center Director Mike Honaker was approved to hire four new dispatch trainees, which he declared to be “a tremendous asset for the center.”
- Rose said the county commission will hire Lucas Lemine, a transferee from the assessor’s office, to work with commission clerk Kelly Banton to assist with permit forms and other details.
- Numerous courthouse department heads presented their budgets to the commissioners in the afternoon session.