At the Tuesday evening Greenbrier County Commission meeting, a consideration to forward a letter to the ethics commission was dropped when none of the commissioners offered a motion.
Commission President Lowell Rose stated the request by The Greenbrier Sporting Club for a contract exemption in TIF District No. 1 died for lack of a motion.
The commission, Rose said, has plans to instead put the TIF to use focusing on community projects that will benefit and improve economic conditions for White Sulphur Springs. “The city is losing 60 percent of their water to leaks in the system. We cannot spend taxpayers money on the governor’s property,” Rose stated. “The Greenbrier wants up to $13 to $14 million for their projects, which would take half the allotted funds for the WSS projects.”
Even though the City of White Sulphur had previously voted to partner with The Greenbrier Sporting Club, “in a joint venture” to extend the TIF District until 2034, the commission held that The Sporting Club projects would exclusively benefit The Greenbrier, a private, for profit entity, potentially calling into question their suitability, and presenting the county with a conflict of interest.
A TIF, or Tax Increment Financing project plan is a method of subsidizing county infrastructure, economic and community-improvement projects by redirecting new property taxes paid to the state government, allowing them to stay within that specified district and be used for local infrastructure and economic development projects.
Sporting Club Vice President and General Manager Larry Kline, pushed back, stating the Sporting Club projects are clearly connected to economic development, which is allowable under TIF guidelines, and would benefit the county and create jobs. Kline emphasized how the Sporting Club development has expanded the spending of the TIF funds with membership donations to WSS projects in the past, and that further development of new residential properties will result in jobs and growth in property taxes for the county. Among the proposals for The Greenbrier Sporting Club include a new laundry facility, relocating a private shooting range and establishing a ski lift on Kate’s Mountain.
Tom Crabtree, developer of Homes for WSS after the flood of 2016 and co-founder of the West Virginia Great Barrel Company, concurred, telling the commissioners that TIF financing is the best way to finance these projects not only for WSS but for The Greenbrier. He said the Barrel Company, under development near Harts Run, will begin operations in August 2019. Crabtree said the new cooperage will have a $50 million annual impact on Greenbrier County.
Rose said the White Sulphur projects being considered include upgrading the water plant, extending water lines up Big Draft Road and to the Greenbrier State Forest, connecting the White Sulphur Springs and Lewisburg water systems as emergency backup systems, extending sewer lines to Caldwell, and burying WSS’s overhead Main Street power lines. He said the Barrel Company would likely benefit from the sewer line extension, but over all, the commissioners have determined to stand firm on not diverting any of the funds to benefit the Sporting Club’s projects.
“We don’t feel like we should spend taxpayer money on The Greenbrier Sporting Club,” he said.
In other business:
- Greenbrier County Sheriff Bruce Sloan received permission to hire two new deputies to fill vacancies on the force. Alex Workman and Matthew Doss were approved for county employment.
- Mike Honaker, 911 Center executive director was approved to shift 911 dispatcher Michael McGuire to become the new radio tech repairer and installer for the center. Honaker also received permission to advertise for four 911 positions. “We have a crisis in personnel,” he said. “Basically, we need 12 people available to work 365 days a year. That means, ideally, up to 20 people should be on call to maintain the 25,000 calls the center gets a year.” This is a stressful job, he said, with a 50 percent attrition rate. By planning ahead with aggressive advertising, he hoped to get ahead of the ongoing issue.
- The commission approved a request from the Greenbrier Valley Disc Golf Corp to lease FEMA buyout properties in the Charmco area for a 9-basket disc golf course.