By Sarah Richardson
Lewisburg City Council met Tuesday, Apr. 19, to discuss repaving and widening North Court Street, supporting Project Graduation, ongoing issues with dog waste and vandalism at Lewisburg’s public parks, and more.
Parks Commission Chair Sarah Elkins reported to council that, “Vandalism is continuing to be a serious problem. It’s a gross problem.”
“[The parks] are being vandalized pretty horrifically in the restrooms, some lovely wall decorations of some feces, and now with whatever [these vandals] spread all over the shelters,” reported City Manager Misty Hill. Thanks to new cameras at the parks, Lewisburg Police officers have identified several individuals who vandalized a shelter at Hollowell Park just earlier this week with a “white bloppy shaving cream or paint.”
Lewisburg Mayor White said that “people are spreading feces in our parks, and it’s not appreciated. We’ve spent a lot of money to have nice facilities. When we find out who it is, they will pay, probably with community service.” She adds that “it’s not fair, and it’s not respectful at all, of themselves or of others.”
Councilmember Elkins said that another issue the city is dealing with is parkgoers visiting with their dogs, but not picking up after them. “People are allowing their dogs off-leash, the dogs are making a mess on the fields. It’s becoming a hazard for the kids. They are playing and falling in waste.”
Elkins said she was “shocked” to hear that some people lock their dogs in the pickleball court and skate park area while they use the park equipment or walk on the track. “That space is being used improperly as a dog park. The dogs are using the bathroom in there and making a huge mess.”
She said that throughout the park, it’s gotten bad enough that the city is “on the verge of having a dog-free park rule.”
Hill said that the dog waste issue “is quite atrocious. I would be an upset parent if my kid slid into third base into a pile of poo. Our fenced in areas are not dog parks, they are actually for sports.” She also noted that an “electric leash” is not considered a leash under the leash law. “It has to be a physical leash.”
“It’s probably only a few people who are going to create a really unpleasant situation where we don’t allow dogs in the park anymore,” said Elkins. “So if you see anyone doing anything like that, please speak up.”
Lewisburg Police Chief Chris Teubert added that officers can issue a ticket to residents not abiding by the leash law. “With the cameras, we’ve already identified two from the vandalism today, so we can actually go back and charge people for that.”
Councilmember Valerie Pritt thanked the Lewisburg Public Works department for their continued efforts to combat these problems. “I know it’s very frustrating to have this happen, so we very much appreciate Public Works for all that they do.”
In more encouraging park news, the city has applied for a grant from the Hollowell Foundation for the restoration of the war memorial columns at Hollowell Park.
Repaving North Court Street is in the works for this year, with plans to widen the tight lanes of traffic. The paving will start at Green Lane and go to Lewisburg Manor. The project has gone out to bid, and was already allotted in the city budget. “Our lowest bid was Greenbrier Excavating and Paving,” reported City Manager Misty Hill. “They came in at $87,820. He will hopefully start this year.”
“We will hopefully move that sidewalk over some,” said Public Works Director Tony Hill. “There is a tree on the right hand side, we’re going to take it out and some rock down there, widen it probably 16 inches on the right hand side, then we’ll move the sidewalk over.”
A public hearing for Ordinance 301, a Home Rule amendment that would permit Lewisburg to enact a municipal sales and use tax, drew no comments from the public. The tax will be “a penny on the dollar” according to Mayor White. Funds generated by this tax will be used in a variety of ways including city maintenance, improvements, and daily operations.
Resolution 491, Support for Ukraine, was unanimously approved by councilmembers. “We join the West Virginia Municipal League in supporting this resolution,” said Mayor White. “We will continue to send up our prayers for them, it’s not getting any better. Please keep them in your prayers.”
Mayor White also read several proclamations: one for Arbor Day, another for Celebrate Osteopathic Medicine Week, and one for Children’s Memorial Flag Day. “I have a hard time with this one,” she said while reading the last proclamation. Children’s Memorial Flag Day, set for Friday, Apr. 29, is a time to “memorialize the thousands of children across the country who die violently each year.” Mayor White said she “Calls upon all citizens to increase the participations and efforts to prevent child abuse, thereby strengthening the communities in which we live.”
During the Communications from the Mayor, White recognized area resident William “Skip” Deegans for his dedication to historical preservation. The Lewisburg House and Garden Club, of which Deegans in a member, was awarded first place in the southern Atlantic region for historic preservation by the West Virginia Garden Club. Skip was instrumental in work at the Old Stone Cemetery which netted the award. “We are very proud of Skip and all the work that he continues to do for our city and for historic preservation,” said White.
In other news:
- The city adopted and laid the levy for the 2023 fiscal year. The rates did not change from previous years.
- Fire Chief Joey Thomas reported that several of the fire department’s air tanks were found to have internal corrosion, with one eaten through enough to have a hole. These air pack bottles are what firefighters wear for oxygen supply while on the job. “On visual inspection, we found 24 bottles that had corrosion inside of them,” Thomas said. “Nobody has ever heard of the problem we’re having.”
The 2013 bottles were supposed to last until 2027 or 2028.
Those bottles were pulled, leaving two trucks without air packs. Fortunately, he reports that they currently still have enough to keep their main engines operational, as the packs that are missing were off of the reserve engines. He estimates that replacing the entire packs will run between $225,000 and $275,000. “It is an early replacement,” he said. “Not something we were looking to do right now. But the cost of the bottles by themselves would be almost $40,000 to go out and try to buy the bottles, and the packs would still need replaced in five or six years.” These can come from the Fire Service Fee. “That’s what that money is there for and been set aside for,” he said. Mayor White voiced that she would like the department to go ahead and order replacements.
- Commissioner Arron Seams said that it was the recommendation of the Finance Committee to allot $4,000 in funds from the Video Lottery Revenue Program for Project Graduation. Representatives approached Council to say that these monies will be used to help provide food for the event. “This will help give students that are graduating a safe place to spend the evening after their graduation,” said Seams.
- Bids for the new Public Works building, to be located adjacent to the Municipal Water Plant on Stonehouse Road, will be going back out after the lowest bidder hand-wrote a contingency onto their bid. Doing so voided the bid. The second bidder had “such a large [price] difference” that Hill recommended that Council reject the two bids. The project will be back out to bid in 30 days.
On the opening day of little league, the Central Greenbrier Little League presented the city with a plaque “in recognition of your unwavering dedication and exceptional support of the youth in our communities through Central Greenbrier Little League.” Over 300 children signed up for Little League this year.