By Lyra Bordelon
Although the Monday, December 14, meeting of Rainelle Town Council brought bad news about a potential location for the future visitors center, a number of positive emerging projects, such as storm drainage projects, memorial parks, a potential four-wheeler trail, and more were discussed.
After discussion last month around an alternate location for the future Rainelle Visitors Center, Councilmember Danny Milam brought back bad news. The potential location, known as the Rich Station, is located past Town Hall across the railroad tracks on the left, and has been abandoned for some time. Although council hoped the property would become available for the visitors center, communications with the owner have not been successful.
“The only way that they’ll even talk to us is through emails,” Milam said. “To be honest with you, they don’t want to sell the property. I guess that’s why they’ve got properties across the state that are abandoned and look like c***. They’re not interested in helping us out at all, so as far as I’m concerned, the Rich Station spot, unless someone can come up with something better, we just forget that idea. It’s a shame they don’t want to work with us.”
The main reason for a potential change is location is to keep the building out of a potential flooding area. Instead, the original location will now be used, but the building might be raised.
“I’m sure we’re going to have to raise that building quite a bit in order to keep it from having flood problems,” Milam said. “Maybe with our new flood control, if we get it going well, that’ll take care of some of that problem. I wish we could’ve got it [at the Rich Station location] because it’s in a really good location, but it is what it is.”
In addition, problems with funding are on the horizon for the project.
“The idea was to try to … proceed with building,” Milam explained. “I reported last time that the cost of building materials went up ten percent. The materials now have doubled from six months ago. There’s nowhere in sight that they’re going to stop raising. It’s almost to the point where we’re not going to be able to build it. We surely can’t buy the materials now for the money we’ve got.”
Acting Mayor Bill Bell noted he would reach out to donors before the next meeting to “see if they will give us a little leeway.” He said it is “just a difficult situation we’re in – lumber prices, due to COVID or whatever the situation is, we have no control of it. We’ll come back to this and see if we can get some clarity from the donors. … I think that’s fair, they need to know what’s going on.”
Although Council approved an additional $3,900 to a sidewalk project on Second Street through the Department of Highways, Milam noted he was “not happy” about the situation. The total cost change to the project was $18,000, with the town on the hook for a 20 percent price match.
“We’ve got a lot of problems because of the project – where the street lights go, how they go up, [Americans with Disabilities Act compliance], where our park benches go, it’s going to create a lot of problems. It was just things that were thought out. … We’ve got problems with … our brand new walking trail that we can’t use.”
Bell sought to have “somebody in the future to oversee this project” that will represent the town to “make sure” the project does not encounter further issues. “The engineer is who messed this up, not the contractor. This happened eight years ago.”
Councilmember Martha Livesay also noted a lawyer to dispute the 20 percent match would cost more than the match.
In other business:
- The future of storm drainage channels throughout Rainelle is coming along – Thrasher Engineering provided an update to Town Council explaining that not only could the engineering plans be complete around the end of January, but FEMA could be helping the town pay for needed land acquisitions for the project. Bell emphasized the project as “one of the most important projects the town has had in years. It’s moving forward.” An invoice to Thrasher was also approved, totaling $84,180.87.
- Newly elected House of Delegates member Todd Longanacre visited the Town Council, looking to be available to help with projects when the town needs them.
- Councilmember John Wyatt encouraged Rainelle residents to enter the Christmas Decoration contest lasting through December 20. With $500 to first place, $200 to second, and $100 to third, funded by Alfredo’s Pizza, Wyatt said the contest looked to make our town look “more cheerful and brighter. It is Christmas Time.”
- Providing an update from the Planning Commission, Milam noted a park in honor of Pat Church could be in the works. Property owned by the town, set aside to remember those lost in the 2016 flood, could be complimented by funds found by Church before her passing, could be used for the park. Milam noted he would “like Pat’s name put on that park somewhere, as a memorial park for her along with the … people we lost in the flood.”
- In addition, the Planning Commission and Milam have been speaking to land owners and four-wheeling enthusiasts to potentially develop a four-wheeling trial for visitors and residents. He encouraged Town Council to review the town code to allow for the trial, while also properly restricting four-wheelers in town.