During the comment period at the Tuesday, Mar. 28, Greenbrier County Commission meeting, Sue King, a White Sulphur Springs resident, offered an opinion on a recent land acquisition made by the commission for a sports complex. King’s questions were relevant to how much, or little say the citizens of the county have in how the bed tax funds are used.
“It is common knowledge that this commission is ‘sitting on’ $2 million of arts and recreation money,” King said. She asked whether the commission has considered costs for maintenance, utilities, such as water lines, insurance and staffing, and availability of hotel and restaurant accommodations for visitors using the complex.
As far as the park serving as a recreation resource for locals, she pointed out that the property, “off of winding Harper Road,” is inconvenient to county residents, both east and west. King anticipated that the athletic complex will “obligate the bed tax money for the foreseeable future,” and she urged discontinuing the plan.
The purchase in question encompasses 100 acres and includes a gift of 40 acres donated by the Roger Boone Family Trust. The price tag was $300,000 drawn from the county’s arts and recreation fund. The land adjoins the Greenbrier River Trail and is situated four miles north of I-64.
A feasibility study concluded that the property is workable for the proposed uses, and a survey has been done on the property. This “big idea” to create fields where soccer, softball and baseball tournaments can be held, as stated by Commissioner Mike McClung, has been a dream of the commission for many years. Moving forward, McClung said, the plans for the park will be developed in phases.
King’s opening remarks focused on the loss of Memorial Park in White Sulphur Springs. Contaminated and condemned as one of the disasterous outcomes of last year’s floods, and according to FEMA, will cost $260,000 to repair it. Without Memorial Park, the hometown kids have to “practice piecemeal in backyards and travel to Covington for games.” The “massive athletic complex” may bring money into the county coffers, but its location makes it less likely to serve locals, King said.
The bed tax funds held by the commission cannot be used to repair Memorial Park. They are collected to encourage tourists to come to Greenbrier County, and, likewise, the property purchased for a recreation park north of Lewisburg is intended for that purpose.
King’s remarks were timed to address a posted agenda item to approve the transfer of the real property from the Roger Boone Family Trust to the county. That item was approved unanimously without discussion.
In other business:
- The commission approved the budget for fiscal year 2017/2018, at $11,551,581,which, as Commissioner Lowell Rose said, is less than last year’s budget levy by $236,000. “There is no room to spare,” said Rose. “Any event will cause a budget revision.” Greenbrier County is fortunate to not have to undergo massive cuts, as other counties in the state have had to do, he said. “Personal property took a hit, in spite of new construction, and if the jail bill had not been reduced, we would have had to cut employees.”
Before the vote, McClung said there was one item in the budget which has been “a thorn in my side for a long time.” He was referring to the cost of maintaining the Greenbrier County Animal Shelter run by the Greenbrier Humane Society, “which stands at over a quarter of a million dollars.” The budget was approved at a 2/1 vote, with McClung opposing.
- Day Report Center Executive Director Laura Legg received approval to apply for a Justice and Community Service grant for $80,000, an annual resource fund used to run the center’s operations.
- A resolution to acclaim April as Fair Housing Month prohibiting discrimination concerning the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, religion, national origin, sex, (and as amended) handicap and family status was read by Commission President Woody Hanna. Fair Housing Month evolved out of the 1968 Civil Rights Act, with the enactment of the federal Fair Housing Act on Apr. 11, 1968. When the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on Apr. 4 of that year, President Lyndon Johnson utilized this national tragedy to urge for the bill’s speedy Congressional approval. President Johnson viewed the Act as a fitting memorial to King’s life work.
- A motion was approved to allocate $450,000 funds from the county’s arts and recreation account to the Arts and Recreation Committee to apply the funds to the 2017-2018 grant cycle.
- Supervision of home confinement was approved for transfer from the commission’s oversight to the Sheriff’s office. Rose said management and paperwork will be smoother under Sheriff Bruce Sloan’s oversight. Use of home confinement to offset jail bills will also prove to be a savings to the county, Rose said, and the transfer will keep the county in compliance with state code as well.