By Lyra Bordelon
The upcoming city elections, recent flooding of Island Park, the restructuring of the Rudy’s restoration, and a potential dog park each got ample discussion during the Monday, March 8, Ronceverte City Council meeting.
Mayor David Smith announced he would not be seeking re-election this year.
“Most of you know that I do not plan to run,” said Smith. “My 15, 16 years of involvement, with two terms on the council and two terms as mayor, are a really important part for me. I keep thinking of all the projects we’ve gotten done, projects we’re looking to, but shoot- I could stay here until I was 100 years old and [we] would still have projects going. At some point I need to do other things. … This will make things a little better – I’m going to give up three positions here at the end of June. [That] will give me a good bit of free time to deal with the other 20 [positions I’m involved in].”
Although Smith will not being running, the race for mayor could be competitive. Mentz noted, “I do have three people at this time who have signed up to [run for] mayor and zero so far for council, but we’re early in the game.” Smith voiced support for many of the current councilmembers, should they sign up to run again.
“I feel like, right now, we have an amazingly strong council,” Smith said. “We’ve got Kathy King, who is super involved in nonprofits in town, as well as her years of experience with the board of education and being president of the board. Cherie Davis, who serves on a number of committees and heads our library, we’ve got Leah Sills and Deena Pack, who have doctorates of jurisprudence and are involved in a number of activities and things involved in town. Gayle White, who has been mayor before, and is on a number of committees. Hopefully those people are going to run and keep the council strong.”
Both Sills and Davis were appointed to fill seats of previous councilmembers, Barbara Morgan and Adam Rosin, respectively.
Greenbrier County saw a state of emergency due to flooding last week, and Ronceverte was no exception. Island Park saw a huge amount of flooding during and after the rainfall.
“The flood did a fair amount of damage to the park, especially at the amphitheatre,” Smith said. “The most that’s probably ever happened, even 2016 didn’t do as much damage as this one did. … the building and the garden got a few inches, but nothing in the garden itself or in the hightop, thank goodness.”
In a door-to-door survey, no Ronceverte residents reported any substantial water damage. City Administrator Pam Mentz noted, “the water got close but didn’t get into any basements or do any bad damage. Most of the businesses on the avenue got by okay.”
Smith also complimented the work of city crews both during and after the flooding.
“Our guys were incredible, they were amazing,” Smith said. “They jumped right at it. … Literally the next day, after the water got off the park, they had cleaned up all the debris. The mud is still there, and they are working on that. The debris is gone, other than the leaves and some stone.”
During citizen’s comment, Chris and Jorge Rodriguez-Stanley announced they would be returning to Los Angeles in several months, revising the plan for the Rudy’s restoration project.
“Because of the delay and all the stuff happening, we’re going to be going back to Los Angeles at the beginning of June,” said Chris Rodriguez-Stanley. “We still are committed to the project and bringing the building back, it’s just that, given the circumstances, that’s what we’re going to have to do right now. … We have to regroup and start again.”
Chris Rodriguez-Stanley looked, in the meantime, to join the efforts in getting a dog park in the city, saying “in the next three months while I’m here, [I want to] work on getting a dog park in Ronceverte. We would be the only park in the county, the only park in the region. It would bring people here.”
Sills expressed support for the project.
“I think that is a great idea, getting in a dog park,” Sills said. “I’m sorry things aren’t working out with your building, but that you’re still committed to sticking with Ronceverte and seeing it out at some point. Thanks for all your great ideas and your enthusiasm.”
Previous discussions around a park have begun, but have not been finalized.
“The Bendix location would be a good location to be able to put a dog park at some point, once that gets done,” said Chris Rodriguez-Stanley. “Also the space … behind the basketball courts and behind the skate park, and whatever area behind there … already. I know that there is legal situation, there’s more than just the fundraising part of it, but I am fully prepared to take on the fundraising. I was contacted by a local group that was wanting to get involved in the dog park project already who have some fundraising experience.”
Noting some potential issues the project has already faced, Smith thanked Chris Rodriguez-Stanley for taking it on.
“The problem [with the basketball court area] is property lines get really [hazy] there,” Smith said. “… It can be difficult, … folks could never find it. … [However, right now] people do walk their dogs in the ball field, which is not good because we’ve got … folks who don’t clean up, even though we’ve got things for them to clean up all over the park. … But we’ve got some other places and we can definitely do some looking. Thank you all.”
In other business:
– Work on the city’s water project continues. Engineer Bob Hazelwood with E.L. Robinson explained work is ongoing on Walker Street and on West Edgar, between Maple and Cedar streets. About 200 feet of pipe were laid on Monday and contractors, Lynch Construction and Pro Contracting, are “not having any problems or issues with the existing water lines or utilities.”
– The council could return to in-person meetings next month, depending on vaccinations and comfort level with social distancing and masks.