White Sulphur citizens speak out at city council meeting
By Sarah Mansheim
Most of the meeting of the White Sulphur Springs City Council meeting last Monday night was occupied by citizens’ comments, with Spa City residents expressing concern over a zoning variance, city hall troubles, and the perceived lack of action on the city pool, which has been closed for the last two summers.
First, White Sulphur Springs resident Ed Holland approached council regarding a zoning variance that’s been granted to Family Dollar to build a store in a residential area. He was concerned with the lack of notification about the meeting when the variance was approved, saying the notice was not published in the newspaper nor was he notified by letter or by a door-to-door visit.
Holland said he lives in the residential area where the Family Dollar is set to be built, and he stated that the store’s construction will require the bulldozing of three homes. Also, he argued, the old terracotta sewer pipes in the neighborhood are not adequate to support the neighborhood, and surely cannot support a retail business.
“I’m asking you to rescind the vote,” he told council, at which point Mayor Lloyd Haynes cut him off and told him that the item was not placed on Monday night’s council meeting agenda, and, therefore, no action could be taken. Holland was told he must get himself placed on the agenda for the September meeting, but he said he worried that by then, it would be too late.
“They’re already painting (parking lot) stripes,” he said.
Council person G.P. Parker interjected, and told Holland that, as president of the board of zoning appeals, “My opinion is, it’s a done deal. Your only recourse is to take legal action against the council.”
Next to speak was Charles Feury, who said he had been trying to come to an agreement with city hall over an elderly neighbor’s water bill.
“I’m tired of being called a troublemaker,” he told council, for trying to help straighten out his neighbor’s water bill, which he said doubled last month. Feury said he does plumbing work for the gentleman, and said that he took offense to being dismissed by city hall staff, who, he said, has treated him rudely.
White Sulphur’s financial secretary Linda Coleman fired back from the audience, “We don’t deserve to be brought up in public,” admonishing the mayor to tell Feury to step aside.
The mayor told Feury that he would not discuss the gentleman’s water bill in public, and Council member Audrey van Buren asserted to Feury that city employees have rights too, and his public diatribe could make things “get ugly.” She advised him to schedule a private meeting with the mayor instead.
Next up to the dais was White Sulphur resident Joshua Adamo, who was seeking answers to the status of the city swimming pool. The pool was shuttered before the 2014 summer season due to massive water leaks.
Adamo asked council whether or not a pool committee has been formed, to which he was told Van Buren, chair of the parks and recreation committee, is the point person for the construction of a new pool.
Adamo said that he had reached out to a Roanoke, Va. company, National Pools, which submitted a proposal and plan to rehabilitate the pool last December. He urged council to accept the plan, stating that hiring a local contractor would be better for the city, as local contractors would take more of a personal interest in the project.
Van Buren told Adamo that the parks and recreation committee is actively seeking plans for a new pool, including from a North Carolina company who would partner with White Sulphur contractor Lynch Construction, and is waiting for several grants to come through, including one from the Peyton Foundation. She noted that the committee is seeking a new pool, not a rehab, in order for it to last for as many years as possible.
Adamo pressed for more community involvement in fundraising, suggesting a thermometer-style sign posted at either end of town to show the progress of the raised funds. When Adamo suggested approaching the Greenbrier County Commission for funding, Haynes responded that he had, but given the recent legal trouble with the proposed indoor swimming pool in Lewisburg, he said the conversation did not get far.
“Their eyes kind of rolled back in their head,” Haynes said. “They do not like the words ‘swimming pool.’
“We are committed to getting our swimming pool back,” Haynes continued. “We haven’t forgotten about it.”
Van Buren said there is an open account where people can contribute money to the project, estimated to cost in the neighborhood of $575,000. Currently, she said, there is about $7,800 in the account.
No actions were taken by council on any of the citizens’ comments.