By Peggy Mackenzie
White Sulphur Springs is pushing hard to get a new maintenance building. “It is absolutely necessary,” stated White Sulphur Springs Mayor Lloyd Haynes during a press meeting last week.
“In forming a budget, it is always a guessing game. Nobody can guarantee that, going forward, everything will be easy,” the mayor said.
Referring to the recent news stories following the Jan. 12 council meeting, which may have misconstrued the information about the state of White Sulphur’s finances, Haynes and city financial secretary, Linda Coleman, confirmed that the city has sufficient funds to add another expense to its budget. White Sulphur, Coleman said, operates with a single central operating cash account from which the general fund, the water fund and the sewer fund all draw from.
At the January city council meeting, council member G.P. Parker said the city was “ill-advised to take on $1.7 million in debt for the construction of the maintenance building project.” He stated the city’s general fund was separate from the water and sewer funds, and that the general fund has borrowed from the other two accounts, yielding a current deficit of $19,000. Parker urged the council to consider “a plan to repay the water and sewer accounts.”
“To say the general fund ‘owes’ the water or sewer fund would not be correct,” the mayor said.
By way of confirmation, Imre D. Pentek, CPA for White Sulphur Springs, stated in a letter that all of the city funds have a share in the total cash balance that is carried in the general fund, and that this is a common arrangement for a governmental entity.
“It is a matter of terminology,” Haynes said.
Moving on to the maintenance building project, the mayor said a city-owned site next to the city’s water department facility will be the location for the new building, where water, sewer, power, and an access road are already in place. Thrasher Engineering has provided the architectural plans for the building design.
Currently, the maintenance building is located on property taken over by SARA, on what was once the old White Sulphur Springs High School site. SARA has plans to develop a community center on the school grounds with facilities for 16 senior citizen residences. The city’s maintenance building will be demolished to make room for that project to be realized. But, SARA’s project has been on hold for almost two years.
Nevertheless, Haynes said, “The SARA project is not dead. We cannot wait until they tell us to get out. Options are few and far between and we need a place to go.”
Haynes said that when he came into office, he hired Dave Lovelace as the new maintenance supervisor. The city had several inoperable pieces of equipment which had been allowed to run down. The decision was made to repair them rather than buy new machinery.
It was costly, Lovelace said, but not as expensive as buying new would have been. All are repaired and in use today, he said.
Having conserved their limited resources by the repairs, the mayor said the city now needs a proper facility to house its machinery and equipment in order to keep things in good operating condition.
“So,” Haynes, asked, “do I want to be in debt for $1.7 million for a new building? No, I don’t want it, but it is necessary to do.”
Bids for the project will soon go out and be opened by April of this year. Haynes said they expect to be in the building by fall.