White Sulphur prepared for Dandelion Festival, hears citizen concerns

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The White Sulphur Springs City Council meeting on Tuesday, May 13, was heavily attended as multiple residents aired thoughts and concerns on some of the mechanics of the town.

Other items on the agenda included finalizing poll workers for the June 11 election, discussing the fast-approaching Dandelion Festival, and acknowledging several citizens who have gone above and beyond for the city in the last year. An update was also heard on the pool and wellness center by Tom Crabtree, who said that they have received bids for the pool construction that are under budget. He hopes that the project will be completed in “early spring” of next year, if everything goes to plan.

A bid was also awarded to Lynch Construction to pave the access road for the West Virginia Great Barrel Company Facility in Hart’s Run. Coming in at $918,947, it’s less than the only other bid received, which was $1.1 million. The Department of Highways will reimburse the cost of the paving, and will purchase the road further down the line. Once complete, it will be state-maintained, letting the city off the hook for the road’s upkeep.

Councilmember Kathy Glover said that Main Street will be closed for the car show and sock hop at the Dandelion Festival on Friday, May 24. New this year is a softball tournament Saturday, May 25, at 9 a.m. Over Memorial Day weekend there will be live music, plenty of food, kid’s activities, art shows, carriage rides, and much more. Be sure to check online at www.wvdandelionfestival.com for the full schedule of events this year.

In other news, downtown has a prominent new property owner. New York native Charles Hammerman purchased the strip of storefronts next to Pizza Hut, along with several houses around the block. Why? His organization, The Disability Opportunity Fund (DOF), plans to use the space to, “develop it into whatever this community needs.” DOF acts as a financial institution to help fund projects and functions that support those with disabilities. Hammerman said that those struggling with addiction are included in his business model, and an addiction treatment center may be what the future brings for his new sites. However, he insisted that, “We really want to understand what this community needs, and respond appropriately, so whatever that may be. Right now we are out talking to everyone, we are studying things intensely, and there will be month’s of preparation.” In closing, he said, “We really just want to invest in this community.”

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Nancy Marshall, a local business owner, approached the council to clarify the city’s sign ordinance policies and variance procedures. “These are very well done, very detail-oriented,” she said of the ordinances, and questioned why the variance committee appeared to arbitrarily let certain businesses bypass a majority of the sign laws, naming Bella Italy specifically. While their lights and signage were approved through the variance board, the string lights, lights outlining the windows, the painted flag on the face of the building, and more are all in direct violation of the city’s ordinance policies. “A variance is not a free pass from legislation,” she argued. Mayor Bruce Bowling agreed, saying, “You’re right,” and they agreed to look into rectifying the situation.

Marshall’s husband, David Leadman, approached afterward with his own concerns about a pod-producing tree located in front of his business. “What can be done for cleanup?” he asked, looking for clarification as to whether it is his responsibility or the city’s to maintain the foliage. Bowling said the council members will go survey the tree in question and come up with a solution.

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The city acknowledged both Jessie Streck and Steve Luckman for their recent efforts to support White Sulphur. Streck, who isn’t from this area, was honored for his work on restoring several houses after the floods of June 2016. “He rebuilt the mechanical building by the creek, and basically rebuilt Faith Park,” said Bowling. Streck said that while Lewisburg may be “America’s Coolest Small Town,” White Sulphur was “America’s Hardest Working Small Town.”

Luckman was thanked as well for his motivating trash pick-up imitative that cleaned a majority of Dry Creek and other trash-filled areas around town. In one two mile stretch of the creek, over 5,000 pounds of trash was collected. Luckman encourages residents to not litter, and to talk to their children about the importance of caring for the environment.

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In closing, Bowling reminded everyone that, “The grass is growing, please mow it.”

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The next White Sulphur City Council meeting will be Monday, June 10, at 7 p.m. at City Hall.