At the regular meeting of White Sulphur Springs City Council Monday night, Spa City resident Chris White approached officials with his hands full of drawings and, he said, a roster full of donors ready to help rebuild Memorial Park.
“Let’s tear it down and build it right,” White told council as he and his teenage daughter passed out copies of his drawings of a refreshed layout for the municipal ballpark that was destroyed by the June flood that bent bleachers into unusable garbage, washed away fields and equipment and marred the soil with sewage and bacteria. “Help me open a fundraising account.”
“White Sulphur is poor,” White continued. “Eighty percent of White Sulphur kids don’t get to go on vacation. Let’s give them somewhere nice to go.”
Quoting a price of $688,222, White declared that he will have no problem raising the money, but he wants, he said, to ensure repairs will be done properly and according to his plan. White’s park plan includes two softball/baseball/soccer fields and a re-configured football field. The tennis courts, funded through grants, must be left as is.
White told council he believes he can raise the needed funds within 30 days.
“I can get the money,” White said. “But, I don’t want a Band Aid on the park. I’ll have (the money) by next the next meeting, but then you all will have to turn me loose on this project.”
Council appeared supportive of White’s plans. Councilman G.P. Parker asked White to arrange a meeting with White’s potential donors, and recommended a bank account be opened as a Recreational Improvement Fund.
Councilperson and Parks and Recreation committee head Audrey Van Buren told White she fully supported his efforts, while also questioning whether he’d actually be able to raise such a large sum of money, an endeavor Van Buren has undertaken time and again with little success.
“I’ve been to the county. I’ve been to the state and I’ve been national,” Van Buren said about her own attempts to harness funds to repair Memorial Park. “I keep getting promises, but I have yet to see (any money).”
Despite her skepticism, Van Buren gave White her blessing to for White to move forward with fundraising (“Just give me a walking track,” she said), promising to hold a special meeting of city council to approve construction as soon as he got the money in order.
In other business:
• Councilman Mark Gillespie announced that a Lewisburg restaurant is looking into relocating to White Sulphur Springs.
• Gillespie also warned council that with the massive rebuilding efforts post-flood, it is crucial that zoning laws and building codes be enforced.
• White Sulphur Main Street organizer Pat Harper reported that the annual Wild Game Cook-Off is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 1, in Butler Hall of the St. Thomas Episcopal Church on Main Street. Harper showed council members the cook-off’s T-shirt design for 2016, a charming graphic of the West Virginia map, proceeds of which will be given to flood-damaged White Sulphur businesses.