By Sarah Richardson
The White Sulphur Springs City Council met in regular session on Monday, Mar. 14. Agenda items included discussing the new billboard, hearing an update regarding the budget, and entering a memorandum of understanding (MOU) regarding ongoing opioid litigation.
City Attorney Fred Giggenbach gave an update on the opioid lawsuit of which the City of White Sulphur is participating in. “There has been a potential settlement reached, it’s going to go through the Attorney General’s office, and they are going to have a trust fund set up. About 75 percent of the money will be in that fund, and about a quarter will go directly to the cities and counties involved in this litigation.”
He explained that towns involved in the litigation, such as White Sulphur, will be receiving 95 percent of the funds. Those not involved will receive ten percent. Giggenbach recommended the city sign the MOU for the agreement.
“I can’t talk numbers yet about how much you will receive, but you’ll get the initial quarter, 25 percent, and then you’ll have to apply for the rest. This will be money used for abatement, education, and reduction of the opioid problem.”
According to a press release from Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s office, they have “reached an agreement with representatives of the state’s cities and counties over how to allocate any settlement funds or judgments received in their various suits against opioid makers, distributors and other parties in the pharmaceutical supply chain. The agreement, called a memorandum of understanding (MOU), calls for the creation of a private, nonstock, nonprofit foundation for the purposes of distributing settlement or judgment funds awarded from litigation for abatement purposes. The agreement is required by the West Virginia Mass Litigation Panel to become eligible for any opioid settlement monies obtained pursuant to court orders.”
The council voted unanimously to sign the MOU.
Council also heard a presentation by members of the DARRE downtown revitalization program, which is a part of the West Virginia Community Development Hub and Mon Forest Towns Partnership.
“The Appalachian Regional Commission recently announced the 2021 POWER grant awards, including Downtown Appalachia: Revitalizing Recreational Economies (DARRE), a partnership between the WV Northern Brownfields Assistance Center, Woodlands Development & Lending, Partner Community Capital (formerly Natural Capital Investment), and the WV Community Development Hub,” states a release from The Hub.
“DARRE brings together numerous partners throughout the state and region to undertake a deliberate and concentrated approach to supporting the development and revitalization of historic downtowns. Downtown areas in these communities have rich histories and characters. However, they are all in very different states of activity. Additionally, each downtown building is unique and the path to redevelopment will not look the same for any two buildings. DARRE will bring effective inventories, tools, partners, and prioritization to these communities over the next three years, laying the groundwork for several completed projects in the long-term – projects that will serve as catalysts to holistic and sustainable downtown redevelopment. Connecting entrepreneurs with available downtown spaces and potential developers with building projects will bring visible impact to downtown environments. The partners working on the DARRE program will support the participating towns with the kinds of technical assistance that makes their downtowns ‘development ready.’”
Overall, the DARRE program will allow organizations to continue working together and build new partnerships, each in their area of expertise and strength to bring maximum benefit to the communities and achieve the best results.
“They have a lot of tools in their toolbox,” said Mayor Bowling. The three-year program will run through Sept. 2024, and they hope to be able to actively respond to opportunities by this spring and summer.
In other news:
- Councilmember G.P. Parker said there is “no good news here” when giving his finance and budget update to council. “We are in the red in all three funds: the general fund is negative $121,001.07, water we are in the negative $18,413.23, sewer fund is negative at $76,852.27. I would recommend a no-purchase for all of our city managers, unless it’s an emergency of course, and it has to go through the Mayor and financial secretary.” Mayor Bruce Bowling said they have already implemented this.
- The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) committee recommended an expenditure of up to $5,000 for the installation of commercial, fire-rated, ADA door opener on the front doors of City Hall. They also recommended up to $2,550 be used for additional road signs to help direct traffic. Council approved both recommendations.
- Councilmember Mark Gillespie said the billboard promoting White Sulphur on I-64 East is being worked on as they finish updating the graphics needed for the sign. “It’s probably going to be another 30 days,” he reports. The sign will be up for two years.
- Mayor Bowling asked the police and fire chief to stop and investigate if a resident is burning items within city limits. “If someone burns within city limits, I’d like them to stop and see if they’ve got a permit,” said Bowling. “If they don’t, warn them first and the second time, that’s fine, but this is ridiculous.”
- Council approved $1,000 for the White Sulphur Springs Greenbrier Girls Softball League.
- Maintenance Supervisor David Lovelace said that crewmembers from the Callaghan sawmill came to White Sulphur to clean up a hillside in town for Roads of Honor. They also cleaned the hillside last year. He also reports that the city’s annual Spring Cleanup will begin on Mar. 21 and run through Apr. 1. Those interested in participating in the cleanup must call City Hall at 304-536-1454 to be added to the list. Cleanup items will be picked up on your regularly scheduled trash pickup day. No tires of any kind will be accepted. Batteries will be accepted. Cans of paint will be accepted if they have been mixed into a solid form using sawdust or cat litter.
- Councilmember Chris Hanna reported that the Planning and Zoning updates are nearing completion, saying that the draft copy should be done “any day. All the hard work is done.”