By Peggy Mackenzie
The White Sulphur Springs city council voted to approve a contract for the scaled-back redesign of a new maintenance building Monday night. The contract agreement with Thrasher Engineering will be signed when finalized and soon be let out for bid, Mayor Lloyd Haynes said.
Stating he was compelled to speak on the topic, council member G.P. Parker said, “We are ill-advised to take on $1.7 million in debt for the construction of the maintenance building project.”
Currently, he went on, the city has a deficit of $19,000. Over the past fiscal year, the debt has run to $100,000. The monthly payments of $7,000 for the construction project, he said, will add to that debt.
Parker said the city has three account funds – water, sewer and the general fund – which must be kept separate, but at the end of the fiscal year the general fund owed the other two funds a total of $384,454. He readily acknowledged that the maintenance building is needed; however, in his opinion, the timing of the project will bring an added burden for the city to take on.
“We need a plan to repay the water and sewer accounts,” Parker said. “Even though, overall, the cash flow is in the black, we have been continually borrowing from the other funds.”
Parker’s frankness opened the flood gates as one council member after another aired their concerns.
A frustrated Audrey VanBuren said she wants better things for the Spa City. “We haven’t done one positive thing for the city,” she exclaimed. “I seriously have considered resigning from my position on the council.”
Council member Eddie Coleman voiced his concerns for delaying the maintenance build project. “Next year,” he said, “it’ll cost more.”
Lynn Swann agreed better decisions were needed for the city. She asked if a time line was forcing the issue to vacate the current cite for the maintenance department, which is on the old White Sulphur High School property, now under management of nonprofit Southeastern Appalachian Rural Alliance (SARA).
Haynes said the time line for vacating their current location was “not firm,” because, according to SARA executive director Susan Rosshirt, SARA has had plans for a housing project, which will necessitate the demolition of the existing maintenance building. However, that project has been stalled for more than a year.
Council member Bruce Bowling brought the group back to the immediate issue at hand, the motion on the table to approve the signing of a final contract with Thrasher Engineering. The motion passed five to one, with Parker opposing. Haynes said the new maintenance building will located near the water plant and should be completed by the end of the year.
In other business:
• Police Chief John Pauley reported on the activity during the month of December, listing a number of vehicle break-ins were reported, including a couple of break-ins at businesses. He asked that should citizens find evidence that their car, business, or home has been broken into, to be sure and report the incident to the police no matter how minimal the theft or damage.
• The mayor announced that the WSS City Hall will be closed on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Monday, Jan. 19, and that garbage pickup for that day will be on Tuesday, Jan. 20.