The Times West Virginian

Local News

April 29, 2014

White Hall pavilion project at crossroads

Business association, council are at odds over who pays for what

WHITE HALL — Concerns were raised surrounding the idea of turning a pavilion into a building for the White Hall Police Department.

In January, council approved a motion to allow Police Chief Geno Guerrieri to move forward in the process of transforming the pavilion that sits outside the town’s municipal building into the department’s new police station.

Guerrieri told council he was working with the White Hall Business Association (WHBA) on possible plans for the building. He said there are businesses in the town that will provide materials to enclose the pavilion and turn it into a useable building for the police department.

At that time, Guerrieri estimated the cost of the project to be $20,000 for materials, but with the donated materials the town may not have to pay anything. After Monday’s meeting, the total cost of the project is undetermined.

During Monday’s meeting, concerns about the project were brought up by council and discussed with the WHBA. Some council members were under the impression that the WHBA would take over the project but later found out that’s not the case.

To start the conversation, Mayor Guy Ward read a letter from Jonathan Board, president of WHBA, that was sent to council earlier this month.

In the letter to council, Board states “as previously indicated, the White Hall Business Association among others, is interesting in assisting the project.” Board writes that because the WHBA is a non-profit association, the association is unable to offer warranty on or for the building itself and will not maintain the building once the project is completed.

Board told council Monday that the WHBA saw an opportunity to help with the project and wanted to pursue it with a fundraising campaign. He said there are plans for a golf tournament and internal drives.

Board said as a 501(c)(6) organization, the WHBA cannot take over the project or tell the town what to do.

“All we can do is give you the money to accomplish those things,” he told council. “Individuals can certainly volunteer and we’ll probably have members from our association volunteer to assist on the physical labor side, but we as an association can’t do that. We would be exposed to a lot of liability concerns.”

Councilman Gary Wilson was the first to show concerns about the project.

Wilson said when the project was talked about in January, it was his understanding that the businesses were going to donate the money. He asked Board, “What happens if you don’t raise enough money to cover what the expenses are over there?”

Board responded saying that they would do what they can but what happens to the money is up to the town.

Wilson said that council was told verbally that they would donate the money to the project of turning the pavilion into a building.

Board said the association’s only official word on the project was the letter that was sent to council and read during the meeting on Monday.

“As an association, we’ve never guaranteed that we would raise all the money,” Board said. “We’re certainly optimistic and we certainly want to.”

Wilson said that he was under the impression that the businesses were going to fund the construction of the pavilion. He said that if the businesses come up short, that the town would put money into it.

“Now you’re going to have a fundraiser,” Wilson told Board. “If you don’t come up with the money needed, then we’re in limbo again. Here’s how I look at it. I don’t want to have anything to do with the fundraiser. I wash my hands of it because we were told one thing and that’s not coming to pass.”

In January, council approved a motion to give a maximum of $7,500 to the project if it is needed.

Councilwoman Zella Keener said when the project was first presented, she assumed that the town would be in the background while the WHBA took the project over.

“They were going to take it over, volunteer and do it,” she said. “What you’re saying tonight is totally different.”

Board said that legally the WHBA can only donate money.

Councilman Chad Corley agreed with Wilson and was under the impression that the businesses wanted to pay their “fair share.”

“Now we’re doing fundraising,” Corley said. “The Town of White Hall could have done fundraising.”

Interrupting Corley, Kevin Greene, with the WHBA, asked Corley if anyone from the Town of White Hall did do some kind of fundraising.

“It’s hard for me to sit here and listen to people complain,” Greene said. “We should be able to work together as businesses, as residents and as council members, and get something accomplished for our guys who are here to protect our community.”

Corley said that the businesses came to the town and said that they wanted to work with them.

“Doing a fundraiser, in my opinion for what it’s worth, is not doing your fair share,” Corley said. “To be fair to you, until we find out what this is going to cost ... really the conversation is null.”

Keener told the WHBA another concern of hers was that once the building is complete, it’s a whole new piece of property that the town will have to pay for utilities and to maintain. She said that she would “hate as a town council person” to have the businesses be generous in helping construct a building, then “have to turn around and raise taxes to support it.”

“I really appreciate what the businesses want to do. I just don’t want us to get so big that we’re coming back and being a burden on (businesses),” she said. “Once we have a whole new building, that’s another set of expenses.”

There was discussion about who is responsible for getting the estimated cost of the project. Guerrieri said that he will work on getting a dollar figure on the total cost of the project.

At the end of the meeting, Greene apologized to Corley and council for interrupting during the discussion.

Email Emily Gallagher at egallagher@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @EGallagherTWV.

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