The Alderson Town Council and Mayor Travis Copenhaver spoke on public comment, grants, the water project, schools, and more during the Thursday, January 13, meeting.
Of the ample items considered in the two-and-a-half hour long meeting, council heard updates on:
– The status of funding for several projects is currently in the air. Mayor Travis Copenhaver noted “the Infrastructure, Jobs, and Development Council (IJDC) did not approve the expenditure of the $54,776.57 [that] was part of the original loan for the sewer project. … Based on the engineers understanding project specifications, they denied that using the $54,000 for that replacement pump. You all also remember that we replaced one of the necessary pumps as a result of the emergency on that morning. … The next most important part of this is that [under] the opinion of [Attorney] John Stump within the applicable rules of the ARPA funds, he felt that what we were doing on Spring Street is what I’ve discussed with Infrastructure Development Council Executive Director Wayne Morgan … did fall within the guidelines using the ARPA funds. … [The ARPA] funds will pay [for] the project on Spring Street, … not IJDC. IJDC subsequently closed out the account.”
– The ongoing water project, moving the water uptake out of the flood plain, received an update. Zach Gain from Thrasher Engineering explained “we’re currently waiting on the West Virginia Community Block Grant program to make a decision on a $2 million grant that we applied for. Those decisions are never really a set time on those, but we’re probably still a few months away from that. That gives us the opportunity to go back to the [IJDC], revise the plan, and put together a design for that time to do big things. … I’m sure the mayor’s made everyone well aware that in the congressional earmarks, there’s $2 million set aside in the budget for that. In there, it’s just a matter of getting the half representatives in the Senate to approve.” Council voted to approve “evidentiary materials” for the project.
– Greenbrier County Board of Education member Rick Parker offered an update on the new Alderson Elementary School building. He explained “you’re going to be approached by Thrasher somebody about a change of [traffic] pattern … on Virginia Street [and Lee Street]” to be considered at the next Town Council meeting.
– Parker also noted a “problem with everybody coming into agreement on the exchange of deeds,” which is significant due to continuing price increases worth “not tens of thousands, but hundreds of thousands of dollars” as more potential issues with the building are found. Copenhaver noted “it was supposed to be done,” and said he would follow up with Parker.
– Expected Mayoral Candidate Ryan Keesee approached the Town Council to expand on a question raised when he spoke in the December meeting. Keesee highlighted Alderson’s lack of town charter and “strongly” suggested formally creating a charter. In addition, Keesee has been critical of the town’s lack of easily accessible complete Town Code. In response, Copenhaver stated “when I started 18 years ago, our municipal code was in four separate spiral bound books. Of those spiral bound books, no one was the same. The previous administration cleaned out a closet … [and] some things that were very important ended up in a dumpster and we didn’t know they were gone. … About seven or eight years ago, a company came and quoted us $10,000 to actually go in and codify our ordinances … For one person to sit down and do that is a major job. … We’ve never had the means to do that. … Are they perfect? Absolutely not.”
– Keese also noted he has “been investigating the ethics of a sitting Mayor sitting as our judicial officer. I have called the Municipal League, the judicial Ethics Commission and the Ethics Commission in Charleston. Ultimately, they make a decision [on] ethical decisions [for] city employees. … Unfortunately, a judicial office is different ethically from any other office that one may hold … in government and there is not a standing legal opinion from the Legal Ethics Commission. … I’m going to ask them for a formal opinion and I will refer to it in a meeting.”
– Ongoing discussions around the potential sale of the building next to Town Hall to Joe Alderson are delayed, with the ordinance allowing council to make the sale currently under revision. The ordinance is expected to be considered next month.
– Bids for a grass mowing contract are welcome after the council voted to look for a contractor.
– Council approved changes to the Town Code to reflect changes made by the West Virginia Legislature.
– After the approval of Homerule status, the council voted to remove a balanced spread of national party affiliation as a requirement for local poll volunteers.
– Richard “Rick” Honaker was approved to serve on the Parks and Recreation board.
– Alderson Grant Writer Margaret Hambrick asked what the town could need as grant projects this year. The upcoming applications include masonry repair for the Renaissance building, equipment for the Fire Department, a potential community garden, additional lighting in town, and more.
– Copenhaver clarified his December statement on public comment on his criminal charges during council meetings, saying “I said that I would love to see that we not hear anything else and that … we do have the right to limit the public comment.” Public comment at council meetings will continue as before.
The Alderson Town Council regularly meetings on the second Thursday of the month at 7:30 p.m. in Town Hall.