This week’s special meeting began with Robert Gilcrist being appointed to the Canaan Valley Public Service District, with an all-in favor vote. Laurel Inglese was hired for a part time position with the Tucker County Animal Shelter, also an all-in favor vote. Lowell Moore mentioned that this was the first time hiring for the shelter in over a year.
Next on the agenda was the Tucker County Parks and Recreation Board. Mike Rosenau began, “Thank you all for coming out. Thank you that we understand what is going on in our county. One thing that may take some questions away, I have heard rumors that we are trying to take over the golf course, which we do not want to do. The only thing we want to be sure of is that the bylaws that you have in place are legal. That’s why we invited our two attorneys here this evening.”
Mike Betler spoke first on behalf of the Parks and Rec Board, thanking them for the opportunity to address them. He stated that the board came with the intention to dispel rumors and give a clear overview of what they do and how they budget for it. “I am a little disappointed in the fact that we couldn’t get together at one of our meetings if you had concerns.” Rosenau stated that Freddie Davis had been there. Betler agreed, however felt the issues were not being conveyed in a clear manner.
Betler then gave some background information on how and why the board was formed. “The board was established around 1990, and was deeded a property that was formally known as The County Farm, which included the golf course and Camp Kidd. The purpose of the board, as it was established, was to improve, develop, administer, operate, and maintain Camp Kidd, Holly Meadows Golf Course, and to promote and provide educational and cultural social development for the people of Tucker County.” He went on to explain how the grounds are used and by whom. This list includes but is not limited to: Tucker County High Cross Country, high school and middle school softball, little league baseball/softball, Tucker County 4H, TC fair Association including their equestrian group, and rental opportunities. BMR used the facilities for three years but outgrew the grounds.
He then stated, “We have never received any type of funding from Tucker County Board ofEducation, so its basically free grass. We maintain the fields, maintain the operations, put a lot of effort and money from people on the board.” Rosenau interjected, “That comes from tax dollars also. That comes from hotel/motel tax.” Betler stated that the board was budgeted $120,000 per year, and that money did cover a portion of what was needed to maintain the grounds. The main source of revenue for the board is Holly Meadows Golf Course. This includes memberships and green fees for playing the course.
To dispel rumors that the board has not invested back into the property, Betler described the upgrades that the board has provided. He also stated that the board considers which portions grounds are used most frequent. This included a complete replacement of the first section of the livestock barn, replaced and repaired the supports in the second section of the barn, and upgraded all the electric in the barn bringing it up to code. The roofing over Camp Kidd, the concession stand, and the rental house were all replaced. With the help of the previous commission, a new multipurpose building that features batting cages was also constructed, as well as all new electric on the ball field side of the park. The clubhouse was also upgraded; however, most of the interior upgrades were made possible by donations of supplies and labor. Rosenau then asked, “Mike, whatever happened to the multipurpose room they were going to do upstairs?” Betler, “Well, there was some discussion on it, but it has never went beyond drafting.” Tom Gutshall added, “There is a lot of work to do up there.”
Moving forward, Betler assured that the efforts were continuous, “The next focus is going to be the main 4H building. It does have a lot of upgrades it needs. We think we have a floor issue. We may need to get underneath there and get supports. It needs electrical upgrades and plumbing.” The board has purchased all new kitchen appliances, including a walk-in cooler for the 4H building.
Freddie Davis raised concerns over the board not providing opportunities elsewhere in the county, particularly on the mountain.
“One question I do have Mike, when you were telling how the park board, what it does, but when you say the Tucker County Park and Recreations, is that how it’s…”
Betler, “That is just the name given to it by the commission when they set it up.” Rosenau stated, “That’s state Code.”
Betler, “It was only designed for the oversight over that property down there. Oversight and maintenance of that property.” He then acknowledged that there have been many questions over tax dollars only going toward that property and not other parts of the county. There has since been a grant system put into place to help other areas in Tucker County.
Davis, “I was asked today about doing a music festival in Davis. Why doesn’t the Tucker County Park and Rec come up here and help do these concerts and stuff. I said good question, I’ll ask. So, does the park board help set up festivals or programs up on the mountain. My true answer was I don’t know.”
Rosenau asked Savanah Wilkins to give some clarity. Wilkins, “I think it could be cleared up, so in the bylaws it does say the purpose of the commission is to establish, improve, develop and maintain Holly Meadows Golf Course, and then it says and to promote educational, social, and cultural development for the people of Tucker County. So, I guess you could make the argument that the enrichment in the other areas would be covered. And then when you look at the state code, there is under the code what Parks and Rec can do, which covers other parts of the county. I think it could’ve been worded a little bit better and clearer if it were just for that facility.”
Davis, “I think that’s where a lot of people gets confused if you’re saying it was designed for just down there and nothing to do with, well, it could even be Parsons, Hendricks and Hambleton too then. But it was done for the County farm only, is that what you are saying? Betler, “That’s what I interpreted that way it was set up.”
I then asked if there were any other county ran parks within the county, to which the answer was no. Davis then brought up Flanagan Hill. Davis,” We own Flanagan Hill, but it is leased.” Moore elaborated, “Flanagan Hill is an old school property, that is owned by the county commission, but they would give a sixty-year lease, six ten-year leases, they’ve got about twenty left. They operate that, but they are eligible for this Park and Rec money, just like anybody else. And I would kind of like to head maybe the same direction with the golf course and down there. Still eligible for the same money, but the county commission would have ownership of it. Just like up there, we own it, but they’ve got a lease on it.”
Betler again stated that he interpreted that the board was for Camp Kidd only, to which Rosenau and Wilkins stated that it was not. Betler, “Which is why we ended up with the grant program, but the main mission he would describe is Camp Kidd, the 4H camp and the golf course.” Wilkins, “Which definitely is the focus of the bylaws, it is, but like I said, there is that line in there that says and to promote and provide educational, social, cultural development, so I think that that leads for any other areas.” Debbie Calhoun entered the conversation stating that she believes that the board does provide cultural and educational programs at the facilities located at Camp Kidd. Wilkins again stated that the wording could have been written differently for better clarification. Davis asked about CVB, and if they used the facilities for such programs. Calhoun, “I know CVB has gotten some grants from us, but I don’t know that they brought anyone down.” Wilkins, “But I will say just as an aside, the WV state code gives the county authority to an act of Parks and Rec commission for the purpose of establishing, improving, developing, administering, operating and maintaining county public parks, a public park recreation system, and recreational facilities.” Concluding that when the code was enacted, Camp Kidd was the focus, but the code was to cover all public parks.
Rosenau reaffirmed that the title given to the board was done so to follow state code. He also stated that the 174 acres at Camp Kidd is owned by the park board, not the commission, therein if the commission found monies for updating the property, the park board would have to make the decision rather than the commission. Betler, “It’s still county land in the end, you’re still improving your facilities. Its just the ways and means to get to that point.” Rosenau,” The thing is, when you sold the timber down there, you didn’t have to come to the commission, you guys just sold the timber.” Betler assured that there was a member on the board that approved the timbering of the property. Rosenau reminded them that there did not have to be a vote. Betler agreed, due to the way the board was setup, but was under the impression that there was a clear line of communication with the commission. When asked where the timber money went, it was stated that $50,000 went into the general fund and was not designated for any specific project.
Debbie Calhoun went over the financial state of the board. “When you see this, when you look at these figures, it comes to light that we cannot exist on $120,000 a year. We have in our assets, today, this day, $98,713.09. Payroll and benefits average around $90,311, utilities run $27,366. This is for the whole camp.” There is currently one full time and three part time employees. When asked if the golf course could run as a stand-alone business, the board said it could not. “There is no golf course that could run as a stand-alone business without some sort of help,” Calhoun said. The board also stated that $24,000 went back into the community through grants.
Issues with the 4H building, sewage and concession stand were addressed. When the camp was able to get city water, it was not plumbed properly, and with an influx of people using the system, not allowing enough time for toilets to refill also causes issues. The 4H building is showing signs of support problems within the floors and need electrical upgrades. There have been donation offers to upgrade the concession stand. While electric in the barn is up to code, it could use additional circuits, to ensure the electric works efficiently for specific needs.
The commission then proposed that they take ownership of the 4H camp side, leaving the golf course and the ball fields under the current ownership. Moore, “If we owned it, we could fund a lot of things down there that we can’t now.” The commission is restricted in the way they can allot funding to the park since the park board owns the land, not the county. When the board members were asked if they had ever pursued any grants on their own, they said they were not aware that they could apply for grants. Wilkins confirmed that the board can write their own grants. The commission reassured the board that they were not trying to take over the entire park but are trying to find the best way to move forward that best benefits the people of Tucker County. Mary Sagace asked, “If we needed $40,000 for electric, is there funding from the commission beyond the $120,00?” Davis answered, “You can put a request in like everyone else and if we have it, we could help out.” Moore added,” We are trying to figure out some way to help you, not hurt you. We want better funding for the board.”
Per state code there are to be eleven members, no more no less, and to serve on a parks and rec board, a member must live in, and own land in the county they serve. Concern was raised by board members over finding eleven people that would serve on the board. Calhoun mentioned that she has asked specific people to serve, but the commission will not appoint anyone until they feel they are moving forward in a legal manner. When asked if Calhoun has ever publicly sought out members, she stated that she had not.
Wilkins attended a board meeting to discuss bylaws and membership. “This is something we are trying to do with every board in the county. Making sure we have copies of everyone’s bylaws and making sure everyone is following them,” Wilkins states. According to the bylaws as written, board members are only able to serve two consecutive terms, each term being three years. Several members of the park board are outside of term limits. Board members may continue to serve on an expired term until new appointments have been made. The current members could continue to serve even after new appointees; however, they would need to sit out a term and be reappointed. Both Wilkins and Sagace contacted the state ethics board regarding changing the bylaws so that the current members could continue to serve. Wilkins suggested that it could be unethical for current board members to change bylaws, due to potential personal gain. Sagace disagreed and interpreted her call to the ethics board differently because they are not in paid positions. This question of ethics is still unanswered. Both parties plan to call the ethics board and ask in a more specific manner, and another meeting will be held for clarification before moving forward.