By Dr. L. Marshall Washington
In a letter to the editor in the Mountain Messenger on March 29, Christine Atwell suggested a solution to the ongoing controversy surrounding the pool in the Arts and Science Building located on the Greenbrier Valley Campus of New River Community and Technical College in Lewisburg.
She stated that since the reason the allocation of hotel/motel tax for the project was deemed illegal because the county did not own the building, the College should consider donating or selling the property where the pool is located.
In fact, what has been largely overlooked in the ongoing coverage of the issue is that the College did exactly as Ms. Atwell suggested as soon as the court's decision was known. New River offered to issue a “condo deed” giving ownership of the pool portion of the building to the county so that the project could proceed as planned.
However, the commission did not accept the offer of a “condo deed.”
The refusal of the commission to pursue this resolution of the problem, along with the fact that they did not include any operating funds for the pool in their 2013-14 budget (prepared before the original suit was filed), indicate that the commission is not acting in good faith on the agreement made with the College.
This project has the potential to be a model partnership benefiting people across Greenbrier County.
Another fact often overlooked is that the county commission came to the College and asked for the pool. In the interest of being a good neighbor, we agreed to their request even though that area could have provided much-needed space for our students and faculty.
The renovations of the portion of the building to be occupied by the College are now almost complete, and they are spectacular. However, the pool remains untouched except for infrastructure upgrades that were made in anticipation of the pool being renovated and used.
The College has a beautiful $3 million building that cannot be occupied until funds are acquired to bring the pool portion of the building up to code. With ongoing budget cuts, those funds are going to be hard to come by.
New River Community and Technical College has incurred expenses for architects, engineers and infrastructure upgrades for the commission’s part of the project. Our attempts to negotiate a fair reimbursement for these expenses have been repeatedly rebuffed by the county commission, so now both the New River CTC Foundation and the commission (and therefore the citizens of Greenbrier County) are incurring legal fees so the matter can be resolved in court.
There is a glimmer of hope on the horizon, as the commission has agreed to meet to resolve the issue through mediation rather than continuing forward with lengthy and costly court proceedings.
We have every hope that the mediation session scheduled for May 5 will bring a resolution. Even so, it is tragic that a project that began with such excitement and promise has produced such dissension.
— Dr. L. Marshall Washington is president of New River Community and Technical College.