The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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October 9, 2012

Woman asks Oak Hill mayor to resign from post

An Oak Hill woman says the city’s mayor is passing off his official duties to someone else but still accepting pay for the position, and has called on him to resign.

Mayor Jon Lopez joined the National Guard after being elected to office. Ward II council member Bruce Coleman was appointed in January as acting mayor during Lopez’s absence for one calendar year.

Becky Coleman read a statement to the Oak Hill City Council on Monday. While applauding Lopez’s military service, she called on the council to hold him accountable for his mayoral duties.

“When Mayor Lopez is not doing National Guard business, Bruce is still being called upon to attend the duties as acting mayor because the current mayor is not available,” she told council.

“I question the legality of Bruce serving as acting mayor while the elected mayor is not doing things with the National Guard and in town.”

Becky Coleman, who is Bruce Coleman’s sister-in-law, says Lopez was gone at the end of June when the city needed its elected mayor to meet with the governor and congressional representative to discuss the disaster that hit Fayette County.

“In my opinion, you (Lopez) were the one who was supposed to meet with those gentlemen.”

Council adjourned to an executive session after their regular meeting to discuss the matter.

Lopez did not provide a direct response to Becky Coleman’s statement, but told The Register-Herald that he and the council believe he is fulfilling his mayoral obligations. He says he does not completely agree with her version of the situation but feels she is entitled to her opinion.

The council took no action during their executive session.

- - -

On Monday, council also discussed a financial report for the Oak Leaf Festival, specifically how much vendors are charged for participating.

“I think the fees you charge are too low,” said Ward I council member Fred Dickinson, who has experience in the carnival business. “I think you do an excellent job, but it becomes a business after a while where you make money.’”

He suggested charging a percentage of the vendor’s gross, a per foot fee for the space used, or a higher flat rate.

“I don’t think the Oak Leaf fees are unreasonable,” says Ward I council member Mollie Ray. “I think that’s just our market and who we’re trying to attract.”

Oak Leaf Committee Chair Dianne Janney says she has always held back from raising the fees so that anyone could participate.

About 92 vendors set up at the festival this year, including some school groups that were not charged at all. After this year’s festival, the committee has $1,652 that will roll over to next year’s event.

No action was taken on the matter, though Dickinson says he will meet with the committee to discuss the issue further.

- - -

An ordinance to ban firearms on city property was tabled after questions were raised about whether there might be situations when having guns in such places should be allowed — the Oak Hill Rail Trail, for example.

“I’d want to carry a gun if I walked alone down on the rail trail toward Carlyle,” says Oak Hill Police Chief Mike Whisman. “It’s pretty desolate down there.”

Council member Fred Dickinson says he customarily carries a gun and, “with the way society is today,” if someone were to come to a city council meeting on a shooting spree, he would want to defend himself.

Whisman says he introduced the idea of the ordinance after an incident in city park during which a young person was reported to have firearms. Currently, firearms are only banned in city hall, an ordinance that reportedly originates from the time when a courtroom was in the building.

- - -

The council adopted a policy to establish rates for Geographic Information Systems (GIS) services.

The City of Oak Hill may bill $85 per hour for GIS services with a one-hour minimum charge. Three maps will be supplied with each project with no additional charge if requested. Additional maps up to 11 inches by 17 inches are available for $10 each and larger maps up to 24 inches by 36 inches for $25 each.

GIS Services are available based on the availability of resources to complete the project, compatibility of the city’s GIS capabilities and the discretion of the city manager.

- - -

Council was set to take up the matter of whether to renew a lease on the city’s historic train depot to the White Oak Historical Society, but no representatives from the chapter were present at the meeting.

Council member at large Tom Oxley made a motion, which passed, to re-invite the chapter to attend the November city council meeting, and should they not attend, that the city not renew the lease.

In September 2011, the society came before the council and agreed to submit a progress report by December on what they had accomplished to date, a schedule of things to be done in the future, and a plan for how to accomplish them.

At that time, Oxley expressed concern that there were no viable long-term plans for the use of the tracks in front of the building and that the tracks create a maintenance problem for mowing, as well as some other concerns.

“Should we not renew, where do we go from there?” he asked fellow council members Monday. Molly Ray suggested opening it up for business plans.

— E-mail: cmoore@register-herald.com

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