Counsel could have avoided pool problem
Several years ago, the New River Community and Technical College Board of Governors was approached by the Greenbrier County Commission to allow them to renovate and operate the long-unused indoor swimming pool on the Greenbrier Valley Campus. Only after presentations by a former senator, the president of the county commission and the former director of the local YMCA did our board agree to a lease for $1 per year to the commission.
New River proceeded with renovations to the Arts and Science portion of the building, which is scheduled for completion by the beginning of 2014. Unfortunately, the college will not be permitted to occupy any part of the building because the pool portion has not been brought up to code.
A great deal of the county commission’s responsibility for the renovation of the pool area was for heating, electrical upgrades, sprinkler and alarm systems and other infrastructure work. Because nearly half of the entire building is not up to code, a permit cannot be obtained for the college to use even the portion of the building that has been renovated.
In March 2013, the Greenbrier County Recreation director presented a proposed operating budget for the pool. The county commission did not include that budget amount in their 2013-2014 operating budget. Did that mean they had no intention of honoring the lease?
Later in 2013, the college offered to issue a “condo deed” for the pool portion of the building, meaning the county commission could use hotel-motel tax for the renovation, since county commission would then own their part of the building. The commission rejected the offer of the deed. Did that mean the county commission had no intention of fulfilling their commitment to renovate and operate the pool?
There has been discussion about the fact that the college attorneys prepared the lease. Obviously, the owner of a property is responsible for preparing a lease document, not the tenant. The lease was submitted to the Greenbrier County prosecuting attorney, who issued an opinion letter validating the content of the lease.
I believe the county commission should have been asked by their counsel if they had funds to honor the terms of the lease, and the source of those funds. If it had been revealed that the hotel-motel (arts and recreation) funds were the source, the commission should have been advised then that the funds could not be used on a building not owned by the county.
Had the commission been made aware that the funds could not be used, the college would have changed the scope of the work on the building and the pool area could have been repurposed for much-needed classroom space. The lawsuit pursued by concerned citizens would have then been avoided, saving the county $22,000 in legal fees and potential damage to the reputations of not only New River but the county commission.
David L. Nalker
Chair, New River Community and Technical College Board of Governors