The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

March 28, 2013

Public excluded from commission’s pool discussion

LEWISBURG — An hour-long closed-door meeting held at the top of Tuesday evening’s regular Greenbrier County Commission session apparently failed to resolve issues surrounding a controversial swimming pool project.

Listed on the session’s agenda as “Executive Session to discuss pool,” the private meeting among the three commissioners and representatives of New River Community and Technical College yielded no public information.

Reasons given for the secrecy ranged from Commissioner Michael McClung’s statement, “We have a pending lawsuit,” to Commissioner Woody Hanna’s assertion that a “business transaction” was under discussion.

The apparent topic of the private discussion was the proposed renovation of an indoor swimming pool in a building on New River’s Greenbrier Valley campus in Lewisburg. Last year the county commission gave the school’s Foundation $1.3 million in hotel/motel tax funds to apply toward the project, but that expenditure is now the focus of a legal challenge.

Following the executive session, the commission proceeded with the rest of the evening’s extensive agenda, concluding with a final item of new business that was listed as “Consider the Contract of Lease between New River Community and Technical College Board of Governors and the County Commission of Greenbrier County containing the proposed Aquatic Center (Pool).”

Upon arriving at that final agenda item, McClung immediately moved to table the issue, but Hanna interjected that the item should be placed on the agenda for the commission’s next meeting, April 9, instead of simply tabling it until an undetermined future date.

Hanna said he agreed that no action should be taken Tuesday, saying he believes, based on the information he received in the executive session, that the commissioners need to confer with their attorney before moving forward.

All three commissioners voted to place the lease issue on the April 9 meeting agenda.

The petition for a writ of mandamus prohibiting the county from using bed taxes to fund the swimming pool project, which was filed initially by four county residents, but was later pared to two, has yet to be resolved.

Special Circuit Judge Charles M. Vickers ruled earlier this month that neither New River’s Board of Governors nor the college’s Foundation would be allowed to intervene in the case.

The Foundation asked Vickers to “alter, amend and reconsider” that decision in a motion filed in Greenbrier Circuit Court March 15. The motion challenges the court’s ruling that the Foundation’s interest in the case is not “direct and substantial.”

Foundation attorney Timothy N. Barber also claims in that motion, “Discussions have been had between counsel for petitioners and respondent relative to settlement of the issues herein. Foundation’s counsel was not involved.”

No further hearings have been set in the mandamus case.

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