By Tina Alvey
A controversial swimming pool project on the Greenbrier Valley campus came under discussion in executive session Wednesday during a special meeting of the New River Community and Technical College’s board of governors.
According to a college spokeswoman, the board conferred with legal counsel in the closed session, which was conducted in the president’s office in Beckley.
The only decision made in connection with the pool issue was to continue the discussion at the board’s next regular meeting, set for Aug. 1 at 6 p.m. in Hollowell Auditorium on the Greenbrier Valley campus in Lewisburg.
Thanks to a lease agreement with the Greenbrier County Commission, which agreed to pay for the restoration and operation of the long-disused swimming pool, New River found itself plunged into the middle of a legal issue when a circuit judge ruled the county’s funding decisions violated state law.
The commission had allocated $1.3 million in hotel/motel tax revenue for the pool’s rehab and sent the funds to the college’s foundation in December.
That allocation immediately faced a legal challenge, however, as a group of local residents filed a petition for a writ of mandamus, saying bed taxes cannot legally be used to fund a construction project on property not owned by either the county or a municipality.
The judge assigned to hear the case agreed with the petitioners and late last month issued a scathing ruling that declared the bed tax expenditure illegal.
In the wake of that ruling, the county commission voted last week to unilaterally cancel the lease with the college and to demand the foundation return the $1.3 million.
Contacted following the commission’s July 3 action, New River President Dr. L. Marshall Washington told The Register-Herald the college had already spent money on the renovation project but declined to specify if that money came from the county’s $1.3 million allocation.
Renovations on the Student Activities Center, which will also house classrooms, a cafe, art studios and offices, are more than halfway complete, Washington said. The facility is scheduled to open in January.
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