The swearing-in of town officers, the building next to Town Hall, and more were considered by the Alderson Town Council during their Thursday, July 8 meeting.
In the election held earlier this year, each of the current councilmembers ran unopposed, the town keeping its current leadership. Mayor Travis Copenhaver swore council back in.
“In front of you, you all have your oaths of office as well,” said Copenhaver. “They are all exactly the same. If you’ll raise your right hand.”
Each of the councilmembers raised their hand.
“Do you solemnly swear to uphold the oath of office, for the counties of Monroe and Greenbrier, town of Alderson, to execute the ordinances and code of the town, and you will faithfully perform those duties of office and continuous therein, to the best of your skill and judgment, so help you God.”
“I do,” said the council members.
Another expected to be sworn in was Frankie Jones as fire chief. Jones was approved with a unanimous vote from the Fire Department and Town Council approved his appointment. However, he was not able to be sworn in during the council meeting.
“I did not notify Frankie to be here, I kind of assumed he knew that the first meeting of council and I didn’t tell him to come,” Copenhaver said. “I have his oath of office in front of me, if council wants to affirm the fire department’s vote, then I will swear him in, in his driveway, one morning when I see him. We can do the oath later, that doesn’t have to be here.”
The locked building next to Town Hall will remain for now, pending Town Council and Joe Alderson’s ongoing conversations.
Last year the building was scheduled to be torn down for free by the National Guard. However, a proposal from Joe and Sarah Alderson to preserve the building got it pulled from the demolition list.
“The city bought the property and the plans then were to rehab the building for a police department,” Copenhaver explained. “We found out then that grant funding was not available to rehab that building. Then the asbestos came into play. There was a plan at one point to tear it down and seek USDA funding for the building of a modern police department. That went by the wayside. When we had the opportunity to tear it down and not cost us anything. That brings us to where we are right now. Council voted to stop the process of tearing it down a year ago based on your plan.”
Town Council gave Alderson a year to work on the project, which included rehabilitating the building and possibly moving it. Alderson explained roof repairs are in the works, but COVID-19 and other troubles have complicated the timeline of the repairs. In addition, lack of grant funding has made it difficult to continue working on the building without him putting funds directly into the project, something he doesn’t want to do without owning the structure.
“My question, Joe, is what’s your main intent? What are you trying to see as a result of this project?” Copenhaver asked.
“I want to make it a viable business location,” Alderson said.
“So if you don’t own the building, then you don’t intend to do that, is that fair?”
“Then I would not be putting my own money into it. I could help with trying to obtain funds for [that] but the plan I have so far is based on my own personal funding.”
If the town decides to sell the building, it would go through a bidding process. However, if the town is able to successfully enroll in the West Virginia Municipal Home Rule Program, something the town is currently attempting, it would also allow for a direct sale of property for fair market value. The town could demolish the building or rehabilitate it with its own funds, the funds collected from rent going into the town’s budget.
The issue will be considered once again next month after Councilmember Doris Kasley has more time to look into the city’s options.
Copenhaver also noted the building should not be entered due to asbestos.
“The building has to be [sectioned] back off with tape,” Copenhaver said. “It has to be … wrapped with that tape that says it’s got asbestos because that’s a violation. … They also have to make sure the windows that are not covered, stay covered with plywood.”
In other business:
— Councilmember Ruthie Allen said “I would like to say something about the grocery store efforts. They’re not great. I haven’t had any response from the people I’ve emailed and called.” One organization stated the population and space were inhibiting factors to opening a store. … I think our biggest issue is the location.”
— Last month, Copenhaver explained that the funds from a $50,000 USDA grant had not yet arrived, resulting in the town not paying Greenbrier Motors. However, Copenhaver celebrated this month, saying “there are two new police cars that are in the fleet. I’ll tell you now, our elected delegation at the federal level did, within a few days, help us to resolve some issues that were holding up funds. We were able to pay [for the vehicles] without coming back and begging you guys to go to the bank. Those vehicles are here and are paid for as part of a grant.”
— Chief of Police Rusty Byer Jr. noted the abatement process, said “we’re working on those. I’ve had a pretty good response from people. I’ve got probably about seven or eight letters from people asking for more time to fix their issues. I’ve got one guy in the process of selling the property. We’re working on it, it’s taking some time.”