The Beckley Sanitary Board has outlived its current location on Heber Street. As a result, the city of Beckley is considering purchasing acreage along New River Drive to house a new facility.
At the Tuesday, July 27, common council meeting, Councilmember Tom Sopher asked for an update regarding plans to purchase the New River Drive property.
Mayor Rob Rappold responded that environmental studies are being conducted on the property and they have been in negotiations with the bank regarding remediation efforts. However, a private real estate developer has now also expressed interest in the property to possibly build a housing project.
“If that’s true . . . we would far want to see private investment,” Rappold said.
In response to concerns that the city is purchasing buildings instead of helping citizens, Rappold said that the city only purchased the property on Prince Street and the Black Knight Country Club after investors had backed out of the purchase of both. He added that the city stepped in to purchase the Zen’s building after it had sat vacant for four years.
“We are not on a tear to become a landowner or property owner, but we are on a tear to try to improve this city and we have the finances now to do it without affecting one penny of stormwater control in the Hartley, Hager, Hunter Avenue areas. That’s a totally different subject that we have been working on for five years,” Rappold said.
Residents of Hartley Avenue, Hager and Hunter Street have been asking the city to fix a stormwater drainage issue in that area for years, but haven’t had any success.
In a later interview with Rappold, he noted that the New River Drive property, located adjacent to the Beckley Moose Lodge, is currently owned by Pendleton Community Bank. The site contains just over 6 acres and once housed a concrete company.
He stated that the current sanitary board on Heber Street was purchased about 25 years ago.
“It was a former car dealership and the second floor was added for administrative offices,” Rappold noted. “It is overcrowded, some of the offices are doubled up and that is not the best situation.”
If the private developer does purchase the New River Drive property, Rappold said that the city will step up its efforts to purchase another property for the sanitary board. If this happens, the council will be notified and a special workshop meeting will be held.
In other council business,
– Councilmember Robert Dunlap stated that he has been approached by citizens and business owners who are concerned about speeding on Prince Street by the former Beckley Police Department.
“It’s a drag racing 300-yard dash,” Dunlap said of the downhill slope on Prince Street to the hump at the red light.
He said that maybe a flashing speed sign would help slow people down in that area and asked council if they could address the situation.
Councilmember Tom Sopher said he had made the suggestion to make the street two lanes instead of three at a prior meeting.
Beckley Police Chief Lonnie Christian stated that people pick up speed on the downhill slope.
No action was taken;
– In response to a question regarding a proposed meeting for the residents of Hartley, Hager, Hunter Streets who want to know what the city is doing for flood mitigation in their area, Rappold responded that the tentative date will be set in late August. They will keep the public informed on this meeting;
– Council and mayor received a box of books titled “Thirteen Ways To Kill Your Community” by Doug Griffiths.
“It’s an interesting read,” said Rappold. He encouraged everyone to read it;
– Danielle Stewart stated that she has been interested in purchasing Publicity for about two months. She said she is trying to do what she can but has not been able to receive help from Beckley Code Enforcement or the New River Gorge Development Authority.
“I want to put skin in the game,” Stewart said. “We talk about what the city needs for economic development. We need someone at the city who is solely dedicated to helping businesses start. What is happening now, isn’t working.”
She said Publicity is being leased out as a food distribution point for the poor and that is part of the loitering problem on Neville Street.
“No matter what you do with Zen’s, that’s still there. It’s not going away.” she continued. “I am still interested in buying Publicity and now that I know the city is interested in partnerships, I will come back with a plan for how to help that.”
The Beckley Common Council meets on the second and fourth Tuesday each month at 6:30 p.m. at city hall. The meetings are open to the public.