By Bobby Bordelon
Discussions on converting the Alderson Community Center to be the new Alderson Elementary School were held between the Alderson Town Council and Greenbrier County Board of Education during the Thursday, Jan. 14, council meeting, with a proposed memorandum of understanding (MOU) considered.
The project would require the town to deed the community center to the board of education.
“That is the parcel that includes the white house beside the elementary school, the playground area, and does further clear up the issue of who actually owns the football field,” explained Mayor Travis Copenhaver. “The deed … is basically take that corner of the property, divide it, and deed that to the municipality. The municipality will then deed them the entire community center area.”
Copenhaver also noted the town will be getting a few buildings in return, but wanted to be sure the deal is in writing should either the town elect a new council or the county new Board of Education members, citing previous issues with “handshake” deals.
“This is a unique position to be in because we’re not going to make a huge profit,” Copenhaver said. “We’re going to profit by this exchange in that we’re getting a decent few buildings to compensate for the one we’ve kept up, that you guys have kept up. … It’s an opportunity for us both to benefit.”
Council approved Copenhaver to sign the memorandum on a few conditions, including that the town could use the building for special events, such as those around the Fourth of July, the building could continue to serve as the community shelter for emergencies, similar to Greenbrier East High School, the continuing presence of the museum in the community center, and clarification on the lease.
“There is no verbage … that says they will convey the right of usage for those events,” Copenhaver said. “I hope that was because it would be included in the lease. … I personally won’t go forward with the MOU unless we have it in writing that we will still have [usage] for the pageants and the stuff for the Fourth [of July] as has been promised.”
If the MOU moves forward, this does not 100 percent guarantee the Community Center will find new life as Alderson Elementary School. Instead, it is the first formal step in the process.
“This is just the first baby step that says ‘yes apply for the funding,’” Copenhaver noted. “The other thing we have to realize is the board of education may not get the funding, which means this would be null and void.”
In other business:
As of the council meeting, Wiseman was working on a sanitary infrastructure project in town utilizing FEMA funds from the flood of 2016. Copenhaver explained they “already replaced one terrible manhole in its entirety … [The] Alderson Avenue manhole was absolutely in pieces and separated. When the creek got up, it forced the groundwater to that manhole and subsequently should take care of the problems on Wiccan Street, the problems coming out of the stormline because it was forced in the sewer line.”
The waterline extension project continues after a public hearing allowing the municipality to enter into an agreement with Region 4 looking to acquire more grant funding for the over $6 million project.
Lieutenant J.R. Byer, Jr. and Copenhaver updated the council on the police department, noting the vehicles funded by a recent grant award are on the way. In addition, Officer Johnson entered into a contract with the town, taking command of Gizmo, the town’s K9 Unit. Johnson was originally expected to own the K9 officer but due to an issue with GI funds, a donation of $5,000 was made to make sure Gizmo came to town. “He’s earned his keep,” Copenhaver said.
Two new Parks and Recreation Commissioners were appointed – Laurie Bennett and Lisa Robinette. Terms for the two seats are staggered.