Council president says it’s ‘time to move on’ with new community center

Last updated: August 06. 2014 6:29PM - 582 Views
By Andrea Chaffin McKinney achaffin@civitasmedia.com

Galbreath Hall in West Jefferson, which has been used by the WJYAA for years, is soon looking at demolition. But WJYAA officials are hoping it can still be salvaged.
Galbreath Hall in West Jefferson, which has been used by the WJYAA for years, is soon looking at demolition. But WJYAA officials are hoping it can still be salvaged.
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The West Jefferson Youth Athletic Association (WJYAA) president said there is “a huge disconnect” between village council’s actions and residents’ desires when it comes to the demolition of Galbreath Hall and the construction of a new community center.

“It’s their (council’s) intentions to do everything they can to tear down that building,” said WJYAA President John Stanley during an interview with The Press Wednesday. “They want to manipulate the voters to be forced to do something, as far as building a multi-million dollar recreation center or raising taxes.”

Council passed a resolution Monday authorizing Public Service Director Dave Metzger to seek bids for the demolition of Galbreath Hall. The building, which Stanley said has been used by WJYAA since the 1970s, was deemed unsafe for public occupation in March by an engineering firm.

Council is also looking into building a new community center with two full gymnasiums, a fitness center, senior center, meeting room and indoor pool. Officials are considering placing a levy on the May 2015 ballot to fund construction.

Stanley said he was “surprised” by village council’s actions. He was under the impression the village was still looking into getting additional quotes to repair Galbreath Hall.

Stanley said he attended a July 31 meeting of the parks and recreation committee during which officials discussed getting more quotes and meeting with the village law director to explore selling the hall to WJYAA.

Council said Monday its legal counsel advised the village could not sell the hall in its current condition. Stanley said he plans to seek his own legal opinion on the matter.

Additionally, Stanley said he was told in November 2013 — “before everything started to unwind” — that the village would create a committee to look into Galbreath Hall’s future and draft an agreement to give the hall to WJYAA.

When reached Wednesday, council President Ron Garver said much of Stanley’s assertion is untrue. According to Garver, the committee was not to discuss Galbreath Hall, but to discuss a new community center. Also, the village will not seek any more quotes on repair of the building, he said.

“We already have quotes from an engineer who did the report,” Garver responded.

The council president said it’s time to put the issue behind them.

“It’s time to move on,” he said. “We’re spending money on a new building — that building cannot be used. We have a fiduciary duty to the taxpayers to do what’s right with their dollars.”

The WJYAA had been collecting voter signatures for a ballot petition to force the village to both repair Galbreath Hall and build a new building for the group’s use. Both actions were estimated to cost about $1.5 million, and, per the petition’s language, did not involve tax dollars. Each petition needed signatures of 10 percent of the village’s registered voters — about 127 — to be placed on the ballot.

Stanley said the group received “a couple hundred” signatures for each petition, enough to meet the requirements. But the group voluntarily decided to forgo submission to the board of elections and instead wait to see what the village will do.

He’s planning to gather at least one quote from a local contractor on restoration of the hall and present that information to council.

Should council decide to move forward with its demolition, Stanley said he would “most definitely” consider recirculating the petitions.

“We’ve got to look at the kids in the community and make sure they have an affordable place to play or go — like they did at the hall — in order for us to operate,” he said. “Right now, it’s a lot of people working against everybody. Even taking those petitions around, there’s a huge disconnect in the village from our leaders and our voters. I hope the council starts listening to the voters.”

Andrea Chaffin McKinney can be reached at (740) 852-1616, ext. 1619 or via Twitter @AndeeWrites.

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