In a tie vote that hinged on one councilperson finally making her decision known, New Martinsville Council approved the financing of an upgrade to the miniature golf course at Bruce Park Monday evening during a special council meeting.
Funding of the approximately $250,000 project has been the source of discussion for over a month. At a special meeting on Feb. 20 council did not agree to approve a five-year loan for the project. At that time council said they wanted to know who would need to sign the loan and if a current council can encumber a future council.
While Parks Commission member Whitney Clegg and Parks and Recreation Director Beverly Gibb said they cannot get a straight answer to those questions, all of those authorities whose opinions they seek agree that they know such financing has been done on projects in the past.
At the Feb. 20 New Martinsville Council meeting Engineer Gabe Hays present his plans for the rejuvenation of the miniature golf course at Bruce Park. (Photo by Amy Witschey)
"We did talk to other attorneys and a gentleman from the state tax office, and no one told us yes or no, no one," said Gibb. She added that everyone knows it has been done, but they can't say it can be done.
The suggested, and council-approved, financing is for a one-year loan that includes a balloon payment at the end of the year. This avoids encumbering a future council. Gibb said the parks department does have the money on hand, if you pulled all their funding such as reserve and trusts accounts together. This possible funding does not include the department's operating budget. Of course the commission does not want to use all of their reserves to pay off a balloon payment; they would hope a future council would approve another one-year loan at a special municipal rate.
Clegg said there is also some concern as to if hotel/motel tax income, the parks expected source for payment, can be used to pay interest. As set up, the parks will only be paying on principal during the loans. Any interest would be in the form of a final balloon payment.
"We were trying to address everyone/s concerns with using the hotel/motel tax to pay for this project," said Clegg. "This arrangement, as suggested by the city attorney, addresses concerns over encumbering future councils."
Gibb pointed out that Jim Klug Excavating's winning bid for the project at $182,500 was set to expire that day.
"Oh my gosh, let's go," prodded Gibb. "Let's use this (tax income) for what it's there for. We can 'what if' it to death."
"Let's just do it," agreed Councilman Steve Pallisco.
When Mayor Keith Nelsen called for a vote from council, Pallisco and Holly Grandstaff voted for the loan. Doris Fannin and Kay Goddard cast dissenting votes. Councilwoman Iris "Deaner" Isaacs hesitated.
"I really want the project, but I am concerned with the changes and I haven't had much time to think about this," said Isaacs. She finally said she would vote in favor of the loan, which was met with some applause. She added, "I don't feel super comfortable with it," and said she hoped the department acted appropriately.
For the past two years the city has averaged $22-27,000 per quarter from the hotel/motel tax. It has been bolstered by the shale gas industry.
At the Feb. 20 meeting Engineer Gabe Hays presented his plans for the rejuvenation of eight of the first nine holes and the replacement of the other 10 holes.
Hays explained, "It is required that half the holes be (handicapped) accessible." said Hays. "You cannot make any improvements to a facility without making it accessible." The plan calls for a modular approach which is a more affordable way to make the course attractive and accessible.