Contention Over Parks Committee Continues
The businesslike atmosphere of Paden City’s Council meeting on Monday night erupted into heated exchanges between Mayor Bill Fox and several citizens in attendance, many times throughout the evening.
The issue at hand, causing the heated confrontations, concerned the removal of Marcia Toman from the Park and Pool committee and the mayor naming a new committee at his discretion.
After asking why she was kicked off the Pool committee, Fox answered Toman by saying, “We’re not going to talk about it here.” He said he was willing to discuss the matter with Toman if she would come to his office during the day, but he was unwilling to have any discussion of the matter during the council meeting and keep those in attendance there until midnight.
Toman and several others disagreed, saying that the council meeting was the perfect place to discuss this city business, and tried to talk over Fox, but raps of the gavel on the Mayor’s desk sounded over the fray, with the mayor insisting that this discussion come to a halt.
“See, this is how it is,” Toman began and was interrupted by another citizen asking what basis the Mayor made these decisions.
“I made the decision,” said Fox. “I’ve chosen who is going to be on the committee. I don’t have to give a basis for my decision.”
To which Toman said loudly, “He is not the mayor, he is the dictator.”
And the gavel rapped again.
Immediately Mike Turner was called on by the mayor to give an update on the Cornerstone Project.
Turner reported that the Cornerstone objectives have not changed since last year. “We continue to want to communicate with the community to keep Paden City’s K-12 schools open and successful.” He said the West Virginia State Board of Education has an open door school policy, basically allowing schools to almost recruit students to their classrooms-an idea the Cornerstone project has embraced.
He said they intend to use newspapers, radio spots, billboards, and other forms of public communication to let families know that their children can be enrolled in Paden City schools.
“We are a group of citizens working together for the good of the community,” Turner said. “We had the only increase in enrollment in Wetzel County last year, and that is saying a lot about what you can do when you put your mind to it.”
Turner said people are moving into Paden City itself, while their children are attending schools elsewhere, and the Cornerstone project would like to change this. One innovative idea the committees have put together is the “Wildcat Welcome Basket” which is presented to newcomers to the city.
The basket is full to overflowing with coupons, products, gifts, candy, information, brochures, and items from several businesses and organizations in Paden City to welcome new citizens. Included in the gift basket is a newly designed Paden City Directory listing an updated contact list of names and contacts of businesses, events, and attractions in the city.
One hitch in the plan to give the basket to newcomers is the fact that legally, names and addresses can not be given out to the public. But, Tammy Billiter, auxiliary clerk, said she would ask the new citizens if they would like to be contacted and give them the number of a Cornerstone committee member in order to receive a basket.
“The work we’re doing is causing people to come to Paden City,” Turner said. “People want to live in a community like Paden City. We’re going to try to keep doing things like this. We hope that you look for ways to keep people in town and not run people out.”
To which the mayor replied, “What do you mean by that? What are you inferring?”
Turner replied that he meant he would hope everyone would work towards bringing people to town and keeping people in town, such as perhaps building or creating low income housing. He said volunteers were needed to come out and help.
Fox agreed with Turner and said these kinds of problems didn’t start just yesterday or last year, and it would take time to bring everything together. He also commented on the quality of the welcome baskets and thanked Turner for all the Cornerstone Project committee had done.
Susie Cosper stood and recognized all the work Turner and his wife have put into the Cornerstone Project. She also invited any and all councilmen to attend the Cornerstone meetings.
“I would also like to thank Marcia for serving so well on the Pool committee,” she said. “Why she lost her position I have no idea.” She also said she did not understand why the mayor had cut Toman off earlier when she had tried to speak. She said a few years ago when Fox was sitting at the council table and citizens were given only five minutes to speak in a public forum arena, he spoke up in their defense saying that any citizen should be able to speak in that arena. “So, I’m not sure why you cut her off earlier,” Cosper continued.
“Maybe it’s not just between you and Marcia. Maybe she wants her voice to be heard.”
The mayor again said this was not the place for this discussion to take place and said just because Toman was not on a committee did not mean she could not be a volunteer.
Paden City resident Matt Ferrebee said at the last city council meeting the mayor appointed new people he wanted to serve on committees. He said at that point in time he felt the mayor should have talked more with Toman.
“How long are the terms of the committee?” Ferrebee asked.
Fox replied that some are three years.
“Well she was on her 10th year serving, so was her term up or not?” Ferrebee said.
“I’m not sure,” Fox said.
After a few more heated words, the gavel pounded again and the mayor decreed Ferrebee to be out of order.
The meeting continued to completion without interruptions.