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Shepherdstown Library project denied funds

By Staff | Aug 17, 2012

A motion made by County Commissioner Walt Pellish which would have given a $50,000 boost to the Shepherdstown Library’s building fund was defeated in favor of funds going to the county’s parks and recreation program.

The funds in question were ones that had previously been allocated for the purchase of the Shepherdstown Battlefield and later moved to the Cement Mill allocation fund. Those funds, just over $100,000, are no longer needed for the Cement Mill property which was acquired by the Jefferson County Historic Landmarks Commission. A motion was made by Commissioner Dale Manuel to have those funds released for use in funding capital projects at the Parks and Recreation.

Pellish spoke up indicating that he felt that the library project deserved the funding since it is a project in the Shepherdstown area, where the funding was appropriated initially.

“The funding was formerly for a Shepherdstown project,” Pellish argued, “so a major part of it should be used in Shepherdstown, while still benefiting many in the county.” To attempt compromise with Manuel’s motion, Pellish offered an amendment to split the funds with 50 percent going to the library project, 40 percent to parks and recreation and the remaining 10 percent to cover whatever expenses were incurred by the HLC in deed transfers and other administrative costs of the Cement Mill purchase.

President Patsy Noland joined Pellish in the idea to split the funds pointing out that parks and recreation receives funds from a variety of other sources including impact fees and hotel/motel taxes.

Frances Morgan voiced that she would agree to parks and recreation funding as long as the project could and would be dedicated to the county’s veterans.

“I think all three could be accomplished with a split,” Noland said.

The amendment to split the funds was defeated in a 3-2 vote with Manuel, Widmyer and Morgan voting against funds for the library. The final vote was to give the entire amount, less whatever costs incurred by the HLC to parks and recreation.

Manuel included in his comments that parks and recreation could dedicate whatever project they choose to use the money on as a veteran’s memorial.

“If they build a road at Hite Park or a pavilion at Sam Michael’s, any of those can be dedicated as a memorial,” he said. Manuel also suggested that the local veteran’s groups be consulted on how and what would be an appropriate memorial.

Widmyer, who consistently voiced that she thought the funds should go to the development of Hite Road Park, the parks and recreation’s current project to develop playing fields and other amenities, said that she believes there may be other future opportunities to donate to the library fund.

“I’m not closing out helping the library,” she said after the vote. “But at this time, my priority is that park.”

Manuel said later in the week that the vote did not commit funds to Hite Road, but only to a capital project by the parks department.

In the same meeting, the commission voted in a 5-0 vote to allocate an additional $10,000 to the South Jefferson Public Library for their operating expenses. Manuel confirmed that the request was made because that library receives no funding from a municipality as do the Shepherdstown and Bolivar-Harpers Ferry Public libraries. Shepherdstown receives 20 percent of the annual hotel/motel tax earned within town limits from the Corporation of Shepherdstown while Bolivar-Harpers Ferry receives a combined total of $5,500 from those two municipal governments. The County Commission contributes $55,290 to each of the four libraries in the county (including Charles Town’s private library).

Manuel had made a request that in addition to the $10,000 for South Jefferson, that the county delegate $10,000 for the Mount Mission Library located on the Blue Ridge. Residents in that area had established their own private library over the past year and currently have a request in to the county for $2,500 of assistance. There was not support by a majority of the commission to offer them the $10,000 sought by Manuel.

Manuel said Wednesday that he would not rule out the possibility that the county may at some point allocate funds toward the Shepherdstown Library building fund.

“But right now, we need this money desperately in the arena of parks and recreation,” he said. He also indicated that his decision to seek the allocation of the funds came because those funds were initially allocated for a park, either the Shepherdstown Battlefield or a national park at the Cement Mill location.

“It is the closest utilization of what the money was intended for, a park,” Manuel said.