Paden City council held the second reading of an ordinance change at a special meeting on Monday.
The change, which removes the Paden City Development Authority Office from the city complex, has been a controversial issue for the past few years. According to Councilwoman Ginger Wilcox, former Mayor Bill Fox took it upon himself to move the PCDA office from the industrial park to the city complex in July 2009. She said there had been no discussion or council approval. She, along with others on the council, have said they want the space the PCDA occupies back for a police interrogation room.
Prior to voting on the ordinance change Monday evening, James "Cork" Bowen, a member of the Development Authority, asked Mayor John "Hoppy" Hopkins for permission to address the council on the matter. After Mayor Hopkins granted the request, Bowen, said he would be brief and factual. He said, as a point of order, he would like to address the agenda posted prior to the last council meeting of Aug. 4.
The agenda lists under "New Business" (First reading of two ordinance changes. Action to be taken). "I do not believe that gave the citizens of Paden City proper communication and clarity as to what was really going to be addressed under that brief statement," said Bowen. "Members of the PCDA had no idea the subject was going to be addressed, or many of our members and other concerned citizens would have been here".
Bowen also said the posting of the agenda for the first reading of the ordinance did not meet the posting requirements of W.Va., Code 6-9A-8 and therefore the vote on the first reading should be nullified. "To further substantiate my claim, I will reference a memo written to the mayor and the council by Paden City's attorney, Carolyn Flannery, reiterating this code and other information regarding posting of agenda items and executive sessions," he said.
Bowen said his reason for attending the special council meeting was to encourage council and the mayor to reconsider this "misguided vote." He said, he was not there to challenge council's authority to revise or change the ordinance, but to challenge council's will. "I don't feel the citizens of Paden City and members of council and the PCDA should suffer due to personal feelings about certain members on each body," he said. "What good will be served if the PCDA is banished from the city building? Will the problem go away?" He said, he believes it will continue to fester until even more damage is done to the working relationship.
He went on to say he and the rest of the members of the PCDA would like to establish a close working relationship with the mayor and council. He said he understands things are not perfect with the current relationship and he would like to propose both bodies, council/mayor and the PCDA sit down and iron out their differences so the citizens of Paden City will not have to pay for their inability to co-exist.
Bowen said, in closing, he wanted to address one last item which was referenced in the last council meeting when one of the hard working members of the city's non-profit groups asked openly, "What have you done for the town lately?" He said the development authority reflected on that question individually and as a group and at their last meeting. By unanimous vote they rescinded the moratorium on donations. We want to contribute to the success of the city, but we want to make sure the money is used responsibly.
Bowen said Jim Richmond and Charlie Racer and others left $100,000 in a money market account to the PCDA when they left office. As the Development Authority developed, over time they had to use portions of that money, according to Bowen. In 2010 most of the tenants left the industrial park and money became tight. He said they got together and developed a plan to improve their finances and future. "We refinanced into a 20-year loan," noted Bowen. The previous loan was costing the PCDA over $7,000 per month and their new monthly mortgage is now $2,242. Now from the initial loans of $891,000, the authority's current loan balance is down to $274,655.
It is easy to answer the question, "What have you done for the town?" when you look at the big picture, said Bowen, noting that over the last four years the PCDA has put over $100,000 into the industrial park. He said the industrial park is now valued at almost $2 million and their tenants employ over 37 jobs to our local citizens and provide local merchants with much needed customers. "I feel the future of the city's properties are in good hands, which will benefit the citizens for years to come," said Bowen.
He asked the council members to reconsider their previous vote and not create an impediment to everyone working together for the common good, seeing Paden City succeed and be a prosperous town, and a unified community is important to all who call Paden City home. Bowen then thanked the mayor and council for their time.
Local resident Tom Trader then asked the mayor if the city was going to put money into the room to make it soundproof, since it was now going to be used for interrogations. Mayor Hopkins said, "Yes, we will have to make some improvements." He said, for those who don't know, that room used to be used for interrogations and he has wanted that room back for the police department.
Development Authority member Jack Cox asked Mayor Hopkins for a roll call vote on the matter. Councilman Dan Probst said he had one question because a lot of people ask him, "What is the purpose of the development authority?"
Councilman John Staggers said he helped start it and it was to bring business to town. Bowen then read a portion of the ordinance which spells out the purpose of the PCDA. He said it was to promote business, but also to help organizations in need and even give loans to small businesses. Probst asked if they are doing those things and Bowen said, "We have provided jobs through our tenants and are now in a position to try and help others."
Probst said most people in town thought the purpose of the development authority was to bring new business into town.
"That's exactly what it was established for!" said Councilman Staggers.
Cox told Probst to remember that if something were to happen to the PCDA, their property and money would all go to the city. Former Mayor Fox asked Probst if he was on the police committee, to which he responded in the affirmative. Fox then asked him if any of the police had ever asked for or mentioned a need for the room in question. Probst responded said they had not.
Mayor Hopkins read the ordinance concerning the purpose of the PCDA, he then said the city needs the room back and he personally wants to see it.
Councilwoman Wilcox said they need the room for police interrogations. Also, they have received nothing from the PCDA for mowing and the city formerly billed them for that service.
Mayor Hopkins read the ordinance change, John Staggers made a motion to adopt the change, Ginger Wilcox, seconded the motion. Joel Davis, a member of the PCDA, recused himself from voting. Motion passed four to one with Dan Probst casting the lone no vote. Discussion was held as to how long to give the PCDA to vacate the city building room. It was agreed to give them 60 days.
Council also agreed to change the regular September meeting date to Tuesday, Sept. 2, because the first monday is Labor Day.
Council revisited the drug testing policy and, after discussion, Councilman Joel Davis made a motion to rescind the policy; it was seconded by Councilwoman Wilcox. A vote was taken and the motion failed by a vote of four against the change and two for it.
By unanimous vote council approved an after dark 5K fun run/walk to support missionaries to Honduras.