Paden City Development Authority and Council discuss term limits and ordinance
Tensions were high at Thursday night’s special meeting of the Paden City Council as the Paden City Development Authority and council argued prior to the second, and final, reading of an ordinance that would eliminate term limits on the PCDA and allow council to remove any PCDA member with or without cause.
Council passed the ordinance, with each council member present at the meeting voting in favor of the measure. It was noted that Joel Davis, who was not at the meeting, abstained. Dan Probst was also absent from the meeting.
PCDA Member Jack Cox was first to speak when Mayor John “Hoppy” Hopkins asked if there were any public comments regarding the measure.
“The Paden City Development Authority people, no one receives a wage or nobody receives a salary. Some of them down there are actually doing repair work free of charge,” Cox began.
“John, I’m going to have to say it again. You people have been after the Paden City Development Authority since you came back in office . . . You people seem to go into a panic to change this ordinance. If you want me to read about everything everybody knows, it says council will control who you put on . . . You will have control over it, and that’s a little scary . . .
“Now the frightening thing is 153.12 says that upon the PCDA dissolving that the assets and the building go to the city of Paden City,” continued Cox. “Now this thing is worked out right so that can be a plus. Now if you people jump in and change the ordinance again, I don’t know what you would do. Maybe you could change it to a group of people or you could change it to one department.”
The mayor was asked if the attorney wrote up the ordinance, in which he applied in the affirmative.
“Jack, I didn’t do any of this,” Hopkins noted.
“Who wrote it up?” Cox asked.
“It came by council,” Hopkins noted, stating that everyone was in agreement with the ordinance.
“I’m going to ask again,” Cox stated. “Why are you so desperate to dissolve, to get rid of some of these people?”
“I’m not going to talk a whole lot about it,” Hopkins had noted. “As far back as two years ago maybe . . . and I’m not going to say who it was . . . a member of council that had said on different occasions that we just ought to get rid of the whole thing, disband, disorganize, get rid of the property was his feelings.
“Jack, don’t say I’m after anybody. I think where we are at right now and what we are doing . . . we are reorganizing and going into a direction to get some things done for the community,” said Hopkins.
“You are not man enough to come in and sit down in a chair and say you need to go in this direction. You are making a mistake over here . . . this isn’t your job to direct the development authority,” PCDA Member Bill Fox stated to Hopkins.
“There are things going on in town right now that the authority should’ve been on top of,” Hopkins noted.
“Don’t throw things out there. Let’s be specific,” Fox noted.
“Give him a chance to be specific,” Council Member Bob Postlethwait noted when Fox and Hopkins were talking over each other.
Hopkins asked Fox, as well as PCDA President Patti Casteel, about having a conversation with someone about building a store in town.
Both stated that they did not.
“Here’s what’s happening,” Hopkins stated. “I got a call from the director of the Tyler County Development Authority, who got a call from a contractor who wanted to find some property to build a super Dollar General store. He said he had talked to you, Patti, and you referred him to Bill . . . Bill, I don’t know what the conversation was, but part of the conversation, was, ‘I’ve got some property in New Martinsville I’d like to sell.'”
“I want that gentleman’s name,” Fox stated of the Dollar General developer.
“I went to (Council member) Joel (Potts),” Casteel stated. “Well, it was on Facebook,” she noted, stating that she doesn’t use Facebook. “I went to the Dollar General the next morning and talked to the assistant manager and asked her. ‘This is a rumor, but is this happening? ‘She said, ‘No.'”
Hopkins stated that the assistant manager would have nothing to do with it.
“You got a Bible here in this place?” Fox asked. “She or I never knew, never had a conversation.”
“I don’t want to mess with a guy who wants to bring something to the area,” Hopkins noted. “We lost a market . . .
“We’ve got one piece of property in town they are interested in, but I can’t imagine why a guy out of town would know all these names and say he had talked to these people and everyone denied it,” Hopkins noted.
“If you bring the gentleman here, we will meet him face to face,” Fox stated.
“I’ll talk to him,” Hopkins stated, “but right now I’m focused on getting us another store in town. There’s what I’m going to stay, but he got ahold of Tyler County and Tyler got ahold of me, and we got some things going on.”
“I don’t want someone accusing me of something I’m not guilty of,” Fox noted. He said he doesn’t get on Facebook but he talks with people who do, adding not everything on Facebook is trustworthy.
Casteel noted she had the name of a person from Dollar General, corporate office, and she would call them.
The stores are built by people who then lease them to Dollar General, explained Hopkins.
Casteel stated that no one from the TCDA had ever contacted her.
“Here’s where I’m coming from,” Hopkins stated. “Joel picked up the ball with another prospect at the industrial park and according to Joel, he had the meeting set up. He was there. I’ll find out what the name was, and he said he excused himself for the way you treated him . . . Now Patty, I don’t know. It’s my representative on the council. Yeah, I didn’t go to the meetings. I didn’t like the way it was going for a long time. Now when The Home Plate was opened up, they were insulted by the development authority because their impression was was (the PCDA) can’t get wait to get out of here.
“I think we need to be in a new direction,” Hopkins.
“I don’t have a dog in this fight,” stated Beri Fox, president and chief executive officer of Marble King. “I’m not taking sides in this matter, but I tell you what. I think it is critically important . . , I’ve been down here since my dad died in 1991. I can tell you that under this regime, the last seen years, has been the best it has ever been.
“The decisions you guys are making, they don’t just affect this development authority or you guys. It affects people all the way around you,” Beri Fox stated.
“If you look at it financially, this group has done their job. They’ve not been sued, unlike the previously development authority. They have not had issues that occurred. Issues were immediately addressed and taken care of in a very responsible fashion, and I think if you are going to make a lot of changes, you better have a plan of action and know who you are going to put in there. You don’t understand the ramifications that it has on all businesses around it.”
Beri Fox stated that under previous PCDA there were caustic chemicals housed at the development authority building. “God forbid if there had been a fire . . . This development authority has been responsible with the health concerns of others. They have done the responsible thing and I think they need to be commended for that and not kicked out,” she continued.
Council then voted and approved the ordinance.
In another matter, Recorder Tammi Billiter read a letter from Ed and Donna Parsons, thanking the council for a street light that was recently installed.
Bill Fox asked Billiter if she received any other letters to be read at council. She stated she did but the mayor decided he was not going to read them.
Casteel provided them to the Wetzel Chronicle; they both included a line requesting that they be read at the meeting.
The first letter was from the PCDA and stated that the authority is “protesting the action taken at the special council meeting on January 12, 2015 (An Ordinance to Amend Article 153.03 Entitled ‘Management And Control Of the Paden City Development Authority Vested In The Board; Appointed And Terms of Members; Vacancies; Removal of Member’ And Which Shall Hereinafter Be Entitled ‘Management And Control.'”
The letter states the council meeting was conducted without allowing any questions or discussion from the floor, “as to why, the action is being taken and how it will benefit the city or our town.”
The second letter was submitted from Casteel and Bill Fox, as private citizens of Paden City. The letter states that “Mayor Hopkins never suggested to PCDA members his or council members’ concern regarding how they were managing the authority.”
The letter states that Hopkins was elected mayor in 2012 and has never sat “in on one board meeting and the Mayor has been invited, which he chose not to do. Yet he expresses in council meeting and the public that the city was not getting the financial report.”
The letter states that Article 153.11 of the Ordinance (Contributions; funds and accounts; reports; audit and examination of books, records and accounts) tells the authority what’s required of them: “The authority shall keep strict account of all its receipts and expenditures and shall each quarter make a quarterly report to the Town of Paden City containing an itemized statement of its receipts and disbursements during the proceeding quarter. Within 60 days after the end of each fiscal year, the authority shall make an annual report containing an itemized statement of its receipts and disbursements for the preceding year, and such annual report shall be published as a class I legal advertisement in compliance with the provisions of Article 3 (59-3-1 ET seq.), chapter 59 of the West Virginia Code as amended, and the publication area for such publication shall be Wetzel and Tyler counties.”)
The letter states that Casteel and Fox feel that the city government’s time “could be better spent running the day to day operations of the city as you were elected to do and not to try to micro manage the PCDA duties.”
“If you had problems or thought there were issues that needed discussed concerning the PCDA, then you and council should’ve addressed those concerns immediately and openingly (sic) with the proper people.”