Commission hesitant to consider proposed levies without city, BOPARC support

MORGANTOWN — A second levy aimed at providing funds for BOPARC — this one just over $9.4 million, or $1,894,439 annually for five years — will be presented to the Monongalia County Commission to be considered for placement on the November ballot.

Tony Christini, Elizabeth Sneathen and JoNell Strough, representing Friends of Green Belt, met in work session with the commission Wednesday afternoon to discuss the proposal, which would provide $1,105,439 annually for BOPARC operations and maintenance and $790,000 annually to fund the purchase of the Haymaker Forest along with park and trails acquisition.

Their proposal came hours after the commission met with Morgantown Deputy Mayor Mark Brazaitis and Caroline Leadmon, president of the WVU Figure Skating Club, regarding the three-year, $8.5 million levy for the creation of a two-sheet, year-round BOPARC ice rink presented by Brazaitis last week.

Neither BOPARC or the City of Morgantown is involved in the presentation of either levy. Both have actively chosen not move levy discussions forward in recent weeks, making Brazaitis’ presentation a point of contention with some of his fellow city council members.

Brazaitis has explained he’s not presenting the levy in his capacity as 6th Ward councilor and deputy mayor, but as vice president of the Mason-Dixon Figure Skating Club and faculty adviser to WVU Figure Skating Club.

The commission said the lack of city and BOPARC support presents a huge red flag in their consideration of both levies as those entities would be left to manage the funds and cover any costs that could arise as a result of passage — maintenance and staffing of a vastly expanded ice rink, for example.

Commission President Tom Bloom said the commission is seeking guidance from Charleston on whether an entity like BOPARC can be placed under obligation by a levy it didn’t support or participate in.

“Are you permitted to obligate the city and BOPARC to where they now actively have a debt? That’s my dilemma. So now they have to find funding to continually run the $8.5 million [facility]. They have to find staffing,” Bloom said. “Now you’ve taken out of the hands of the city and BOPARC the fiscal responsibility. That’s my dilemma.”

Both Brazaitis and Christini said they would prefer to be presenting their respective levies alongside BOPARC, but were compelled to bring the levies forward after growing frustrated with the inaction of BOPARC and city council.

“I’ve tried. I’ve definitely tried,” Brazaitis said when asked why BOPARC was not on board. “They’re wishy-washy. I hate to speak so bluntly, but that’s the truth. They’re wishy-washy about the possibility of having $8.5 million …”

Christini called two recent votes by city council preventing further discussion of a November levy to fund BOPARC maintenance needs “the most ridiculous vote in the history of Morgantown.”

“We thought we should do what they should have done. We should ask the county to pick up where they failed to act in their own best interest for their park system,” Christini said.

In both cases the commission asked that additional information be provided and presented in the levy format prescribed in state code.

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