MORGANTOWN — The City of Morgantown and the family members of BOPARC benefactors are at odds over the expenditure of $147,300.
The money was part of gifts totaling $500,000 provided for in a 1997 agreement between Edith Williams and BOPARC, the city and the Greater Morgantown Foundation, which now goes under the name Your Community Foundation.
The agreement states that the funds can be used for a number of purposes, including a recreation center, land acquisition, development of a master plan, enhancement of senior programs and facilities, golf course development and park and facility improvements to infrastructure under the jurisdiction of BOPARC.
It also states the foundation and BOPARC will consult with Margaret Roberts, Williams’ sister-in-law, on the use of the funds. If Roberts is not available, her daughters, Kathleen Donovan (now Johnson) and Margaret Jane Van Scoy, are listed as additional contacts.
The bulk of the funds, about $352,700, were used to assist residents of the 1st Ward in purchasing the former location of the First Ward Elementary School property, which would be turned over to BOPARC. The four-acre property at 513 West Virginia Ave. would become Jack Roberts Park, named for Williams’ brother and Margaret Roberts’ husband, a longtime educator and coach.
It’s the remainder of the funds that, according to Johnson, were spent without any input from the family.
The city said that is not the case.
“Margaret Roberts, listed in the agreement as the primary consultant for the funds, was consulted prior to the expenditure of funds,” Morgantown Communications Director Andrew Stacy explained.
According to documents provided by the city, the remaining money was used to build the Marilla Park Skate Park ($121,000) in 2006 and complete the Wiles Hill Community Center ($25,000) in 2007. The remaining $1,299.97 went into the BOPARC money market account.
Johnson said her mother, who passed away in December of 2008, was living with her at the time the remaining money was spent and was not in a condition to be able to provide consent. Johnson went on to say neither herself nor her sister were contacted.
She added that she’s seen no documentation indicating anyone consented to the expenditures.
Johnson went on to say she was upset to learn of the skate park because her mother provided a $26,000 gift to build the original skate park in White Park, which was later torn down and replaced with a new facility at Marilla Park using the gift provided by her aunt.
She said she wasn’t aware the money was spent until a couple years ago when she inquired about using the remaining funds to finish work on the historic wall surrounding Jack Roberts Park.
“It’s in black and white that they had to come to us. All I wanted was an apology from the city. It never had to be public. I wasn’t trying to put this out to where anybody knew anything,” Johnson said. “I don’t think it’s really that complicated. The city was wrong in what they did. I wasn’t trying to get money. I wasn’t trying to get anything. All I wanted was an apology and the wall fixed.”
While the city contends Roberts was notified of the expenditures and that all use of the funds were in line with the original agreement, a letter dated April 10, 2018 indicates the city is at least willing to make some concessions.
The letter, addressed to Johnson, states “BOPARC proposes to undertake the following actions:”
The actions include additional work on the Jack Roberts Park wall, a memorial plaque at the park recognizing the contributions of Margaret Roberts, a landscape plan for the park and the acknowledgement that Johnson disagrees with how the funds were spent, noting, “BOPARC apologizes to Ms. Johnson for failing to meet those expectations.”
Johnson said she doesn’t intend to sign off on the letter.
“The city is wanting me to sign something saying that I don’t agree with how the money was spent and they’re sorry I didn’t agree,” Johnson said. “It’s not about my expectations. It’s the agreement they signed. I’m not going to agree that I just didn’t like the way the city handled it. I want them to say, ‘I’m sorry that we did this.’ ”