By C.V. Moore
The Town of Fayetteville is on the brink of dissolving its New River Gorge Heritage Festival unless a group steps up to take over the festival’s leadership.
“It just doesn’t seem like there’s any of them that, this year, want to put on the event,” said town Superintendent Bill Lanham.
The Fayetteville Convention and Visitors Bureau board voted not to take on the event because it does not meet the organization’s mission of putting heads in beds, and because it does not make enough money to serve as a fundraising event, reported CVB director Sally Kiner.
Town Recorder Zenda Vance suggested postponing the dissolution until a special meeting could be held.
“I hate to see it end because it brought a lot of people to town,” said Vance. “If there’s any way possible, I would like to see us find someone to take it over.”
At the same time, council members said they could not charge the town superintendent with running the festival because his plate is already full with other pressing matters, and the commitment to host the festival does not fall into the Town of Fayetteville’s responsibility.
When it began in 1951, the festival was called, simply, Fayetteville’s Fourth of July. In its original incarnation, it involved fireworks and a small carnival, with the American Legion as its primary sponsor.
Charlie McCoy — a Country Music Hall of Famer from Fayette County — figured prominently in the event’s excitement.
In 1989, a Committee of Five, comprised of five local residents, took it over. The event expanded and eventually came under the leadership of the town’s Fairs and Festivals board.
Fayetteville Town Council voted to dissolve the board last year, feeling it was time to “get out of the festivals business,” especially since the event didn’t turn a profit.
Sally Pennington, past president of the Fayetteville Rotary Club, presented the council with detailed information on a clock the civic group wants to donate to the town. It would stand on the sidewalk in front of Town Hall but would not take up any parking space.
Pennington said her group has been working on funding for the project for quite a while and at this point they feel the funding is secure. They will have more information on maintenance at a later point.
“We’ll be providing a service to visitors and residents. It’s going to add to the charm of the town and enhance our town for years to come,” said Pennington.
The town council referred the matter to the Fayetteville Historical Board for review.
The town council discussed at length a request from Fayetteville’s new police chief, Matt Jeffries, for a full- or part-time police clerk to write grants for equipment and administer a new reporting system that the town will install. He is also hoping to hire a new officer and says that while the clerk is needed, the officer is his first priority.
The council tabled the item in order to examine the budget.
Jeffries also presented a revamped monthly report, which details how officers’ time is spent during shifts, from foot patrols to running radar on U.S. 19.
Other new police initiatives include pre-trial hearings, a standardized house check system, and an overhauled warrants system.
He thanked everyone at the department and town who have “bent over backward” to help him in his first month on duty.
Cascade Properties sought and won support from the town council to use a house on Allen Street as a temporary office for five years from the time of opening.
Bill Wells of Cascade met previously with adjacent property owners to talk about minimizing the impact, after some raised concern about the idea. The town’s Planning and Zoning Board approved a proposal that incorporated their feedback.
Cascade is renovating and developing the Gaines property in Fayetteville as a conference center and high-end vacation rental property.
Fayetteville’s Boy Scout Troop 179, composed of five Scouts, will receive $1,000 from council toward their registration for the 2013 National Scout Jamboree. During budget talks, council will consider another donation to defray the cost, which runs over $1,200 per Scout.
Historical markers commemorating the purported graves of Confederate soldiers on the town’s property near Walmart will be moved to Huse Park for safekeeping until a committee that is working on a plan for Janutolo Park finalizes the plan. Mayor Jim Akers said the property has been checked and does not contain a cemetery.
“We are still going to honor those Confederate soldiers, but we’ll honor them where everyone can see them,” said Akers.
Additional items taken up by council include:
— The Fayetteville Church of God wants the town to reopen, gravel and grade Myles Street, which accesses a piece of property the church has purchased. The council tabled the matter until they could determine whether the street has been abandoned.
— The council voted to approve the CVB’s request to hold Market Day at Janutolo Park on the first Saturday of each month from May to October, while also waiving yard sale permit fees the days of those events.
— Two other funding requests totaling $4,700 from the CVB — for the Bridge Day Chili Cookoff and for marketing for town businesses — were deferred until the March budget session.
— Council approved a $2,500 Community Participation Program grant for Janutolo Park. They also approved a change of scope resolution for a Community Participation Program grant for $4,000. It was originally marked to repair a crumbling wall on Keller Avenue. But the town’s lawyer says the town does not own the wall, so council is shifting the money toward the Lafayette Huse Veteran’s Memorial Project.
— Fire Chief John Vernon showed council the preliminary plans for an addition to the fire hall for a new fire truck.
— Town Superintendent Bill Lanham reported he has received FEMA reimbursements totaling $114,967 for the town’s storm recovery efforts.
— The town’s CVB director, Sally Kiner, reported a “significant” increase in walk-ins and website traffic for the department. She is also working to ramp up the CVB’s social media presence on Facebook.
n Council chose not to renew a contract with WV Experience Works, an employment and training program.
n A box of unused 2012 Heritage Festival trophies was donated to the Future Farmers of America Alumni.
Finally, council member Sharon Cruikshank took a moment to remember Jim Lively, a community leader who recently died.
“We lost a great community leader in Jim Lively this past week. He was very instrumental in development of the whole Plateau area. He will be greatly missed,” she said.
— E-mail: email@example.com