FAYETTEVILLE — Two shuttered school buildings have been deeded to the Town of Fayetteville by the Fayette County Board of Education and at Thursday’s January meeting, council appointed a development committee to explore ideas for the usage of the buildings which at different times housed both Fayetteville Elementary and Fayetteville Middle School students.
Councilman Gabe Peña will chair the committee comprised of George Tabit, Tighe Bullock, Lita Eskew, Tom Dickerson and Debbie Richardson.
The committee will research possible functions for the closed school buildings.
Fayetteville is in possession of three former school buildings now, according to Matt Diederich, town superintendent. He told council he has the new buildings’ keys and has completed an initial walk-through.
The buildings are in varying states of readiness for use, he said.
On Friday, he said there will be a heating issue to deal with in the former elementary school. “It has a boiler and it’s either ‘on’ or ‘off.’ I guess that’s better than having no heat, though.”
“The other building on up the hill” on High Street “I guess is the newest of the three and it could be used today for offices or whatever,” Diederich said in a phone interview.
Fayetteville also is in possession of what is known as “the stone building,” a former Fayetteville High School, and a committee already is in existence for programming, use and restoration of the old high school building.
“This (new) committee is basically going to be looking at ways to use the buildings and to market them,” Diederich said.
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In other business during the Thursday meeting, trails were a major topic of discussion.
Bill Wells, of the New River Gorge Trail Alliance, discussed Senate Bill 317, passed during the last legislative session, with the council. The legislation allowed for the creation of the Mountaineer Trail Network Recreation Authority and the formation of multi-county trail network authorities.
Modeled after the successful Hatfield-McCoy Trail System, but inclusive of only non-motorized vehicles, the legislation created the recreation authority to include the counties of Barbour, Grant, Harrison, Marion, Mineral, Monongalia, Preston, Randolph, Taylor and Tucker, but to also allow for the formation of a trail authority in three or more contiguous counties.
The existing New River Gorge Trail Alliance, Wells pointed out, has expanded its reach and now includes the counties of Fayette, Nicholas, Greenbrier, Summers, Raleigh and Kanawha, with Webster County in the process of joining the alliance.
“Our geographic footprint is expanding beyond the New River Gorge,” Wells said.
The NRGTA, he said, is approaching area municipalities’ governing bodies seeking letters of support for it to join the Mountaineer Trail Network. “The Trail Alliance would continue to remain active in the area, but this would open up the opportunity for more grants and trail development.”
Before he could complete his plea for a letter of support, Peña made a motion to provide the letter.
“There’s no reason why the town shouldn’t support this,” he said.
Council member Okey Skidmore seconded the motion, which passed unanimously 4-0 in the absence of council member Lori Tabit.
In a related matter, Active Southern West Virginia program support specialist Veronica Crosier made a presentation to council on the creation of a Bike and Pedestrian Action Committee (BPAC).
“When a town is bike-friendly, it’s also pedestrian-friendly,” she told council, which earlier adopted a Complete Streets policy.
“This committee would basically be implementing the Complete Streets policy?” Peña asked Crosier.
She confirmed that forming a BPAC is the next step in the process for a community striving to achieve bike-friendly status.
Crosier informed council that Fayetteville previously had been judged as “honorable mention” on the League of American Bicycle Association’s list of bike-friendly communities, but fell off the list in September 2017.
Both Beckley and Oak Hill have taken part in the program, she said. “The City of Beckley is a really good example of how a BPAC can make positive changes in a community,” she said.
“I don’t think we talk enough about diversification of tourism opportunities,” Peña said during discussion on the proposal, adding he agrees with the need for the town to consider creating a BPAC.
Council voted unanimously to table any immediate action on the proposal, however.
During the council comments portion of the agenda, council members Brian Good, Stanley Boyd, Peña and Skidmore complimented the Fayetteville Convention & Visitors Bureau, Recorder Zenda Carte Vance and a number of volunteers for success in the town’s recent Gingerbread Festival, Christmas parade and Wreaths Across America project at Huse Memorial Park.
Additionally, Boyd raised concerns about the lack of a sidewalk on Laurel Run off Maple Avenue.
“I’ve been told the kids are walking straight down the middle of the road (from Fayetteville PreK-8),” he said. “Something tragic is going to happen. If there’s any way possible, we need to find the money (for a sidewalk).”
Diederich informed council that he has had discussions with water company about the new lines running along Laurel Run and that a sidewalk can’t be built there.
“We might have to put a raised boardwalk,” Boyd said. As the concern was not a scheduled agenda item, no action was taken.
Council will meet next on Thursday, Feb. 6 at 6 p.m. in council chambers at Town Hall.
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