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Commissioner supports levy to fund library

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Commission President Kent Carper supports putting a levy to help fund the Kanawha County Library on a ballot. 

Carper made the statement he would support placing a levy on a ballot in the future during a meeting on Thursday where Kanawha Library board president Mike Albert was present.

Albert claimed he was not on hand to ask for additional funding from the commission and was only present to discuss the library's current financial situation.

The Kanawha County Board of Education is no longer required to provide funding to the library after the state Supreme Court struck down the 1957 law forcing the agency to do so.

And although the board has agreed to continue funding the library up until the end of the fiscal year, there is no allocation in the upcoming fiscal year's budget, Albert said. This has left the library scrambling for around $3 million, or 40 percent of its annual budget, he said.

Albert said he hopes the school board will continue to fund the library voluntarily. He will meet with Superintendent Ron Duerring today.

The commission already provides about $3.2 million in property tax revenue to the library, Carper said.

"Putting it on a levy gives people the chance to decide if they want to pass it," he said. "It's voluntary."

Carper would not criticize the board for not including funding for the library in its upcoming fiscal year budget. However, he did say he believed the library played an essential role in the community.

"I support the library system as a citizen and a grandfather," he said.

Albert pointed out that a levy might be the library's best chance to recover the lost funds. However, any money from a levy would not make it into library coffers until July 1, 2014, he said.

Commissioners also approved up to $180,000 to help the town of Pratt pay off debt. This allocation will make the takeover of the town's water system by West Virginia American Water possible, Commissioner Dave Hardy said.

The funds will be used to retire part of the water system's debt. However, Carper and Hardy hope to get the debt lowered by asking the Kanawha County Regional Development Authority to waive all or part of $80,000 owed by Pratt.

Carper expressed his frustration that the authority's board had already voted not to waive the debt. He told board president Damron Bradshaw that the $80,000 allocated by the Regional Development Authority was the commission's money.

The Regional Development Authority collects a surcharge on any water project it helps fund. The $80,000 came from this surcharge, Chief Fiscal Officer David Fontalbert said.

However, the authority should have used that money to pay off debt on that project, he said. Instead the commission had paid on the debt allowing the authority to keep the $80,000, Fontalbert said.

Carper added that the board had voted to not waive the debt when the item was not on its agenda, which is a violation of the state's Open Meetings Law.

Carper himself is a member of the Regional Development Authority's board, but was absent at the meeting when the issue was addressed.

He added that the issue would again be brought up at a meeting after being publicly noticed.

"We'll be dealing with this again," Carper said. "We'll work this out."

Commissioners also briefly discussed a $660,000 U.S. Homeland Security grant provided to the Kanawha-Putnam Emergency Planning Commission.

The money will be used to purchase 16 outdoor emergency sirens in Kanawha County, said Dale Petry, director of Kanawha County's office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

The sirens should be installed by May. One of the sirens will be placed outside the county courthouse, Carper said.

Commissioners also unanimously approved raises for office employees during Thursday's meeting. They had previously agreed to allocate raises to each elected official's office based on a percentage of total payrolls.

Commissioners agreed to distribute around $56,000 in raises to employees in their office ranging from custodians to the county manager.

This was done despite the fact that the commissioners had originally voted to allocate $49,297 to their employees during a previous meeting.

However, Carper pointed out that the commission's office was still within budget despite the higher total because some unfilled positions have been left vacant.

County Manager Jennifer Sayre received a 5 percent raise, bringing her annual salary from $111,000 to $116,550.

Fontalbert received a 4 percent raise, bringing his annual salary from $79,280 to $82,451.

County Attorney Marc Slotnick also received a 4 percent raise, bringing his annual salary to $63,440.

Contact writer Paul Fallon at paul.fallon@dailymail.com or 304-348-4817. Follow him at www.twitter.com/PaulBFallon.

 


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