Leaders of the West Jefferson Youth Athletic Association (WJYAA) are seeking to force the Village of West Jefferson to rehab the condemned Galbreath Hall and to build a new structure for the association’s use.
The WJYAA filed paperwork with the village June 20 to circulate petitions to place two issues on the November ballot. Filing the petition were WJYAA president John Stanley, vice president Herman Stanley and Kimmie Stanley, Herman’s wife.
Village law director Ron Parsons is currently reviewing the paperwork for legal standing, he said.
The first petition would require the village to repair Galbreath Hall at a cost not to exceed $700,000, with the village using “all cash available in village accounts designated for parks and recreation spending or lands and buildings up to $300,000.”
It then requires the village to “borrow remaining needed funds with low interest loans terms not exceeding $700,000,” according to circulating language.
The second petition would mandate the village “build a gymnasium, storage rooms, kitchen area, concession area, restrooms and meeting room at Converse Park for operations of the West Jefferson Youth Athletic Association, their youth programming and events, and community usage without raising taxes.”
It further states the village must “use all cash available in village accounts designated for parks and recreation spending or lands and buildings, up to $300,000, and shall authorize the village to borrow remaining needed funds with low interest loans terms not exceeding 20 years.”
The petition also would require the overall cost of the construction and final cost of this project not exceed $800,000, and the building be complete by Dec. 30, 2015.
If approved by voters, both projects are estimated to cost the village a combined total of $1.5 million. They would also require the village to assume the cost of all utilities (gas, water and electric), maintenance to the grounds, facility maintenance, property insurance and snow removal at a cost of $1 per year to the WJYAA.
Each petition would need 10 percent of the signatures of the village’s registered voters — about 127 signatures — to be placed on the November election ballot, according to the Madison County Board of Elections. The filing deadline is Aug. 6.
When contacted this week, Mayor Darlene Steele said anyone facing the signature of these petitions should know the documents do not represent the Village of West Jefferson, or have village council approval or support.
“The petitions are being put out by the West Jefferson Youth Athletic Association, not by the village,” Steele said. “These are not village-sponsored petitions.”
The village is working on a plan for a community recreation center that would “be open to all residents before too long,” Steele added.
Council president Ron Garver also expressed his displeasure with the petitions, specifically with the requirement the village spend $1.5 million without raising taxes, he said.
“Where do they think the money will come from?,” Garver asked. “People need to read the whole petition before signing it.
“If we are forced to do this, we will have to cut services somewhere else — police, snow plowing, leaf pick up, etc.,” Garver further said. “These are also dollars we could possibly use for the water and sewer plant upgrades. Do they think we should raise water and sewer rates instead?”
John Stanley said he hopes the community agrees with the two separate ballot requests.
“We are hopeful for the community to find the need for both,” he said. “We feel there are grants to fix Galbreath Hall and to build a new building.”
As far as WJYAA acting as the controlling interest in both buildings, Stanley said he sees no issue with the arrangement. He said WJYAA would work with the community to put lease agreements in place.
WJYAA is also utilizing its Facebook page to link to ipetition.com, a website where residents can electronically sign the petitions.
Tim Ward, executive director of the Madison County Board of Elections, said he could not respond legally as to whether or not the electronic signatures would be considered valid. WJYAA would first have to turn the petitions into the board of elections and legal experts would then most likely decide their legitimacy.
As previously reported, a report in March from a certified structural engineer revealed issues with Galbreath Hall, which has been used for years by the WJYAA to store equipment and its activities. The village provided the group full use of the building without incurring costs such as utilities and rent until the structure was declared unsound and unsafe for any public activities.
Herman Stanley said during a council meeting June 16 WJYAA would have “no use” for a new community center, should village officials choose to tear down Galbreath Hall and start from scratch.