MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — City Councilwoman Rachel Fetty said Tuesday night’s rejected $5.2 million contract is closed — for good.
“There’s not going to be a revisiting of this specific contract,” she said Wednesday on WAJR’s Morgantown AM.
Fetty said Council could revisit a purchase of Haymaker Forest, but that the combination of the $2.5 million appraisal released Monday and the significant opposition turnout during Tuesday night’s public hearing prompted Council to reject the original deal.
“The appraisal is really sort of the kicker, where we had additional facts that were going to help us be able to sort through the value of the property, the potential value, the public value,” she said. “We’re trying to search through all of that.”
City Council rejected the deal by a 5-1 vote during the ordinance’s second reading Tuesday night. Deputy Mayor Mark Brazaitis, whose Courtney Avenue property borders the land, was the lone dissenting vote. Councilwoman Jenny Selin was absent.
“It really helped to have such a large turnout,” Fetty said. “It means a lot to hear from folks, because — as you know if you watch every one of these city council meetings — usually our chambers are almost empty.”
The outpouring of opposition included 38 of the 47 public speakers, mostly citing high financial burden, the timeline of a purchase, and concerns about opportunity-cost at a time when the city’s parks and recreation system and fire department are both looking for additional funding either now or in the not-so-distant future.
“I’ve come away with the impression that probably the big winners in this whole conversation are BOPARC and after last night probably the Fire Department,” Fetty said.
Fire Chief Mark Caravasos was one of the 47 speakers to turn out Tuesday night, citing funding needs for the fire department — including new dollars to make up for an expiring FEMA grant in two years and equipment upgrades to keep up with one of the state’s major growing cities.
“City Council wants to commit funds to a non-critical piece of infrastructure, which is located outside of city limits,” he said. “While current infrastructure that the city relies on to maintain basic operations is in dire need of upgrades and improvements.”
“The amount that is to be spent (on Haymaker Forest) would fully fund the construction of a new South High Street Fire Station and the renovation of the Norwood Fire Station,” he added “Properly executed, and with a bit of luck and proper planning, the money may even fund construction of Hart Field Station expansion and preparation for the growth that is expected to take place the airport.”
City Manager Paul Brake alluded Tuesday night to a new commission focusing on land preservation, which is expected to be discussed next week at Council’s informal Committee of the Whole meeting.