It’s So Awful

THE EASTWOOD MILEGROUND SITE REARS ITS GROTESQUE HEAD AT MORGANTOWN CITY COUNCIL

The Monongalia County School Board President, Barbara Parsons, and Superintendent Frank Devono, and City Manager Terrence Moore offered nothing but bad ideas at the Morgantown City Council meeting last evening in regard to what should be done with the several hundred thousand dollars in B & O taxes that the city will collect from the contractors who would build Eastwood Elementary on the Mileground.

The idea of the city investing so much as a single dollar of the B & O taxes at or near the Mileground site is outrageous, but a full investment there is apparently what President Parsons and Superintendent Devono want. And possibly City Manager Terrence Moore too. Mon Schools and its negligent Mileground project should get nothing. It deserves nothing. Mon Schools should pay the full cost of its stupid and negligent fiasco that is Eastwood on the Mileground.

Furthermore, the city should not open itself up to civil and criminal liability lawsuits by contributing a dime that would facilitate school operations at that dangerous and unhealthy Mileground site. The city should continue to oppose such a site and school wholesale.

President Parsons made some ludicrous suggestions about the city using the B & O taxes it would collect from construction there to pay for “bike racks” for the school and to pay for “trees” evidently on school land – where else? Superintendent Devono suggested the city could pay for “trails behind the school,” thus on school land, or that the city could pay for “sewer upgrades” there. Mon Schools should pay for its own shit, and there is plenty of it, as it wanders utterly lost on its trails through the woods. Additionally, both Parsons and Devono suggested apparently that the city could pay for an access road from Eastwood to the Mileground, with Devono repeatedly referring to the private Tramore Lane in the vicinity as “Traverse Lane” or somesuch. That would essentially be a school drive. The city is not responsible for Tramore Lane, nor does that private lane need improvement for anything but school bus use, nor is that private lane even within the city limits. Mon Schools should pay for any improvements and use of that private lane that it needs, not the city. And Mon Schools should pay for its trees, and trails, and bike racks. And last rites should be administered in advance to any bike riders in the area.

Breaking from the ludicrous for a moment was Councilwoman Jenny Selin suggesting that some of the B & O taxes could be used by the city to increase safety on the roads around the school. This idea is well intentioned but foolish twice-over. First, the city apparently maintains no roads around the would-be school. The Eastwood Mileground site is surrounded by two arterial highways: WV 705 and US 119. These are apparently state-maintained roads. And nearby Tramore Lane is private. Second, the city inserting itself into the potentially lethal mess of attempting to make these inherently dangerous roads safe is not only not clearly within its jurisdiction but could open up the city to massive lawsuits in the event a student would be seriously injured or killed in the teeth of any city involvement on these state and federal highways. Mon Schools should bear full cost and responsibility for its own negligence in siting a school in that hazardous location over the formal and written objections of the Morgantown City Council and the broad public. Any assistance in this regard should come from the state, not the city. After all, state agencies collaborated in this horrible siting with Monongalia County Schools and the state is funding part of Eastwood construction with $8.6 million in state funds. Further, the Eastwood Mileground school site is only nominally within city limits and not much effectively or functionally so. To the contrary.

Councilman Bill Byrne had the most sensible idea, apparently suggesting that the city use the B & O taxes to help purchase the to-be abandoned Woodburn schoolgrounds from Mon Schools for public use and the public good.

Meanwhile, Superintendent Devono indicated that Mon Schools would like to acquire a strip of the current Armory grounds (that the city controls) closest to the Eastwood Mileground site in a seeming desperate attempt to provide a tiny buffer zone from whatever entity the city must sell the Armory grounds to, apparently the inherently toxic Sheetz gas station. (The planned school building would extend nearly into the current armory site and future potential gas station site.) But the City, in order to obtain the 4 million dollars it needs from those 5 armory acres to build the access road to the new light industrial park and to build the industrial park itself, and to relocate the armory there in the forthcoming industrial park between the airport and I-68, needs first and foremost to get its 4 million dollars in cash, and seemingly can hardly afford to merely swap much if any land at the armory to Mon Schools for, say, land of the to-be abandoned Woodburn schoolgrounds there well within the city (and within good walking distance of all of downtown Morgantown, Whitmore Park, Marilla Park, and the Deckers Creek and Monongahela River rail trails. It would be great for the city to, in cooperation with BoParc, build a much more direct trail connecting Woodburn schoolgrounds to Marilla Park, a simple switchback trail directly down the hillside through the otherwise unused section of Whitmore park.)

The upshot is that the cash-starved city of Morgantown badly needs the armory cash and the B & O cash – for creating the industrial park, and for purchasing, fixing, maintaining, and revitalizing the Woodburn schoolgrounds. The city should merely scoff at Mon Schools’ outrageous attempts to persuade the city to spend city money at or along the negligent Eastwood Mileground site.

Let’s say it three times over: The city should do the right thing and not spend a dime on or around the Eastwood Mileground site. The city should use all the B & O taxes to purchase as much of the Woodburn schoolgrounds as possible. The city should invest nothing around the Eastwood Mileground site. Where would the city plausibly, let alone responsibly, invest at the Mileground site anyway? The city apparently maintains none of the roads around the Eastwood Mileground site, and no public sidewalks nor other facilities, aside from the 5 acres of the armory which it needs to sell for 4 million dollars to recoup money it has already committed.

Mon Schools made its horrible bed and will have to cough up its own funds and cajole the state to do what it can to not get any of its charges, its students, killed. The city cannot effectively help in that regard, nor should it.

Unfortunately, the City Manager, Terrence Moore, was completely irresponsible in repeatedly advocating, cryptically, that Mon Schools and the City of Morgantown come to an agreement “in perpetuity” that the city will spend B & O funds in relation to school construction projects that generate such funds for the city. City Manager Moore seems so utterly determined to have B & O funds spent at the Eastwood Mileground site or otherwise for the school district directly that he repeatedly stressed the – entirely fictitious – need to create an agreement forever, “in perpetuity,” for the city to evidently commit in writing, in advance, for always, to invest B & O funds either in the school district itself, or at and adjacent to school construction projects, or otherwise in favorable relation to the school district. Such an agreement would be entirely irresponsible, because it just so happens that the school district – a county agency – does not always act favorably or constructively in relation to the city with its projects that create these B & O revenues. The Eastwood Mileground siting is a stark example of this. In fact the school district directly opposed and trampled on the wishes of Morgantown City Council in relation to the Eastwood Mileground siting and the fate of Woodburn Elementary.

City Manager Moore wasn’t around at the time, so if he doesn’t know the history, someone should bring him up to speed fast.

Morgantown Mayor (at the time) Bill Byrne wrote to the Monongalia County School Board on February 25, 2010 :

“On behalf of Morgantown City Council, I am writing to express concern about plans to close Woodburn Elementary School…. We feel that it is imperative to educate Woodburn Elementary…students at their current location…. This is an opportunity to develop compact urban schools using an urban scale of development, avoiding a sprawl.”

By then voting to close Woodburn Elementary to consolidate it with Easton Elementary at the impending Eastwood Elementary on the Mileground, and by voting to do so at the supremely congested and hazardous site of sprawl on the Mileground, Mon Schools completely rejected and trashed the city’s will and preference.

And Moore’s proposal is entirely irresponsible regardless of his knowledge of the Eastwood fiasco, since any agreement “in perpetuity” about spending city money for Monongalia County Schools’ projects does not benefit the city and is likely to hurt the city. Blindly binding city monies “in perpetuity” to county school projects, no matter what, long before the nature of the projects are known, would obligate city funding even to unpopular county school projects that could harm the city, and that are harming the city, as in the case of Eastwood. It’s a shifty and anti-democracy maneuver that Superintendent Devono would surely love to see done, to gain free money from the city for Mon Schools no matter what Mon Schools does! And such a maneuver may be the only way Mon Schools can get any money out of the City to be spent at the Mileground, so unpopular is the site. Such a contractual agreement should not even be legal: get a contract that forces the City to invest B & O taxes at new school sites and projects everywhere, always. No matter how unpopular and harmful to the city, the city would have to fork over city money – forever and always – “in perpetuity” in the repeated insistent phrasing of city manager Moore. If Moore means anything else by his cryptic, unexplained remarks it’s impossible to tell and would seem unlikely.

If City Manager Moore wants to represent Monongalia County, he should take a County job. It seems the County Board of Health or the County school district would love to have him. That way, Moore could spend all his time opposing the City’s smoking ban, and increasing traffic congestion, and fostering various health and safety hazards, and seeing to the destruction of small neighborhood city schools like the one in Woodburn.

City Manager Moore is walking a fine professional line that he appears to have crossed over. Maybe he should pack his bags, again, and head back down the road from whence he came. Either that, or he should get clear quick on who it is that he serves: the City. Not the County.

The County is doing a fine enough job on its own spitting on the City. We don’t need the City Manager to join in those slimy efforts.

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