POINT PLEASANT — The Mason County Commission’s idea of selling properties in West Columbia and Letart is being met with some resistance from area residents.
As previously reported, the commission is considering selling county property on Lieving Rd. where the West Columbia Ball Fields rest and property behind the Letart Community Building. The property in West Columbia is around four acres and the property in Letart is 263 acres on four tracts.
During Thursday’s regular commission meeting, delegations from the West Columbia and Letart areas spoke about their concerns about selling the properties. First, Marilyn Kearns spoke to Commissioners Rick Handley, Miles Epling and Tracy Doolittle and questioned why the property was being considered for sale? Commissioner Miles Epling reiterated, having the property was a “tremendous liability for us” in terms of insurance, should someone be hurt on the property. Commissioner Rick Handley then spoke about repeated attempts the county made from 1989-2003 to find money or a purchaser to develop the property for recreational use, finding lack of funds or grants with matching funds that exceeded what the county had to pay.
Kearns said since the county belongs to the West Virginia Risk Pool when it comes to liability insurance, which includes many other entities, she felt the actual risk the county was taking by keeping the property, should there ever be a liability claim, was minimal. She had also talked to several different state agencies about finding grants to keep the property a nature preserve. Kearns also said the county paid $65,000 for the property in 1978 and had since allowed timber to be removed on the property for $10,000, saying the property had already made the county money. She said if the property is sold, there is short-term benefit from the sale but in the long term, the property could be developed with nature trails as a tourist and wellness attraction. Kearns said she realized the community needed to get more involved to make this happen and she asked the commission to give the community a chance to help the county make that happen.
Also, a delegation from the West Columbia area reported neighbors had taken it upon themselves to clean up the ball fields to allow children who participate in Special Olympics to practice sports to prepare for county and state games. Community members said they were also working on fencing, gravel, landscaping, playground equipment and other general maintenance. Neighbors even said they would do the mowing of the four acres, they just wanted it to be available for the kids from Special Olympics as well as use it for picnics and other activities in the community.
Commissioner Tracy Doolittle said no final decision had been made on selling the properties and the commission wanted to hear from the very people who would be affected by selling off the land. Handley also commended those who were getting involved in their communities.
“People who take pride in their communities make a difference,” Handley said.
The commission made no decision on the future of the properties and will next meet at 4 p.m., May 23.
Also at the meeting, County Clerk Diana Cromley, County Administrator John Gerlach.