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Jefferson County denies request for park funding

July 11, 2008|By DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. -- An effort to secure about $11,000 for financially strapped Jefferson Memorial Park in Charles Town died in a Jefferson County Commission meeting Thursday.

Earlier in the week, two Charles Town City Council members said the park off Mildred Street in the southeast part of town was facing financial trouble.

The park, which is run by a nonprofit board of directors, is down about $16,000 in revenue from last year, and officials talked during a Monday night council meeting about what would happen if the park no longer could support itself.

Chris Ott, president of the park's board of directors, said Monday night there was going to be an attempt to acquire money from the county commission to help the park.

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Each year, the county commission sets aside 2.5 percent of its slot machine revenue from Charles Town Races & Slots to help fund local nonprofit organizations, County Commissioner Dale Manuel said Thursday.

Two percent of the money is given to different groups, but a half percent is reserved for other requests, Manuel said.

There is about $11,000 left in that account and Manuel said he proposed the money be transferred to Jefferson Memorial Park's pool fund to help the pool stay in operation.

Manuel said the commission did not support allocating the money.

Manuel said he was surprised his proposal did not get more support, especially since the park's pool is used by many lower-income children whose families cannot take them to other pools in nearby towns.

Commissioner Greg Corliss said he was troubled by the circumstances surrounding the park's finances, particularly the fact that the City of Charles Town only gave $5,000 to the park this year.

The park requested $10,000 from the city.

Corliss said Manuel's proposal coupled with the fact that Charles Town gave only $5,000 is a situation that is "out of balance."

"We know the swimming pool is an important concern," Corliss said.

But Corliss said the county faces many financial pressures, especially the need to bring county employee salaries up to minimal levels, which will cost at least $56,000.

Corliss said making county employee salaries more competitive is a priority for him this year.

Ott said earlier this week that the park's pool is contributing to part of the park's problems.

This year, it cost $5,000 just to open the pool because of broken pipes and a vacuum system that needed to be replaced, Ott said.

When asked Monday if the park is in danger of closing, Ott said that depends on how the county commission funding request goes.

Ott said Thursday night it is unclear what the park board's next move will be. Ott said the issue probably will be discussed at the park board's next meeting, Aug. 5 at 7 p.m. at the park.

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