Bath Board Board of Supervisors holds October meeting

The Circuit Court Room benches in the Warm Springs courthouse were packed and there was standing room only around all the walls on Tuesday evening. The crowd was there  as a result of their actions in September. Wanda Bradley, of the Country Café spoke for her family and the restaurant employees at the beginning of the public comment period.

“I’d like to start of by reminding this board that you are elected official, elected to serve the wants and needs of Bath County. And I don’t feel and think I’m alone in this the decisions that were made at last month’s meeting to cut funding to the Chamber, and fire our Tourism Director do not truly represent the best interests of this county. Regardless of whether people like it or not, Bath County survives on tourism. Everyone knows the Homestead is the largest employer in this county, and that is due to tourism. Practically every citizen in this county benefits either directly or indirectly from tourism.”

She referred to an article that had been shared very widely on social media noting Country Café as one of top Seventeen restaurants in Virginia to go to before you die. The Waterwheel Restaurant in Warm Springs was also included in the list.

Mrs. Bradley continued.

“We could not possibly afford to pay for advertising on such a scale.

“There are a lot of people here tonight that want to know why you made the horrible decision that you did that could possibly cripple the economic growth we’re enjoying in this county right now.   As a voter and a small business owner I can’t imagine how you came to this decision without first checking with individuals and small business owners to see how this would affect them. “

About twenty other speakers reflected similar feelings throughout the comment period. At one point when former Warm Springs District Supervisor, Kevin Fry asked for a show of hands from supporters of the supervisors’ actions, not quite a dozen hands went up. When asking for hands of those who are opposed to what the supervisors had done, all of other hands in the room were raised.

Before the comment part of the meeting was over, another former supervisor, John Trees brought forward petitions asking for the resignations of Richard Bird, Matt Ratcliffe, Claire Collins and Stuart Hall. Stuart Hall was not present to receive his stack of petitions, and Mr. Trees reminded the supervisors they still had some say in how this turmoil could continue to unfold.

“In addition to this petition counsel has been retained (for the?) recall process to have you removed from office if you chose not to resign. The burden will then be upon you to answer to the court why you should not be removed from office.”

Later in the meeting, the board did rescind one of their actions from September. They voted four in favor, zero opposed and one absent to return twelve thousand dollars to the Chamber of Commerce, and also to return the nearly sixty thousand dollars allotted to the Chamber to help operate the existing small Visitor’s Center. Emily Plecker, executive director of the Chamber accepted the first redistribution of funds, but declined on behalf of the board and the organization the money used to operate the Visitors’ Center. She described how the experience had clarified for the Chamber that it needs to be able to operate independently. While they will continue to view the Office of Tourism as an obvious partner in their work for the business community, the Chamber prefers not to rely too heavily on the board of supervisors for support. Richard Bird attempted to assure all present that because the money had been made available to the Chamber again, it would remain that way whether they wanted it or not.   Part Two of this story will cover some of the other highlights of Tuesday night’s meeting.

Story By

Bonnie Ralston

Bonnie Ralston is the Assistant Station Coordinator at WVLS and a Highland County news reporter. She began volunteering at Allegheny Mountain Radio in the fall of 2005. In 2006 she became an AMR employee and worked in Bath County for eight years as the WCHG Station Coordinator and then as the news reporter there. She began working in radio while in college and has stayed connected to radio, in one way or another, for more than thirty years. She grew up in Staunton, Virginia, while spending a lot of time on her family’s farm in Deerfield, Virginia. She enjoys spending time outside, watching old TV shows and movies and tending to her chickens.

Current Weather