Bath’s Board draws ridicule after eliminating position of Tourism Director

“A laughing stock”, “an embarrassment”; ”petty, vindictive”, “horribly done” even “evil” were all words several members of the public used to describe actions the Bath Board of Supervisors took on Tuesday evening. While a few residents stood to say the board deserved respect, and should not be called names, and the board insisted they had had to make some hard decisions, in one fell swoop four out of the five board members eliminated the thriving tourism initiative others had worked tirelessly for years to establish. Board chair, Claire Collins attempted to describe the decision as “about the position” not “about the person”, but everyone present witnessed the supervisors eliminate the position of Director of Tourism and Economic Development effective immediately. Both Collins and Board Vice Chair, Richard Bird, Valley Springs District, who had made the motion were adamant that board members not mention this matter, which had been discussed in closed session, any further, less they violate state law. Then Matt Ratcliffe, Warm Springs district, moved that the property in Mitchelltown, purchased with funds raised through the lodging tax, be designated for business and economic development and a Veteran’s Memorial, not a Visitor’s Center. This motion passed 3-2. Stuart Hall, Williamsville district, moved to eliminate funding in the range of sixty thousand dollars to the Bath Chamber of Commerce, and again, majority ruled.

An item held over from last month’s meeting was to adopt some preferred design practices for new businesses. Even though the board had returned the proposed guidelines to the Planning Commission with a couple of requests for changes in wording, and to include a disclaimer that the practices are are non-binding, Richard Bird moved to deny approving the proposal. He prefaced his motion by saying he might not vote for it. As part of the discussion, Claire Collins provided her understanding that the design practices are intended to offer models and to “encourage conformity, and preserve architectural integrity” for a commercial area. A little later on Richard Bird withdrew his motion, and Eddy Hicklin, Millboro District moved the Planning Commission’s suggested design practices be approved. The motion passed 4-1 with Stuart Hall opposed. Following this, the board chose to discontinue its current agreement with the Airport authority, and not to renew an updated one.

During his presentation, Steve Wampler of Wampler, Eanes and Associates, said real estate assessment notices are being mailed out this week. Property owners wishing to appeal those will have an opportunity for ten days from September 26th through October 7th.

The meeting had begun with Board Chair reminding the public what “civil discourse” is, and ended in such a disoriented jumble that no one could even hear the motion to adjourn.

Just before this meeting the Supervisors and School Board had held a joint work session to establish where funding will come from to pave the high school parking lot. All present claimed they are obviously in favor of the project, but simply cannot find the funding. Recently the School Board was able to return some unanticipated funds to the county, and had been under the impression those could be put towards the parking lot. For the first time, for some perhaps, we heard the word “committed” used to describe how funds could be set aside each year to eventually add up to the four to six hundred thousand dollars needed. The supervisors tasked the county administrator, and the school superintendent with coming up with a plan to set aside the money each year. Some of those unanticipated funds the school receives towards the end of their fiscal year from specific sources are required to be spent within eighteen months. Yet no one wants this project done “piecemeal”.


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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.

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