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INDEPENDENCE — The Grayson County Board of Supervisors made a surprising move on Dec. 12 with the decision to disband the Grayson County Parks and Recreation Policy Committee.
The vote was a controversial one, with citizens and two supervisors protesting the decision. Supervisor David Sexton brought the recommendation to the board, saying there had been discussion for some time about the fate of the committee leading up to that night.
“We just hired a new parks and rec director, and I’d like to see that position go forward and disassemble the Parks and Recreation Board and Policy Committee,” he said. He added that he had spoken with several high school coaches who wanted to become more involved in parks and recreation to help in forming policies that coincide with the high school athletic programs.
After his recommendation, Sexton added that he would like to make it a motion to disband the board that night, and was quickly seconded by Supervisor Glen Eddie Rosenbaum, who was serving in his first meeting as a member of the board after being elected to the Wilson District seat in November.
The action took Supervisors’ Chairman Kenneth Belton by surprise, after he and Supervisor Brenda Sutherland had already taken issue earlier in the meeting with the fact that a discussion about the recreation committee was added to the agenda less than a week prior to the meeting, which was in violation of the board’s rules of procedure and was done without any documentation or information on what the discussion was to be about.
“Isn’t this a little quick to make a decision like this?” Belton said, receiving no answer to his query.
After a pause, Supervisor John Brewer asked Sexton, “Basically this would just lower the number of chiefs the recreation director would have to answer to?”
Sexton said that was the general idea, and said he felt the county’s recreation department needed new policy manuals, which could be created with the help of director Deborah Jean Kennedy, who was hired to the position earlier this year.
“At this point, we’re probably going to be better served moving in this direction,” Sexton concluded.
Belton asked County Administrator Jonathan Sweet if there were any grants that had been awarded to the committee that could prevent it from disbanding. Sweet responded that he couldn’t answer that question with any level of confidence at that moment.
Sweet said that if the committee, which formed in 2004, had applied for and earned grants, the committee likely did so in the name of the county, as the committee was not incorporated nor was it a political subdivision of the county.
Following Sweet’s response, the motion passed in a 3-2 vote, with Sexton, Brewer and Rosenbaum in favor and Belton and Sutherland dissenting.
The vote drew outcry from citizens in attendance, who demanded to know more about what was just abolished.
Sweet and Chairman Belton reminded citizens that there was no Q&A portion of the meeting, and advised them to contact their district supervisor outside of the meeting. However, several citizens seized the opportunity to speak and voiced their concerns during the meeting time reserved for public comment.
Betsy Shann said she felt blindsided by the board’s decision, and said the committee had been very helpful to her family since its inception.
“The people on this board were very approachable,” she said. “You could go to them with suggestions, problems, and they could get things done. I have no problem with them working with the high school coaches, but these are little kids that high school coaches are not ready to work with yet. They’re not trained for that.
“I was kind of surprised you could do away with a board without having to have any public comment or discussion about it,” she added.
Fred Weatherman, a former member of the policy committee, was next to speak. He explained that the committee began after citizens came together with the goal of establishing a recreation facility for the county.
“Independence Jaycees and the VFW spent $10,000 each and bought 92 acres of land off Appalachian Power Company,” he said. “They applied for grants, and one of the first things, to get those grants, they had to have a recreation commission board.”
“We need some kind of board,” he continued. “I don’t think you need to demolish this board. If there’s problems on this board, let’s don’t do personal attacks.”
Chris Anders, a member of the parks and recreation committee from 2004 to present, pointed out some of the committee’s accomplishments over the years, like the installation of two new softball fields at no expense to the county, the board’s management of and increase in revenues and the recent renovations at the county pool, which he said doubled its usage.
Anders added that the committee had developed a 10-year plan and followed it “to the T.”
“We were making progress, supporting our county, supporting our director,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that Mr. Rosenbaum chose to vote to do away with a board that he had not sat in on a meeting, had not met the members and did not know what they did. I think you’ll regret this.”
Anders said he acknowledged that the recreation department’s selection of a new director came under scrutiny, but he said the process was legitimate and that the board made the right choice for the county by hiring the “best candidate for the job.”
“I feel like this vote was totally a vendetta to do away with our board,” he said. “I think it’s a step backwards.”
Other Board Appointments
Other changes in personnel on various other boards across the county were approved during last Thursday’s meeting, most of which were not consensus picks by all supervisors.
Several appointments were tabled until a later date.
Those approved included:
• Rooftop of Virginia Board of Directors (alternate): Glen Rosenbaum
• Planning Commission Board of Supervisors representative: John Brewer
• Carroll-Grayson-Galax Solid Waste Authority: Mitchell L. Smith (assistant county administrator)
• Workforce Investment Board: Donna Rosenbaum
• Blue Ridge Crossroads Economic Development Authority (BRCEDA): David Sexton
• Twin County E911 Commission: Terry Combs
• Building Inspection Board of Appeals: Doug Williams
• CSA Family Management Policy Team: Donna Rosenbaum
• District III Governmental Cooperative: reappointed Brenda Sutherland, Mary Young (alternate)
• Mount Rogers Mental Health Community Services Board: reappointed Brenda Sutherland, Carolyn Davis (alternate)
• Mount Rogers PDC Transportation Rural Technical Committee: reappointed Brenda Sutherland, Amber Shuler (alternate)
• New River Highlands Recreation, Conservation & Development: reappointed Elaine Holeton
• Department of Social Services Board: Kate Irwin
• Wythe-Grayson Regional Library: reappointed Linda Boyer
• Zoning Board of Appeals: tabled indefinitely
• Chief Local Elected Officials Consortium: tabled until January meeting
• Planning Commission: still confirming eligibility