WILLIAMSON – The Williamson City Council voted unanimously to oppose the Serenity Point rehab project at Thursday’s regular meeting of the City Council. However, the council’s opposition could have little to no impact on preventing the project from moving forward.
The decision to oppose comes after months of discussion concerning the facility. The topic was first brought before the Williamson City Council at a meeting held in late October. In the months that followed, many addressed the council, attended meetings and public forums to speak in support of the facility as well as voice concerns.
The discussion surrounding the facility continued at Thursday’s council meeting prior to the council’s vote. Doyle VanMeter, the current owner of the Sycamore Inn facility which the HAMC will re-purpose into Serenity Point, spoke at the council meeting urging the council to support the recovery facility. Those in opposition of the facility like Tonya Webb, with the Williamson Convention Visitors Bureau (CVB) also spoke at Thursday’s council meeting.
Part of the controversy surrounding this facility was the council’s lack of knowledge that the project was underway. The Housing Authority of Mingo County (HAMC), sent correspondence to the Williamson mayor, former city clerk and city attorney in March, 2016 which fulfilled the requirements of notification concerning the purposed facility.
“To apply for a grant, it doesn’t require city council approval in any municipality that we have ever done projects in in all of Mingo, Logan, and Wayne counties. I don’t know that I have ever asked a council for permission to put a project in their municipality. I have been doing this for 20 years and that has never been the case. According to the application process and the requirements from the USDA, we were required to send a letter and notify the local bodies of government for the City of Williamson and the Mingo County Commission, which we did. That is what we are supposed to do to notify the public,” HAMC Executive Director, Belinda Harness explained.
Following Thursday night’s vote of opposition, Williamson Mayor Robert Carlton acknowledged that he was aware that the project was underway and explained that he was under the impression that the information concerning the facility had been sent to council members.
Carlton acknowledged the communication error stating, “I will say that I did receive a letter in the early part of March last year and spoke with the city clerk about that and took some administrative actions to ensure that taxes that were owed would be placed in a lien upon that property. I think council was aware of the lien and I understood that the letter was to go down to council. I asked that copies be placed in their box. If it didn’t get there; that is what happens, I guess.”
The matter of support or opposition for Serenity Point is scheduled to be voted upon by the Mingo County Commission at their next meeting scheduled the evening of Tuesday, February 21.
(Courtney Harrison is a news reporter for the Williamson Daily News. She can be contacted at [email protected] or at 304-235-4242 ext. 2279.)