Granville Strikes It Rich

Expanded budget gives town ideal opportunity

Morgantown Dominion Post    
19 July 2009
By Alex Lang

It's like hitting the lottery.

By annexing the land when the University Town Centre was built, Granville's annual budget grew from $150.000 to $2.1 million this decade. Early on, most of the extra money had to be spent on improving services for the shopping center.

But, starting this summer. residents of Granville could see the benefits of having a larger tax base. There are no more large purchases to be made to maintain the center's infrastructure. and town officials are beginning to focus on improving the look of Granville itself.

"I'm just happy to give back. Its feasible to start it now," Granville Mayor Patricia Lewis said.

The first beautification efforts include creating a park neat' the old CONSOL piers. Lewis said the town council has approved preliminary plans for the park, but nothing is finalized yet. The town bought the land after CONSOL closed in Granville.

Lewis said she hopes they can begin some initial work on the park this summer and h a v e most of the project completed within two years.

Under the current proposal, the park would include a boat ramp for fishing boats, a pier fora river taxi, picnic tables. pavilion areas. a walkway along the river. and moving the town original war memorial from the municipal building's attic to a town welcoming area.

Granville has budgeted $25.000 for the work this summer. Lewis said. There is no estimate on the total cost because the project is still early in the planning stage.

She added the town should be able to do some of the work, such as paving, but other parts will still have to be put out for bid.

The river taxi is planned to go in at the park. Lewis said. But details on how it would operate ain't be finalized until the dock is completed and they have a place to dock the taxi.

The park would be the first of its kind. in this area. on that side of the Monongahela River. Lewis said it will be nice for Granville residents - and even Westover - to be able to walk to It riverside park instead of having to drive across the river for one.

Morgantown and Star City have both created riverfront parks on the banks of the Monongahela.

Granville Councilwoman Mary Beth Renner said there are few places close to her town that residents can put a boat into the water for a little relaxation.

Renner said the creation of the park might help kids stay out of trouble by giving them something to occupy their time.

When you don't have things for kids to do. they are going to find something." Renner said.

Even with the park in the planning stages. Lewis admitted the number one project the city wants to complete is something else sorely needed in Granville.

"Our next big project. even if we have to tackle it ourselves." Lewis said. "is the sidewalks."

Much of Granville is without sidewalks. Those the town has are in need of replacement or repair. Many of the residents walk around the town— to the post office, the ball field or a friend's house, and having sidewalks would provide them more safety. Side-walks would also improve the aesthetic feel of the town. Renner said.

The sidewalks will make it easier for many of the town's elderly residents to get around. Renner said. It will also give the town a "nice. clean-cut" look.

Granville Town Council has been turned down twice for a Transportation Efficiency Grant, Lewis said. Not deterred they have applied again.

Council also has applied for stimulus money to help pay for the side-walk project. If the stimulus money is received. Lewis said she believes the town has enough of its own money to pay its 20 percent share of the total cost. Then, she said. Granville could do the entire sidewalk project and fix all the sidewalks in one swoop.

Lewis said the town estimates the entire sidewalk project would cost 81.5 million. That number could change. however, once they have a better idea of the condition of the storm drains.

The town will take any money they can get through the stimulus to help their sidewalks. Lewis said. If they get the full amount needed, the town would have to put up $300.000 to secure the grant. The project is so large and complex that Lewis said it will have to be bid out. If the stimulus money doesn't come through. Lewis said they will look at working on sections of Granville sidewalks as early as next summer. hinds gathered from taxes from the town center would be used. However town officials would only be able to approve the work in sections they could pay for up front. In addition to adding or repairing sidewalks, the town would also repave streets and replace storm drams. Lewis said. They could do all the work at once instead of completing a portion of paving and then having to tear it up to put in new storm drains.

Renner said she would only want to have it taken care of all at once because if they only fixed one aspect of the roads at a time, it would end up costing more money in the end.

"That's just throwing money in the garbage," Renner said.

Finding the funds

The town hasn't been able to focus solely on its residents because it had to pay for support for the town center. Lewis said. She added that even though services such as an increased police presence and snow removal were needed for the center, they have benefited the residents, too.

Since the University Town Centre opened. Granville has been required to build infrastructure to support the shopping district. In addition, more staff has been hired to meet demands. Eleven more police officers have been hired since the center opened in 2005 and more cruisers have been purchased, Lewis said. Before the shopping center. Granville had one full-time police officer.

They also have hired two full-time staff to work in the municipal building. The town also has six employees who work in the street / sanitation department.

All of the town's employees receive full benefits including health coverage. paid sick days and paid vacations. among others.

Lewis said this was something she told employees she would get them when the town had the money With the shopping center, she was able to fulfill her promise.

Lewis said the town doesn't plan to hire more officers or employees anytime soon because they are running out of space to house them and don't need them to run Granville.

They have been able to add so much staff because of the windfall in Business and Occupation taxes from the town center, Lewis said. The B&O taxes have increased the town's budget by nearly $2 million.

Lewis said she recalls many sleepless nights when she was trying to figure out how the town was going to be able to fund everything and provide for the residents.

But. then the town "hit the lottery" when it annexed the property the center would be built on.

From that point, the town budget has grown 14-fold, and those sleep-less nights are less frequent.

Earlier in the decade Granville had to spend the money to beef up its support for the center. Lewis said. But, residents have seen a benefit from that as well. The town now has 24-hour police protection, a second snow-plow was purchased and now they will see different beautification projects in their town.

The town center has given to us," Lewis said. "Now we can give to the residents."

Residents react

Lewis admitted that some Granville residents probably feel it took a bit too long for them to see the outcome from the money gained from the shopping area, but they will soon be able to see those results.

"We told people from the beginning," Lewis said. "We told 'em it would be five years before they start to see any improvement on the town."

Construction on stores began in 2004. and the first ones opened in early 2005.

Granvfile resident Bob Rice said he doesn't understand why it is taking so long for the residents to see the benefits of the shopping center.

The sidewalks have been this way for years." Rice said. "At what point do you suck it up and pay for it?"

Granville should fix its roads and sidewalks before putting in the park. Rice said. He added he knows the town wants grant money to fix the sidewalks, but feels the process is taking too long.

Rice was a losing write-in candidate for mayor during the last election.

Since the center has gone in, Rice said the locals have seen very little change in their small town.

The residents have seen no difference in the amount of services. he said.

But. town resident and business owner Bill Kun disagrees. He said the street sweeping has been great for the town and he sees them out frequently.

Kun owns Bubba's Garage, along Main Street in Granville, and has lived in the town for more than 40 years. He said any improvements the town is planning are a good thing.

"Green it up," Kun said. "Make it look nice."

Kun said that the sidewalks should be put in as soon as the town can afford them, even if it means they have to go block by block. He recalled replacing his sidewalks 17 years ago and it took him less than a week.

Because many of the older residents who used to keep their property in pristine condition have died, Kum said he is happy the town is planning to do some greenscape with the sidewalk improvements. He added that this will help improve Granville's overall look.

Though he is happy a park is going in, Kun said there is no need for a river taxi because he doesn't think anybody will use it.

With the projects being planned, Kun said he didn't know if it would improve his business. His biggest problem is a lack of traffic and he didn't know if beautification would improve the flow.

Granville resident Ella Mayle said it is nice that residents soon will be able to sec the benefits of the shopping center in downtown Granville. Mayle has lived in Granville for more than 20 years and said it's nice the council is finally taking to the sheets to beautify the town.

"I think it's nice," she said. "It has always been dirty and dreary." Because of years of having a coal plant in the area, Granville has always had a bit more dirt than
other towns, Mayle said.

Even with the town's plans to beautify the area. Mayle said it's important for residents to take personal responsibility. They need to keep their homes and yards looking respectable as well.

Lewis said the goal all along was to be able to take care of their residents. This summer they will start that process by helping to spruce up Granville.

"We are so thankful for what we have." Lewis said. "And we're just trying to take care of Granville"