Alcohol OK’d at Camp Pioneer

ELKINS – After weighing considerable input from the community, the Randolph County Commission voted unanimously Thursday to allow alcohol at Camp Pioneer in Beverly for special events.

As written, the amendment – proposed by the Randolph County Recreation Board – would allow alcoholic beverages at the site for events including weddings, wedding receptions and business meetings. Proponents say the move is expected to add an additional revenue stream to help fund improvements at the aging facility.

Commissioner Mike Taylor made the motion to approve the amendment, with the caveat that it be for a two-year trial period.

“This will allow us to see how it goes and see if there are any major problems that we don’t know about,” Taylor said. “On Jan. 1, 2016, we’ll review it and see if there have been any major problems or issues.”

Officials involved with the decision stress that events where alcohol is present will be well-controlled and that alcohol and alcohol use will be in a confined area. They also said entities wishing to bring alcohol onto the property for events would have to go through an application process.

“The biggest negative I’ve heard is the kids and them being around the alcohol,” said Chris See, Commission president. “The way we have it laid out here, is it (the alcohol) will be in a restricted area. It won’t be across the whole campus. Also, it will be when camp isn’t going on.”

“The way I look at it, I don’t think they are promoting alcohol (use), they are promoting Camp Pioneer to get more people in,” See added. “I think if they get more people up to see the beautiful facility, others may want to host events there. I think it will benefit the kids in the long run. The funding will allow for more renovations. I think it will make it better for the kids.”

Commissioners did, though, weigh all sides, including the many phone calls and letters received prior to Thursday’s meeting.

“I can say there has been a mixed reaction throughout the community,” Taylor said. “We have talked about this for the last year or so, and I think the time has finally come for the commission (to make a decision). I know the Rec Board has made a decision. They support it.”

“There’s other institutions and entities in the county that support it, and there are some that don’t,” Taylor added. “It comes down to a decision we have to make that is in the best interest of keeping the camp adequately funded, keep it operational and where they can make some needed improvements in years to come.”

Both West Virginia University Extension Agent Ronnie Helmondollar and Arden Swecker spoke on the benefits of allowing alcohol at events.

“There are many things that cannot be done (at Camp Pioneer), and you (would be) shutting yourself off from a revenue source that so long as it is reasonably regulated would be positive,” Swecker said. “As long as you put those regulations in place, it will be a positive outcome for the camp overall.”

In other business:

– The Commission voted unanimously against a funding request by the board of directors of North Central Community Corrections for monetary assistance to hire outside legal council in connection with the suspension of Community Corrections Director Travis Carter. During a Wednesday meeting of the North Central Community Corrections Board, Taylor indicated a decision on Carter’s situation may come at the Dec. 5 County Commission meeting.

– Commissioners heard a funding request from Randolph County Circuit Court Judge Jaymie Godwin Wilfong for next year’s People’s Law School. The fourth annual, six-session event is scheduled for January. Wilfong requested $4,000 to fund the event; however, commissioners postponed the issue until a decision can be made on the exoneration of a $52,000 tax assessment involving the Carter Roag Coal Company. The impact of the exoneration could cause potential budget cuts in other areas.

– Commissioners heard from Doug Cooper and Mark Mengele about the proposed Rivers National Monument on the Pocahontas-Randolph county line. Cooper and Mengele asked commissioners to come out against the proposed site, saying any benefits from national monument designation already are covered by the state’s forestry plan. No action was taken, as the commission will review material presented to them by the two men.

– The Commission heard a presentation by Tygart Valley Youth Group/Randolph County Community Program chief Steve Kerns on the benefits of the recycling program and the Crystal Springs recycling facility in particular.

– A funding request was considered for assistance on replacing the HVAC system at the Randolph County Senior Center. Taylor spoke on behalf of the senior center, and the commission unanimously approved a $5,700 expenditure for an engineering study of the facility’s current system. The center’s HVAC system is more than 31 years old, and retrofitting will need done to install new equipment, Taylor said. Funding for the study may already be in place, as some excess monies remain after the installation of a generator at the senior center.

-The Commission met in executive session about a pending lawsuit, Phares v. Randolph County Commission. The civil suit lists Darlene Phares and her husband, Donald, as plaintiffs, and lists the defendants as the Commission and Sheriff Mark Brady, named individually and as an employee and agent of the Commission. The filing alleges that Darlene Phares was demoted on Feb. 7 from her position as chief tax deputy, which she had held “for over 2 (sic) years with no disciplinary action” and replaced by “a younger female … who previously held the position as (her) subordinate.” The Commission took no action on the matter.

Contact Matthew Burdette at 304-636-2121, ext. 120 or via email at Follow him on Twitter at IMT-Burdette.