In close vote, town gives park away

The Mineral Town Council voted to give Walton Park to the Mineral Volunteer Fire Department, despite some misgivings. 

The vote at the Oct. 15 meeting was 3-2, with councilors William Thomas and Roy “Snake” McGehee opposed.

Councilman Doswell “Tex” Pierce motioned to transfer ownership of the park and close the town well on the property. He stipulated that if the fire department ever decides it no longer wants the park, it should be given back to the town.

“I’ve thought about this [issue] more than I’ve thought about anything else that’s come before this council since I’ve been on it,” he said. “I see cons for us to give it to them and I see a lot of cons for us not to give it to them. I finally made up my mind to go the way that Ms. Walton wanted it. That’s the best I can do.”

Pierce said it would cost about the same amount for the town to buy water from the Louisa County Water Authority as it does to obtain water from the well.

“I have been bothered by this action since it came to us,” Thomas said. “I feel that it was deeded to the town. I’m afraid to change the title of this property.”

Prior to casting his vote, McGehee said the removal of the well from the town water system “completely changed [his] mind.”

Councilman Ed Jarvis, who owns land next to the park, abstained from the discussion and vote. Louisa County Commonwealth’s Attorney Rusty McGuire determined that Jarvis had a conflict of interest. 

Several members of the public spoke in opposition to the ownership transfer. Ed Kube asked the council if the fire department would be expected to pay for improvements the town proposed in the 2018 comprehensive plan.

“That should be the responsibility of the town,” he said. “I urge you to reconsider your decision, because I believe this will be your legacy.”

Jim Snider, another town resident, asked what guarantee the citizens would have that the park will remain public.

“Part of what makes Mineral special to me is that park,” he said. “There’s a history there and I can share that as a piece of property that the community has used, and I worry that we’re going to give something that seems to belong to the community away.”

Mineral Volunteer Fire Department Chief Eric Harlowe said his organization is “pleased with the decision of council.”

“This is what Ms. Walton wanted to begin with,” he said. “This is just honoring her wishes.

“Nothing will change with the property,” he continued. “People will still be able to use it whenever they want.”

Harlowe added that the fire department is working on plans for improvements to the park. He said several town businesses and citizens have come forward to offer help with maintenance.