BECKLEY,WV (WVNS) — A vacant building, now filled with controversy.
The former Zen’s Café building went up for sale four years ago after operating for a year as the café. At Tuesday’s city council meeting, council members had a first reading of an ordinance to purchase the building for $1.1 million.
Before voting, City Councilman Robert Dunlap explained he would abstain from voting due to a conflict of interest. This split the vote at three, leaving the deciding vote to Mayor Rob Rappold.
“I think he did the right thing. I don’t know how he would have voted had he been able to,” said Mayor Rappold.
Mayor Rappold said his confidence in the city and the organization moving into the building compelled him to vote in favor of the purchase.
“I think it maybe takes a leap of faith. Maybe it doesn’t, maybe it takes a little bit of foresight and a little bit of confidence in downtown Beckley, as opposed to allowing this building to lay dormant for another four years,” Rappold said.
Councilwoman Janine Bullock said the concerns of the people she represents outweigh the potential positive impact.
“It does especially when I listen to my constituents and they have been having the infrastructure issues for a number of years,” said Bullock who represents Ward Five.
Bullock said she found herself in a difficult position because she does support the organization that will move in if the purchase is approved: a West Virginia based coffee shop that helps those fighting addiction and substance-abuse get back on their feet.
“Fruits of Labor, I am in agreement with that because I have worked with that population before at the federal prison, so the program itself will be a great, great program,” said Bullock.
For the first time since the pandemic, concerned citizens could speak their minds in person, and there were people who were afraid this purchase and lease could open Pandora’s box.
“You are gonna have multiple people to want the city, and us taxpayers to help fund their businesses,” said Kevin Reedy, the owner of Reedy Construction.
Reedy is the father of Beckley City Councilman Cody Reedy, who voted against the purchase. He said he and his son believe this money could be better spent on other things in the city.
“When you are spending money to tear something down, then you are spending money to buy something, why don’t you spend the money to make better what you have,” said Reedy.
The second reading of the ordinance will take place on July 27, 2021 with the vote coming right after.