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A large group of concerned residents attends the Delbarton Town Council on Monday evening, arriving almost a half-hour early and waiting for the town hall to be opened. Inside, the Council Chamber was standing-room only and the crowd spilled into the corridor as the council discussed issues concerning the Delbarton Opry House.

During a packed-house meeting Monday evening, the Delbarton Town Council once again discussed the issue of the Delbarton Opry House, its physical conditions and a timeline of when the facility could once again be used.

The Opry House has become a hot-button issue in Delbarton. Because of this, when the item was once again put on the agenda a large crowd showed up for the meeting. Those interested in the subject began showing up around a half-hour prior to the meeting and gathered in the parking lot waiting to go inside the town hall. Once they went inside, they filled the Council Chamber, with people lining the walls, with some sitting in the floor and the remainder spilling into the hallway.

Their chief concern was when the Opry House would be opened for use — especially the Saturday night bluegrass music shows.

During a heated council meeting on April 12, in a 4-3 split vote the council moved to allow the Delbarton Music Company to reserve the Opry House every Saturday night for a 52-week period. Mayor Elmer Ray Spence, who voted in the minority, is an avid opponent to having the building used exclusively for bluegrass music performances.

He said other people have wanted to use the Opry House on Saturday nights as well but were not allowed because those nights were dedicated to the Delbarton Music Company.  The mayor has repeatedly said the community would be better served with a variety of music genres and other events on a rotating basis.

The facility is yet to open because of repairs needed to the building’s HVAC system, restrooms and kitchen.

“I tried to explain at the last meeting it is not ready,” Spence said. “The state fire marshal has done said we can’t use it until it is fixed.”

In addition to the problems with the kitchen — which was scheduled to be inspected by the Mingo County Health Department this week as well — and the restrooms, Spence said the fire marshal found problems with one of the electrical boxes, exit signs, emergency lights and the use of deadbolts on doors during an inspection of the building.

Questions arose from the audience and from some council members as to why the fire marshal had been there. They said the Opry House has been in existence for 20 years and has been closed for more than a year because of COVID-19 restrictions.

“How did he find out about it?” Councilman Ralph Maynard asked. “Someone had to call the fire marshal.”

“I don’t know,” Spence replied. “Maybe, he found out when two people call about the sanitation plant. You made a complaint to me on Monday. On Tuesday morning ...”

Spence and Maynard then talked over one another about the to the origins of the calls to the fire marshal’s office and about the plant.

Spence and Town Recorder Medina Mahon said the town’s insurance provider had come to do a routine inspection of the town’s facilities as part of the insurance renewal process. Following that, the fire marshal’s office came the next day. They said it is their belief that the insurance inspector called the fire marshall.

Attempting to diffuse the tension, Councilman Albert Totten said, “We know it has to be safe and be to code.”

He then asked when the repairs could be done and if the town could contact a certified electrician to begin the work immediately.

Spence said he would call the fire marshal’s office on Tuesday and inquire about the matter further. Spence further stated if the inspector would allow it, he would give Maynard or Totten the keys to the Opry House to bring the contractor.

However, on Wednesday morning, Spence told the Mingo Messenger that the inspector said the building cannot be occupied until an electrical inspection is completed and corrections are made. The mayor said he has already started calling electrical inspectors to start the process.

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