City of Buckhannon West Virginia
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City Department Highlights

MAYOR’S STATE OF THE CITY ADDRESS

January 4, 2018

The beginning of a new year poses a timely opportunity for us to look ahead, to consider our future.  I believe that our community is excellently postured to further raise the bar on our quality of life here.  Please indulge me for a few minutes as I share our plans department by department for 2018.

Our utility and public safety operations are the core of our essential services.  Our Waste Collection Board will launch its new toter system in March.  This will make our services more efficient, more employee friendly, and all residents and businesses alike will be fully accountable for the services provided.  All residents will be provided with a 96-gallon container for all garbage that will be picked up and dumped into our collection fleet in an automated way.  All containers are encoded with a distinct customer bar code that is automatically read and data entered at time of pickup.  In combination with our streets and parks department, we need to realize construction of a new welding and tool building at our Mud Lick Run facility.  Jerry Arnold will share details soon. Jeff Wamsley’s guys continue to perform in exemplary fashion.

Our Water Board will experience a very busy year.  In the next few weeks we’ll integrate the new Victoria Hill water tank into our system and then de-commission the St. Joseph’s tank.  Our reserve water supply will increase by about 600,000 gallons as a result of this activity, all as part of anticipation of future growth in our community some associated with the nearing completion of Corridor H.  Our cooperative arrangement with the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) project will result in the undertaking of about two million dollars worth of improvements to our water system that will be borne entirely by ACP.  These improvements would’ve been undertaken in the future in-house with the cost borne by our residents and businesses, so this project pushes us years ahead as our waterworks system is greatly enhanced without having to increase fees.  Currently as of December 29, Buckhannon ranks 46th out of the 369 Public Service Commission (PSC) regulated water utilities in the state of West Virginia.  That means we provide our water services among the most affordable communities in all of West Virginia and are at the 12.4% lowest rates in our entire state.  The water plant work completed in 2017 has added decades of service to our current plant and thus defers the tens of millions of dollars in plant replacement costs for many, many years.  Water Superintendent, Kelly Arnold’s staff is performing outstandingly.  Our waterworks have never been better positioned than they are right now.

Our Sanitary Board continues to function in an exemplary manner.  Opened in 1987 with a then 30-40 year life expectancy, engineers Sam Ludlow and Ras Rizo now estimate that in 2018, our sewer plant should endure for another 40-50 years given the excellent periodic upgrades and maintenance of our existing physical plant operations all again undertaken in-house.  Currently as of December 29, and following rate increases during the past two years, Buckhannon still ranks 143rd out of 321 PSC regulated sewer utilities in the state of West Virginia.  That means our sewer services still rank among the most affordable communities in all of West Virginia and are at the 44.5% lowest rates in our state.  During 2017, and after decades of discussion, all storm sewer operations were formally designated as being undertaken by our Sanitary Board.  Our sewer staff has been engaged in extensive planning within and outside the corporate limits to improve our storm water system.

In Streets and Parks, there are a number of projects identified for 2018.  Many more paving and sidewalk projects are planned including near the City seal mural, Kanawha, Spring, & Florida streets.  Our North Buckhannon area will realize important improvements including sidewalk projects along North Florida Street, First Street, and Morton Avenue.  The North Buckhannon Park will be rededicated prior to Strawberry Festival with handicap accessible parking, enhanced ADA compliance, and new playground equipment.  Jawbone Park, Stockert Youth Center, Trader’s Alley/Milkman Lane, and our public safety complex will realize significant and very visible project improvements.  We’ll dedicate the new Green park & Bobcat benches.  Our River Trail will be further enhanced with construction of a new pavilion located near the boat ramp and the new dog park.  The dog park itself will continue to be developed by our excellent City crews with support funding coming from the volunteers comprising our Dog Park Committee.  We will work with the cycling folks and extend our river trail to our high school & beyond.  We will advance the Gateway West project, ultimately realizing sidewalks and period lighting coming off of the first Buckhannon exit and continuing all the way to West Virginia Wesleyan College.  There will not be a prettier thoroughfare in all of West Virginia when this project is completed.

The 16 intersect points downtown will be made entirely ADA compliant as a result of a new state commitment the value of which is approximately $160,000.  We resumed cemetery mowing in-house in 2017 saving our residents thousands of dollars annually while employing new seasonal workers.  Grants have permitted us to make tremendous strides in the rehabilitation of the Colonial Theatre. We have a new floor that can sustain 200 tons of weight & the new roof nears completion. This facility will be a crown jewel of our community when completed servicing our arts’ entities & youth.  We had a soft launch of our Stockert Youth Center auditorium/gymnasium complex & many more fundraisings are planned as we try to edge closer to undertaking that project for the benefit of our youth.  Rob Barbor and his crew continue to work their magic.  The entrances to town are receiving some much needed sprucing up replete with new plantings & lighting.  We’ll realize community fruit orchards during the 2018 growing season.  We’re going to expand our wildflower program in 2018.  Brad Hawkins’ guys simply amaze us.

Our Police Department welcomed a new member in 2017 with the hire of Sammy Criss who completed his academy training just last month.  We’re starting 2018 with new testing to replenish our list of eligibles and we’ll replace an officer who resigned in December.  Our officers are unanimously committed to CALEA accreditation.  We continue to develop holistic policies in addressing our drug epidemic.  Kudos to Matt Gregory’s excellent officers & staff, & special thanks to our Volunteers in Police Service (VIPS) as well for protecting our lives and property.

Our Fire Department similarly welcomed new members in 2017 with John Brugnoli and Tanner Smith who are performing excellently.  Our firefighters are committed to pursuing IFAA accreditation.  The collaboration among our paid and volunteer fighters continues to establish Buckhannon as one of the best prepared fire departments in the state.  Our guys need a new rescue/pumper truck soon, and the Council needs to prepare for helping them purchase that new vehicle in 2018.  This vehicle will permit us to retire two or three 1990s vehicles from our fire fleet.  We will partner with the county commission and volunteers to realize the necessary funds, but, this new, fully equipped vehicle is expected to cost about $500,000.  Thanks to all of our firefighters for their selfless time & commitment to protecting our lives and property.

We’ll complete the exterior improvements to the public safety complex with new lighting, reconfigured parking spaces, landscaping, and dedication of the new Police Department blue wall to compliment the Fire Department’s red wall dedicated during Friendly Way Day 2017.  Our community scrapbook wall will come to be dedicated in the frequently used Community & Training room, which by the way needs a few more tables & chairs.

Callie Cronin Sams will make us better information sharers, while we are very confident that we’ll realize more grant opportunities than ever before.  Amby Jenkins, our Finance and Administration Director continues to perform yeoman’s work for us, and our City Hall staff has never been stronger than it is right now.

2018 will see Harbor Freight locate its second West Virginia store right here within our corporate limits.  Stone Tower Brews will open later this month.  The Innovation Center will break ground during 2018.  The Opera House will be completed by Strawberry Festival.  Developers continue to invest substantially in our downtown.  We have virtually 100% store front occupancy on Main Street.  We’ll continue to make Community Care and St. Joseph’s Hospital successful as we partner with both entities on projects.

We’ll continue to work with the American Legion and VFW on various projects including plans to develop the Veterans’ Way loop & expand the Flags for the Fallen project.  We’ll partner with the WV Strawberry Festival to again help stage the most successful festival in all of West Virginia.  It’s the single most important event each year in our community, & it’s an opportunity to show off what we do to the entire region.  We’ll continue to work closely with Create Buckhannon, ART26201, Buckhannon Community Theatre, Buckhannon Choral Society, and all arts related groups to expand public arts in all forms- visual and performing.  Our primary partners will benefit from our collaboration- West Virginia Wesleyan College, St. Joseph’s Hospital, the Upshur County Commission, the Upshur County school system, the CVB, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Development Authority.  We’ll continue to support small business through our Facade Grants’ Program.  The new parking policy, now fully effected, will be a gift to residents, visitors, and downtown businesses alike.  We will continue to honor & support the Blessing Box and Little Free Library programs & the excellent volunteers that make those programs so successful and distinguish Buckhannon from all other places.

We will continue to partner with Matt Kerner and Opportunity House to remove the stigma of addiction while creating a welcoming environment for those in recovery.  We’ll partner in the second, annual HAHA, Hope And Help Assembly in September, followed by our Children’s Festival, TruckFest, Fall Fest, and the Haunted River Trail.  Festival Fridays are already scheduled for a full summer season.  We’ll enjoy another year of Music on the River on summer Sunday evenings.  We’ll collaborate with the River Festival group as they celebrate our community’s water supply late next summer.

We will do all these things while being cleaner, greener, and more sustainable than ever before.  We will do all these things while being more inclusive than ever before.  We shall not tolerate the actions of those who seek to divide us.  Anyone, regardless as to their race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, handicap, or orientation who seeks to be part of our many successes is invited to participate with us & to offer their help to making our community even better.  Our mission is not to be the best community around, our mission is simply to be the best community that WE can be.

            I have no doubt that with our excellent staff of 85 full-time employees that we shall take our community to another level during 2018.  Our outstanding employees make all of these things possible.  As we begin the budgeting process for the 2018-19 fiscal year next month, and recalling my commitment to our employees that this Council honored back in October of 2016 by then approving a .50 per hour pay raise for all full-time employees, I ask us to work together, i.e., this City Council and our Utility Boards- to find the means to implement an additional, modest cost of living increase effective July 1, 2018 of an additional .50 an hour for all of our full-time employees.  I’d also like to establish a municipal, minimum wage of $10 per hour for all full-time City employees.  Our success as a City is attributed to our folks in the trenches who are repairing broken utility lines at 3:00 a.m. when it’s below zero, the guys who answer the police and fire calls at all hours and under the most unpleasant of circumstances, our workers who are hanging off of the back of our garbage trucks.  We need to recognize the value of those labors and we need to retain our very valuable work force.  WE… truly are- all in this together.

-Mayor David McCauley