City Council passes new budget

BUCKHANNON Buckhannon’s City Council met Thursday evening to hear reports from each department, as well as to pass the 2021-2022 FY General Funds Budget.

The meeting began with a brief discussion between Council and James Powell from Loudin Insurance. As the budget was due, Powell was ensuring the renewal of the City’s travelers’ insurance. Powell discussed the possibility of lawsuits and liability costs within the city’s municipality before the Council unanimously voted to renew the insurance for April 1, 2021.

Following, Buckhannon Upshur Airport Authority Vice President Virgil LaRosa and Secretary Brian Huffman presented to the Council on behalf of the local Airport. Due to major losses during the pandemic, the airport requested financial assistance from both Buckhannon City Council and Upshur County Commission. Sales on jet fuel have decreased, as well as funding from leasing hanger space. Because the airport facilitates Health Net, it is imperative that BUAA has the financial stability to continue. They requested $20,000 from City Council and County Commission for the next two years. Because the financial future is unpredictable, City Council voted to fund BUAA for one year.

Next, Dr. Jeff Harvey outlined an Emergency Service Delivery study created in 2019. This multi-phase study would survey agencies and citizens in the area regarding Emergency Response plans. The study would aim to unearth strengths and weaknesses in the community, so that comprehensive plans can be established. Dr. Harvey plans to go to a variety of agencies to discuss their role in the strategic study. The study would include two phases, each phase lasting around 8-12 months. Dr. Harvey requested a combined $10,000 per-phase from City Council and County Commission. The request was accepted and Dr. Harvey plans to draft a timeline for the upcoming study.

Jerry Arnold gave a brief Public Works report and explained that electrical upgrades at Jawbone Park are 80% complete. Also, the N. Spring Street project remains on schedule, and is reportedly moving along well. Public Works crews continue to upgrade and repair projects around the City of Buckhannon.

Buckhannon Police Department Chief Matt Gregory updated Council members that the in-car camera project is now complete, equipping every officer with dash cameras and new technology. A new department member, James Fisher, will begin the Police Academy on Monday, setting May 28 as his projected graduation date. Additionally, as BPD continues the process of becoming certified through CALEA, Gregory reportedly received a great deal of praise from Police Chiefs across the country regarding his department’s report.

Following, Amberle Jenkins presented the final draft of the 2021-2022 FY General Funds Budget. After reading the highlights and breaking down the details, the Council members discussed and voted the passing of the budget, due March 28. The Council was initially planning to fund the three additional, full-time firefighters needed by Buckhannon Fire Department using $200,000 from the General Fund, which came by way of CARES Act reimbursement for the City’s Police and Fire departments salaries and benefits. However, the American Recovery Act was recently passed which would potentially provide large sums of grant money to cities in America to financially support first responders and fire/police departments. The Council members agreed to apply for the grant first, before passing the $200k funding from the General Fund reimbursement. This will allow 30 days to determine if the money can be obtained through the ARA grant. If not, Council agreed to resort to their original plan of funding the firefighters with the CARES Act reimbursement. The budget passed, as Council members assured the public that the addition of three firefighters is vital and they will be hired as promised.

Callie Cronin-Sams, the city’s former Information Coordinator and Grant Researcher changed professions around one month ago, leaving a vacancy on the Council’s board. Council members accordingly decided to appoint City Recorder Randy Sanders as part-time Information Coordinator and Grant Researcher. Sanders will continue his Council duties, while taking on the additional responsibilities of the additional job. The approval of his hire passed unanimously.

Due to the length of the meeting, Council decided to table the delegation of the Colonial Theatre Board members until the following meeting.

The next City Council meeting will take place on Thursday, April 1 at 7:00 p.m. in Council Chambers.


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