City council talks asbestos dumping, protecting pedestrians

BUCKHANNON — Buckhannon City Council is trying to put an end to people putting hazardous material in its waste transfer station.

At its meeting Thursday meeting, council approved on second and final reading ordinance Ordinance No. 423, which bans individuals and contractors from disposing of asbestos-laden materials at the waste transfer station on Mud Lick Road and any other city facilities. 

Individuals or companies cited and found guilty of disposing of asbestos – widely recognized as a public health hazard – will be required to pay a $250 to $500 fine on the first offense and a flat $500 fine on the second offense.

In addition, the person or contractor will be responsible for paying restitution to the city of Buckhannon for the cost of remediating the asbestos. Anyone convicted or cited will not be eligible for a building or demolition permit for one year and will have any current permits revoked, city attorney Tom O’Neill explained prior to Thursday’s vote.

“As discussed previously, the genesis of this ordinance [is] there were two incidents out at the transfer station in which asbestos was dumped or attempted to be dumped, resulting in, in one case, a couple thousand dollars of cost to the city,” O’Neil said.

Mayor David McCauley said the clean-up cost was about $3,700 or $3,800, but the city has recouped that money.

O’Neill explained the ordinance criminalizes the disposal or attempted disposal of asbestos-containing materials, provides for restitution “and further provides that contractor or individuals who are cited or found guilty under this ordinance are ineligible for the issuance of building permits for the period of a year and it permits the suspension of any outstanding building permits.”

Councilman David Thomas pointed out that council is concerned not only about the cleanup cost, but also about public health and safety.

“Besides the monetary issue, there’s safety,” Thomas remarked.

McCauley noted the dumping of asbestos results in the city having to shut down its waste collection operations while employees comb through materials to remove the asbestos.

“It’s a real pain in the tail, absolutely,” the mayor said.

Thomas made a motion to approve on second and final reading the ordinance, which was seconded by councilman Robbie Skinner prior to passing unanimously.

The ordinance will go into effect 30 days from Thursday’s passage, meaning Feb. 17.

In other city news, councilman CJ Rylands encouraged city police to monitor whether vehicles on Main Street were yielding the right-of-way to pedestrians.

Rylands’ question came on the heels of police chief Matt Gregory presenting his monthly report for December 2017.

“When I’m looking at these traffic citations, the listing of them, I don’t see anything like … failure to yield to pedestrian,” Rylands observed.

Gregory replied that he hadn’t listed every single possible traffic citation — just the ones that officers most commonly issue.

“I don’t have every single traffic violation,” Gregory said. “Just the ones that are commonly cited, but if I need to have a category on certain months, I’ll certainly add it to the grid.”

Rylands replied, “I’d be glad to see failure to yield to pedestrians citations. The vulnerable party is the pedestrian, and [if I’m trying to cross the street and] it’s raining or snowing and I’m thinking, ‘Hey, you’re in a heated car, what’s the problem?’

“Every customer at every downtown business is a pedestrian and when you go to New England, culturally, they are trained,” Rylands continued. “And when you step on the curb on Portland or any small town in New England, they stop. We haven’t made that a priority and there’s still a mindset that the roads are for cars, so anything we could do to modify that.”

McCauley said he, too, has noticed drivers’ reluctance to yield to pedestrians after stopping at the stop signs of four-way intersections.

Skinner said it’s probably difficult for police to monitor the interaction between cars and pedestrians on Main Street.

“Where are you going to sit on Main Street so you can see them?” Skinner asked.

Gregory said officers on bike patrol during spring, summer and early fall are sometimes able to park at the intersections on Main Street.

“I will say in the warmer months, our bike patrol does sit in various intersections on Main Street and if they do actually give a citations, they may try to write a warning,” Gregory said. “Our warnings have increased tremendously this year.

“If they do write a citation, more than likely, it would be failure to stop at a stop sign, not failure to yield right-of-way (to pedestrians), so just because you’re not seeing that particular category, doesn’t mean that area isn’t being monitored,” the police chief added.

Before adjourning, council also:

* Donated $1,005.77 to the Zach Post Memorial Food Drive, which was, in turn, donated to the Salvation Army.

* Adopted Resolution 2018-01, in support of the Gateway West Phase III Transportation Alternatives Sidewalk and Lighting project, which calls for the replacement and construction of new concrete sidewalks from Liggett Addition to the city of Buckhannon.

* Adopted Resolution 2018-02, the Poundstone Riverwalk Extension No. 4 Transportation Alternatives project, in support of the construction of new asphalt walking and bicycling paths from southern Buckhannon into the city as well as to St. Joseph’s Hospital and the Physician’s Care Center.

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