BUCKHANNON — The Buckhannon City Council meeting began Thursday night with a concerned citizen asking to address the council. Despite the severity of citizen Faye Huddleston’s concerns, there were a few chuckles during her remarks. Huddleston expressed great concern for her neighborhood, particularly Thurman and Cleveland Avenues, and the Cooper Street areas and alley ways. Huddleston stated, “I think we are all aware we have a severe drug problem here and we need to get something going and do something about this.”
Huddleston continued and suggested a neighborhood watch program. She stated, “The breaking in and the stealing is really bad. We call the police often and sometimes they do not even come.” According to the concerned citizen, an extraordinary number of people on bicycles wearing backpacks are a typical sight in the area; sometimes over 50 people in and out within an hour. Mayor David McCauley asked that Huddleston come back and meet with the Police Chief and members of the council to discuss the issues in further detail.
Huddleston added, “Often times there have been cars parked in my driveway or passed out at the end of my driveway, and I have had to call the police over and over to come get them to move so I can get out.” Huddleston further stated, “This traffic has increased in the last three years, as have the bicycles. The traffic increases around 9 o’clock at night; they are all lined up.” She said, “I will be glad to come back, it doesn’t bother me to complain.” McCauley assured Huddleston, “We will find a time in advance of the next City Council meeting to sit down with you.” Council Member Robbie Skinner thanked Huddleston for coming in and speaking out. A neighbor that accompanied Huddleston stated, “I have counted 53 people coming in and out in one hour.” Huddleston added, “They are putting motors on the bikes and getting ahead of us. Over there we call them the backpack mafia.” It was also noted that the public needle exchange is coincidentally located on Cleveland Ave. McCauley stated, “We will increase our efforts.”
Buckhannon Fire Department Chief JB Kimble provided updates from the month of August for his department to the council. Kimble reported that three of the fires during the month of August were suspicious; one had a confession on scene and the other two are still under investigation. Kimble stated, “One of the suspicious fires we had a firefighter injured in the investigation. If there is an arrest, there will be a charge for assault on a first responder.”
Kimble continued, “We are averaging about 120 responses per month.” 44% of the BFD activity was outside of the City limits in August. Kimble accordingly addressed the council in regard to a part-time firefighter being hired to assist his department. Back and forth discussions ensued between Council Member Skinner and Mayor McCauley because the City may be eligible for the SAFER Grant.
Skinner stated, “It is my belief that we should see where we are with SAFER Grant before we go down this road.” The SAFER Grant would enable the City to employ three firefighters, which would meet the minimum staffing requirement. The SAFER Grant response will come during the month of September. Skinner inquired if the city is eligible or accepts the SAFER Grant, would the BFD still be looking at hiring one part-time firefighter, to which Kimble replied, “Probably not. If we were awarded the SAFER Grant and had adequate staffing, we would be looking more at a part-time as accreditation continues on.” Skinner advised, “I think we should wait to see what happens with that before we make any decisions moving forward because then we could be looking at a couple different scenarios.” McCauley further advised, “I don’t think it is a foregone conclusion that we are going to get the SAFER Grant. Second, if we get the opportunity, council will still have to approve a financial model to make that work.”
The City Council did vote and approve to adopt the hiring of a part-time firefighter. The council also voted and approved to implement psychological testing as part of the hiring process for firemen. The Fire Civil Service Commission recommends psychological testing for new hires.
The next City Council meeting will be held on September 19 at 7 p.m. in council chambers. Follow The Record Delta for continued updates from the City.