BUCKHANNON — The Mayor gave his annual State of the City address at the Jan. 3 city council meeting.
Mayor David McCauley started that last council meeting with his State of the City address, and talked about some of the important events or changes that occurred in the previous year and how he hopes the new year will go.
“The beginning of our new year poses a timely opportunity for us to look ahead, to consider our future,” McCauley said. “I continue to believe that our community is excellently postured to further raise the bar on our quality of life here for all of our residents.”
He talked about the strides made by the different departments of the city including the Waste Collection Board who implemented their new toter system in the spring and about 60 percent of Upshur County now has new toters. The Mayor also wanted to note there has not been a rate increase in waste collection since 2011.
“In this age to see the rates of any service remain the same for eight years is almost unheard of,” McCauley said. Jeff Wamsley’s guys continue to perform in exemplary fashion.”
He said the project for a new welding garage and tool building at the Mud Lick facility is in the works and Director of Public Works Jerry Arnold will have more information on that in the coming months.
McCauley said the Water Board had a very busy 2018 with the installation of the new Victoria Hill water tank and the completion of the decommissioning of the St. Joseph’s tank to follow soon.
“The increase in our reserve water supply is all part of the anticipated, future growth in our community associated with the ever nearing completion of Corridor H,” McCauley said.
He said the cooperative arrangement with Dominion Resources and construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project has resulted in more than $2 million of improvements to the water distribution system that was borne entirely by the ACP.
“These improvements would’ve been undertaken in the future in-house with the cost borne by our residents and businesses, so- completion of this project pushes us years ahead as our waterworks distribution system has been greatly enhanced without having to increase fees,” McCauley said.
McCauley said Buckhannon ranks number 39 out of the 369 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 10.5 percent lowest rates in our entire state.”
McCauley said the Sanitary Board opened in 1987 and should continue to endure for another 40 years with proper maintenance and that Buckhannon ranks number 173 out of 321 PSC regulated sewer utilities in West Virginia.
“That means our sewer services rank in the middle of the pack in affordability in West Virginia and are at the 53.9 percent lowest rates in our state,” McCauley said.
McCauley said Streets and Parks are anticipated to have projects throughout 2019. He said there would be more paving and sidewalk projects near the city mural, Kanawha, Spring and Florida streets.
“The Gateway West project will start in the spring and soon there will be an amazing mile of new sidewalk, period lighting, holiday banners, and complete streets from the first Buckhannon exit all the way to our college campus,” McCauley said.
He said he anticipates the state project improving the 88 sidewalk intersect points downtown and all along Route 20 will be completed this construction season. He also said there will be improvements to the sidewalks on North Florida Street, First Street and Morton Avenue.
McCauley talked about park improvements such as the North Buckhannon park receiving handicap accessible parking and new playground equipment, enhancements to Jawbone Park, along with an upcoming installation of a new sound system and the dog park will continue to develop.
McCauley talked about the Buckhannon Community Theatre performing “Dracula” in the new renovated auditorium in October.
“This facility will be a crown jewel of our community when completed servicing our arts’ entities, but especially our youth,” McCauley said.
He said the Stockert Youth and Community Center will celebrate its silver anniversary in 2019.
“We plan on breaking ground on our new auditorium/gymnasium complex in 2019 and many more fundraisings are planned as we try to edge closer to undertaking that vital project for the benefit of our kids,” McCauley said, “We raised about $110,000 with our renewed SYCC capital campaign during the past year alone.”
McCauley also mentioned some changes to the police department and fire department. He mentioned new police officers Angel McCauley and Sam Kraemer and that the department is working toward full CALEA accreditation.
“Our officers are unanimously committed to CALEA accreditation and the CALEA committee has been very busy,” McCauley said. “We continue to develop holistic policies in addressing our drug epidemic. Kudos to Matt Gregory’s excellent officers and staff, and special thanks to our VIPS as well for protecting our lives and property.”
The mayor mentioned how the fire department has been working toward their own accreditation as well.
“Our Fire Department similarly worked hard on its own IFAA accreditation efforts during 2018, and all of our members are performing excellently including new chief, J.B. Kimble,” McCauley said. “The collaboration among our paid and volunteer fighters continues to establish Buckhannon as one of the best prepared fire departments in the state.”The mayor also mentioned some businesses that may have been new to Buckhannon or recently moved locations. He said Harbor Freight saw their second West Virginia store come to Buckhannon in 2018, Stone Tower Brews came in April, the innovation center is anticipated to open in the summer, the Opera house opened last summer, Community Care joined the downtown, Orion Strategies placed their headquarters downtown, Citizens Bank opened its new building, Jesterline is working on joining downtown businesses, Almost Heaven CrossFit Gym opened in Traders Alley and Mountain Lakes Insurance is now downtown.
“We’ve realized more than $15 million in new construction in our downtown during the past two years,” McCauley said. “We have virtually 100 percent store front occupancy on our Main Street.” He thanked all the laborers and workers who keep the city running and his colleagues on the city council.
“We need to recognize the value of those labors and we need to retain and express our collective appreciation for our very valuable work force,” McCauley said. “I want to most sincerely thank my colleagues on this city council who have steadfastly sponsored and supported initiatives to make our organization and community stronger. We truly are- all in this together. May 2019 smile kindly and fondly upon our Buckhannon.”