Neighborhood Watch returns

BUCKHANNON — Buckhannon City Council presented upcoming news and reports from the board at City Hall Thursday evening. Several special guests accompanied the meeting sharing news, delivering engaging messages, and providing informative perspectives.

Mayor David McCauley opened with a Public Hearing of Council concerning proposed enactment of Ordinance No. 439 of the City of Buckhannon with the respected related proposals to adopt the amended Comprehensive Plan. A reasonable amount of copies of the Comprehensive Plan are available to the public during City Hall’s regular business hours. 

McCauley continued by asking that everyone present take a traditional moment of silent reflection. “I ask that we keep Mr. Rylands in our best thoughts, wishes, and prayers,” McCauley requested as Councilor C.J. Rylands was absent due to recovery from an unspoken extensive procedure. 

The City of Buckhannon shows its deep appreciation and continues to honor those in the community who have shown extraordinary volunteer service. In regard to the Buckhannon Volunteer Center that was just established last year, the city recognized previous honorees of the Buckhannon Exemplary Service Testimonial (BEST) Award. Richard Clemens was also formally recognized as the City’s 12th recipient of the BEST Award. Clemens has been a definitive example of performing many meritable acts of volunteerism and invests a remarkable amount of his time for his community. He has been a long-time volunteer and participant in all of Create Buckhannon activities, including the most notable Festival Fridays. He has devoted his time and expertise to help sponsor year-end UCARE pool party technology gifts for the youth. In honor and recognition of Mr. Clemens, and all past and future honorees of the City’s BEST award, the establishment of a new BEST bench and installment of a permanent placard in Jawbone Park has been organized by the mayor.

Tim Higgins and Dr. Joseph Reed, representatives of the Upshur County Tobacco Prevention Coalition, presented City Council once again with their most sought-after proposal of banning outdoor smoking, which they’d like to see applied to all outdoor property owned by the county, making it smoke-free and vape-free. Higgins passed out some stickers provided by the American Lung Association advocating smoke-free and vape-free environments as he began to address some updates and health concerns regarding tobacco usage. “On my way to the meeting, I heard an NPR report that addressed the vaping problem has had a double increase since last week. The American Lung Association has been adamant about staying on top of this issue, so they have initiated a new program called INDEPTH which is connected to the NOT or (Not-On-Tobacco) program,” Higgins said. The NOT program is a voluntary smoking cessation program for teens 14-19. Over a 10-week course program, participants learn to identify their reasons for smoking, healthy alternatives to tobacco use, and people who will support them in their efforts to quit. Higgins mentioned “I am a trained facilitator in those areas so I can teach in schools. It was a pilot program of eleven schools throughout the country and 60 percent of the teens that went through the INDEPTH program have agreed to quit using nicotine.” 

Upon reports and further statements presented by Higgins, he and Dr. Reed asked the board to reconsider the notion for eliminating outdoor smoking and vaping to all city-owned outdoor property. “A report from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) that stipulated the warning for everybody to quit using vape products. Another article that stood out to me was that China has banned all vaping products in the entire country. If the country of China can do it, certainly the city of Buckhannon can do it,” Higgins stated. A long-yearned project for those being proactive and doing what they can to fight for the removal of smoking at least within city grounds where it is remains prevalent, has been a motion for quite some time from non-smokers or even smokers that have quit. The mayor replied to Higgins’ aspiration for change by stating “We actually can’t.” The mayor continued by stating, “The United States Supreme Court has already ruled the ordinances like San Francisco did two years ago to ban all tobacco products. We can do that in our parks and all our city-owned facilities and in other public places, but we can’t ban the sale and possession of those items.”

Dr. Reed added, “I think a dollar, that we have limited numbers of, one dollar buys more for prevention and education than twenty dollars buys for treatment. The best policy is don’t start. I was fortunate that I never started, but I know many people who have tried to quit and it’s certainly not easy. Last week I spoke with a class of kids and asked them how many of you live at home where somebody uses tobacco or vapes. We counted the numbers and figured out what it would cost for a pack a day for forty years. And that one class, if those folks would all quit there would be enough money to pay for the addition to the Hodgesville School.” McCauley responded, “We’ll try and review the ordinance and see where we might be able to bolster it. One observation I would make – I’ve walked through Jawbone Park where I’ve seen so many of the no smoking signs and maybe we need to add something to them stating no vaping either.”

Members of the community had a chance to speak out during the meeting once again regarding the importance of addressing the danger of drugs in local neighborhoods. The mayor continued to explain the complexities of drug issues and what the city has done in response. He introduced a few members of the community regarding the resumption of the Neighborhood Watch program. Buckhannon resident Arietta Huddleston said, “We have noticed the improvements on the public with the issues, but it is only temporary.” She went on to state that local churches have been involved and helping with celebrating recovery for those seeking rehabilitation. “All of us need to get involved and not just complain about the drug problem but actually get involved. We need to not sit back and as a community show them, we’re not going to take this and live among the drug addicts anymore,” Huddleston exclaimed. 

Other members of the community further spoke out on the problem with the war on drugs, delivering insight and probable solutions for problems, and ultimately coming together and being proactive about the situation. The mayor explained, “Police Chief Matt Gregory, Tim Miller, and The Sign Guy collaborated on a small project and proposed a template for a sign where situations may be deemed with suspicious activity in a particular area of the city.” Signs warning that the Neighborhood Watch program will be in force and criminal activity may be recorded or videotaped and reported to police were well received. 

The community is doing what they can to draw more awareness about the issues with drugs in the city, and especially public areas where others could be exposed to the problem. City Council meetings are open to the public anyone wishing to attend. The next meeting will be held Oct. 3 at 7 p.m.


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