BUCKHANNON — You rang?
Buckhannon City Hall has recently fielded a number of calls from angry residents who mistakenly believed the city was utilizing taxpayer money to subsidize the various outfits of Lurch, the lanky, loyal butler played by Ted Cassidy in “The Addams Family,” public works director Jerry Arnold told city council at its Thursday meeting.
A statue of Cassidy as Lurch is erected by C.J. Maggie’s in downtown Buckhannon to honor Cassidy, who briefly attended West Virginia Wesleyan College before transferring to Stetson University in DeLand, Fla.
At Thursday’s meeting, Arnold clarified that no city funds had been expended in dressing Lurch up in his latest get-up — an image of Buckhannon mayor David McCauley, wearing a white wig, a pointy party hat and holding a colorful sign that read, “Happy birthday, Mayor McCauley!” on McCauley’s birthday, June 29.
“I guess there were a number of complaints, and some of you may have fielded some of those complaints about the mayor’s face being on Lurch and a birthday sign and I’ll let you know, and for the record, there was no city funds or resources used for that,” Arnold said. “The sign company more than happily donated the sign and the face and the fellows (city workers) put that up before work, and that was on their time. I just want to make that part of the record.”
McCauley started a tradition of outfitting Lurch in various holiday-related costumes, including pink rabbit ears for Easter, a buccaneer cap for Buckhannon-Upshur High School’s graduation and a strawberry-shaped hat for the W.Va. Strawberry Festival, among others.
Councilman Robbie Skinner said he had fielded a number of complaints from exasperated residents who also wanted to know if public funds were being funneled into outfitting Lurch.
“I received six phone calls just Thursday morning with a couple people just irate with why it looks the way it did and who did this and who paid for it and why is this happening, so I came down and talked to Amby (Jenkins, finance and administrative director),” Skinner said. “We have Lurch and I think it’s a nice addition to downtown, but I do think we need to be cautious in how we decorate him. I think he needs to stay Ted Cassidy for no other reason than for the fact that we want to respect his family, because they do live nearby.”
Skinner said he felt costuming Lurch is disrespectful to Cassidy’s family, who Skinner believes still resides in neighboring Barbor County. Skinner did not speak with any family members, however, he said.
“Morgantown has Don Knotts, and they don’t decorate him,” Skinner added. “Based on what I’ve heard around the community, and people have asked me to bring this up, and I’m just sharing concerns that Lurch needs to be kept as Ted Cassidy and not a bunny rabbit and welcoming people to the Strawberry Festival. A lot of people feel it would be more respectful to the family if we were to keep as Ted Cassidy all year round, and let him be.”
McCauley said dressing up Lurch was his idea from the outset.
“I’ve spent about $1,500 of my own money over the past year to finance the holiday editions,” the mayor said. “Sometimes, I think we take ourselves a little too seriously. It’s a fun thing. Ted Cassidy is a guy who made his living dressing up as monsters, and all we’re doing is taking his dressing up to another level. So, just factor in the mix, if you get half a dozen calls and complaints about something, it’s something maybe they wouldn’t complain about if it was their idea for a holiday outfit. It’s not like we’re spending a lot of city money on this. It’s something we have fun with… Jiminy Christmas.”
McCauley added that tourists from surrounding areas enjoy posing for their picture with Lurch, especially when he’s wearing a costume.
Councilman David Thomas said the city needs to “be cautious about process and procedures.”
“I think sometimes our exuberance gets ahead of ourselves,” Thomas remarked. “David, your heart’s in the right place; you’ve put a tremendous amount of energy and ideas into this. But I think we need to have a process that oftentimes, we’re not having.”
Following Thursday’s meeting, Skinner said what seems to bother the people he talked with is the idea that the city is putting more effort into decking out Lurch than it is into maintaining its critical infrastructure.
“Those who have contacted me see Lurch’s outfits as a higher priority than the maintenance of our streets, parks and other public places,” Skinner said Friday. “They believe the frequency of decoration changes is excessive. It’s my responsibility as a servant of the people, to bring forth these concerns, and to ask questions. I wouldn’t be doing my job as a city council member if I didn’t.”
Skinner also added that he would not want to see himself or one of his family members “dressed up in a pink bunny suit, or the mayor wearing a wig.”