Mayor Robbie Skinner at council's Oct. 15 meeting.

After county vote, city OKs trick-or-treating to avoid ‘confusion, frustration’

BUCKHANNON – The City of Buckhannon has set trick-or-treating for 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Halloween, which falls on Saturday, Oct. 31.

The decision, which received a vote of 5-1 with just councilman David Thomas dissenting, aligns with the Upshur County Commission’s decision last week to set trick-or-treat from 6 to 8 p.m. within the county.

Both the city and county had initially delayed setting hours for trick-or-treating due to the uptick in COVID-19 cases in Upshur County over the past several weeks.

At the outset of the discussion, mayor Robbie Skinner recommended setting the hours similar to the county’s, saying that move would result in less confusion and frustration among residents.

“I’ll be honest, last week, I was more inclined to say that we don’t do this, but the county commission has set trick-or-treat for Saturday, Oct. 31,” Skinner said. “From a logistical standpoint, the City of Buckhannon is located in Upshur County, and because of that, I think we should do it at the same time. I think it would cause a lot of confusion and frustration if the county [permits] trick-or-treating and the city does not.”

As of Thursday, Oct. 15, a total 97 cases of COVID-19 were active in Upshur County, according to the W.Va. Department of Health and Human Resources.

Skinner said he was well-aware that the county’s numbers “are not great,” but reminded residents that trick-or-treating and handing out candy are both voluntary activities.

“I would like to remind everybody that this is and has always been purely voluntary; you are not required to go trick-or-treating or give out candy,” the mayor said. “So, my recommendation to council is that we adhere to CDC guidelines relative to trick-or-treating and stress to folks that we need to keep from congregating and keep traffic flow moving from house to house – and that you don’t have to participate if you don’t want to trick-or-treat or give out candy.”

The CDC calls traditional trick-or-treating a “higher risk activity.”

“Avoid these higher risk activities to help prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19: Participating in traditional trick-or-treating where treats are handed to children who go door to door,” reads the CDC guidelines on Halloween.

Skinner recommended city council follow the county’s lead and go ahead and set times for trick-or-treat for those who do wish to participate.

“Following the lead of the Upshur County Commission, I think we have to keep the continuity of our community intact and to reduce any confusion that might take place,” Skinner said, “so, it’s my recommendation that we set trick-or-treat for 6 to 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 31.”

Thomas, who participated in the meeting via teleconference, asked Skinner if commissioners conferred with him prior to making a decision at their Oct. 8 meeting.

“Not really,” Skinner replied. “I told them prior to our Oct. 1 meeting that we were wanting to delay decision until tonight, but we don’t meet every week like they do. They went ahead and passed it last week and set the time and date.”

Skinner said he received a phone call from one of the commissioners Friday, Oct. 9 following the Oct. 8 meeting.

“I don’t want to be at odds with the county commission over something like this,” he added, “and I don’t want to create confusion in our community.”

Thomas said the commission’s lack of communication with the city was, in his opinion, disappointing.

“I find it very sad that we couldn’t have done this together rather than have them do it before we have a chance to discuss it,” Thomas said. “It’s just one more example of the county commission and city council not working together when they should, and I have an issue with that. It’s disappointing, quite frankly.”

“We were going to make the decision more in line together,” Skinner replied, “but now that countywide trick-or-treating is set, I think it’s best if we just do this together and leave it up to everybody’s individual choice to determine whether they want to participate or not. Pandemic or no pandemic, it’s always been voluntary.”

City recorder Randy Sanders said he’d feel more comfortable voting in favor of the mayor’s recommendation if the city posts Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on its website.

City information coordinator and grant writer Callie Cronin Sams agreed to post CDC guidelines both on the website and on social media.

Councilman CJ Rylands made a motion to approve the time and date for trick-or-treating, which was seconded by councilwoman Pam Bucklew. Councilman Jack Reger, Rylands, Bucklew, councilwoman Mary Albaugh and Sanders voted for the motion, and Thomas voted against it.

While door-to-door trick-or-treating is among several ‘higher risk’ Halloween activities, the CDC offers tips to make the holiday safer and offers other ideas for fun, spooky activities.

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