BUCKHANNON – The City of Buckhannon is contemplating chipping in to purchase a permanent speaker system that could be utilized by a slew of groups throughout the year in Jawbone Park.
At council’s Thursday, Nov. 15 meeting, council members agreed they’d be willing to explore investing in the purchase of what mayor David McCauley called a permanent “truly professional outdoor sound system” for Jawbone Park that Festival Fridays – as well as other groups – could utilize.
McCauley noted the city has heretofore been relying on councilman CJ Rylands, who heads up Create Buckhannon, to haul his personal sound system down to Jawbone Park for Festival Fridays and other events.
“We can’t continue to expect CJ and Create Buckhannon to bring their private system down for every single event at Jawbone,” the mayor told council.
Rylands explained he’d purchased the sound system six years ago with the intent of installing it in the Opera House on Main Street. Now that the Opera House is open, transporting the system down to the park on a weekly basis would a burdensome task.
“It would be too cumbersome of a process to do on a regular basis,” Rylands said.
Rylands said a weatherproof speaker system is likely to cost $15,000 – $7,500 for the speakers and $7,500 for the rest of the components, including microphones, stands, wiring and more.
“This would be available for use for any number of groups,” Rylands added, saying Create Buckhannon had decided to contribute $5,000 of the $15,000 needed.
Although details would need to be worked out, Rylands said a permanent sound system would “afford a lot more opportunities to have events down at Jawbone Park as amenities keep building down there.”
Festival Fridays will start back up again Memorial Day weekend of 2019, he said.
In addition to Create Buckhannon’s $5,000, McCauley suggested the city commit $5,000 and possibly fundraise the remaining $5,000.
“If the city were to commit $5,000 for this and we were to conduct a drive, a campaign of sorts to raise the other $5,000 in the next couple of three months, is that something the council would support?” the mayor asked.
Councilman David Thomas asked finance and administrative director Amberle Jenkins if there were available funds in council’s capital outlay. Jenkins said she’d have to check into that; she also noted hotel/motel tax funds have increased and said that line item could be a potential source of money from which the city could draw.
City recorder Colin Reger said he thought the speaker system was an important investment.
“Festival Fridays is important enough to the morale of the community that it’s worth the investment,” Reger said.
Councilman Robbie Skinner agreed, saying Festival Fridays has morphed into a City of Buckhannon event.
“It’s not just a Create Buckhannon event – it’s a Buckhannon event,” Skinner said. “It happens every Friday. It’s an infrastructural improvement, and I think the city needs to be part of the conversation.”
Jenkins plans to report back to council on their finances at a meeting in December.
In other city news, McCauley suggested council “put the pause button” on his suggestion at the Nov. 1 meeting that the city establish a $10 minimum wage.
The mayor called for the formation of a committee to explore the issue and return to council with a recommendation.
Committee members will include McCauley, Jenkins, public works director Jerry Arnold, Skinner and councilwoman Mary Albaugh.
Only three municipal employees make less than $10 an hour.
In her report, Jenkins said she planned to work with city attorney Tom O’Neill to file civil actions in Upshur County Magistrate Court to collect money on delinquent utility accounts – those who owe $200-$300 or more.
Letters will be sent to account holders first, allowing them a final chance to pay up.
“I need to get their attention,” Jenkins said. “[The amount owed must be enough] that it’s worth me filing the paperwork to go after it. There are some large ones out there that we haven’t had success with through our collection agencies.”
Finally, O’Neill said he’d been in contact with the law firm acting as the lead counsel in the class action lawsuit involving the distribution of opioid drugs in West Virginia, Motley Rice, LLC based in Mt. Pleasant, S.C.
“We’re compiling and submitting to them the cost data that has been requested as part of the class action lawsuit,” O’Neill explained. “We have a deadline coming up about a month from now. I’ve received the necessary information from the police and fire departments, so I’ll be communicating that onto that firm.”