City limits its employees’ travel during pandemic to 30 air-mile radius

BUCKHANNON – Buckhannon City Council recently passed a measure that prohibits city employees from traveling more than 30 miles away from city hall for the duration of Governor Jim Justice’s COVID-19-related state of emergency.

During its most recent council meeting April 2, council unanimously adopted Resolution 2020-03, which declares a state of emergency inside city limits and bans all city employees from traveling “further than a 30-mile air radius from Buckhannon City Hall” – unless they receive written permission from a supervisor or that travel is necessary to perform an essential job function, according to city attorney Tom O’Neill.

At the April 2 meeting, O’Neill explained the first part of the resolution declared a citywide state of emergency related to the coronavirus and COVID-19. The citywide state of emergency is in addition to the states of emergency already declared by the Upshur County Commission and Justice.

“The advantage of doing so has to do with the waiver of certain purchasing and bidding requirements [for needed materials and equipment], and it would help precipitate and focus public attention on the problem and required remedies to the problem,” O’Neill said.

The resolution also consolidates into one document the operational directives approved by council at their recent emergency meetings. (Please see www.buckhannonwv.org/covid-19/ for all COVID-19-related measures and resources.)

The second part of the resolution prohibits city employees from traveling more than 30 air miles from city hall, 70 E. Main St., “for purposes of limiting to potential exposure to the novel coronavirus causing COVID-19 disease and providing [for a] timely response by employees to other emergencies or other exigent circumstances that may arise with little or no warning during the pendency of this state of emergency,” O’Neill said.

The two exceptions are to perform an essential job function or for a personal reason/emergency approved by a supervisor.

“This had its genesis in a concern that came out of the fire department, and as it was considered over the past 48 hours, it was determined that this is a prudent measure to take at this time and to apply it not within just one department but across the city as a whole,” O’Neill explained.

The resolution will remain in effect as long as the governor’s statewide state of emergency does and will automatically be rescinded when Justice declares the state of emergency over.

“We are trying to shut down our employees from venturing out any further than that 30-mile radius,” mayor David McCauley said. “We’re trying to minimize the spread of this virus that folks could unknowingly and unwittingly bring back to our community.”

City recorder Randy Sanders made a motion to approve it, which was seconded by council CJ Rylands before passing unanimously.

“We are all invincible until we are not,” Rylands said. “Everyone (resident) needs to take this seriously and take precautions. It’s not just about you, it’s about other family members and co-workers and friends you could bring the virus back to. Be safe and pay attention.”

McCauley emphasized the seriousness of the pandemic.

“There is no conspiracy, there is no hoax; this is very real,” he said. “It pains us all to take these measures. It’s not easy to undertake these limitations on our freedom and liberties, but we have to do it for the sake of our families and our communities.”

In other city news, before adjourning, council also:

  • Approved a request from Dr. Jeff Harvey to conduct an ethnographic study about leadership in local community recovery efforts following the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Approved on second of three readings Ordinance 444, which calls for a zoning change at 937 Brushy Fork Road, Corporation District Map 33, Parcel 1.1, from a military zone to a C-2 Commercial District. The request was made by A&T Enterprises, the property owners. A public hearing on the matter will take place at the outset of council’s April 16 meeting.
  • Approved on second of three readings Ordinance 445, which calls for a zoning change at Corporation District Map 33, Parcel 1, from military zone to industrial zone. The request was made by the property owner, the Upshur County Development Authority, and a public hearing is also scheduled directly prior to council’s 7 p.m. meeting April 16.
  • Approved the city insurance committee’s recommendation that Buckhannon adopt PEIA Plan C with an HSA, or Health Savings Account feature and lower the city’s contribution to $1,000 for participating employees with single coverage and to $2,000 a year for employees with family coverage.
  • Approved a motion to allow city finance and administrator director Amberle Jenkins to open a municipal sales tax bank account at First Community Bank in Buckhannon.
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