Mayor Robbie Skinner discusses proposed changes to the city's event request form at Thursday's Consolidated Public Works meeting.

City officials ponder policy changes to events held on city property

BUCKHANNON – The City of Buckhannon’s Consolidated Public Works Board on Thursday reviewed possible revisions to its policy governing events that take place on city-owned property.

During the July 23 Consolidated Public Works Board meeting, the board reviewed 11 possible changes to the city’s event request form, including requiring liability insurance and new COVID-19 provisions. Director of Finance and Administration for the City of Buckhannon Amberle Jenkins said city officials decided to re-evaluate the event request form because of guidelines pertaining to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We have provisions in there for COVID standards, essentially stating that the event could be canceled if things have changed,” Jenkins said. “The city has the right to cancel if new guidelines come down that don’t align with the event.”

Another revision would also require event organizers to submit a virus mitigation plan within 30 days before the start of an event. This plan would detail the measures organizers would put in place to prevent COVID-19 transmission during the event.

Board member Mark Waldo asked if the city would be responsible if an event exceeds the maximum amount of people allowed to attend.

“Are we responsible for limiting the number of people to 25?” Waldo said. “What if it goes to 75? Are we responsible to go in there and say people have to leave?”

According to current state guidelines announced by Governor Jim Justice, large gatherings, such as outdoor fairs and festivals, are to be capped at 25 people.

Jenkins said if the city issues a permit for the event, city officials might be responsible for breaking up groups larger than those specified by the state.

“If we give them a permit for the event, I think we would be,” Jenkins said. “We would have to explain that their permit was for 25 people, not 75.”

Another proposed revision included a requirement that the organizer have evidence of valid general liability insurance.

“I just worry about the liability factor because we’re kind of winging it,” city recorder Randy Sanders said. “I don’t know if the city’s liability coverage could add events on as additional insured. It’s pretty easy to add somebody out as an additional insured for a specific period.”

City recorder Randy Sanders speaks at Thursday’s Consolidated Public Works Board meeting.

Mayor Robbie Skinner, who works as an insurance agent, explained it’s ideal for both the venue and the event to have liability insurance.

“Say, hypothetically, that our agency rents from CJ (Rylands), and he has insurance on his buildings and on his premises’ property and liability, but our agency also has to have insurance because if someone were to slip and fall or get hurt coming into our office, yes, CJ owns the property, but they’re coming there to see us,” Skinner explained. “The reason that they’re coming there is because we are there, so in the event of an accident, we need to have coverage, and CJ needs to have coverage – just because we all want to make sure in the event of a lawsuit, nobody’s left out in the cold.”

Skinner said the Upshur County Commission and the Upshur County Board of Education require liability insurance if there is an event on their respective properties.

“I will tell you that the Upshur County Commission as well as the Upshur County Board of Education both require liability insurance for their property, whether it’s just playing basketball, or having a small youth carnival,” Skinner said. “We wouldn’t be any different than our counterparts at the Board of Education, or the commission if we decided to do this, and it’s protection for them and us.”

Jenkins said she was concerned that requiring insurance could make smaller events question whether they want to utilize city property.

“It would definitely deter use of the park if we say the suicide prevention group can’t come down to use the space for an event, or a meet-the-candidates event can’t come down there because they’re probably not going to buy insurance for the smaller events,” Jenkins said.

Skinner said he doesn’t want to discourage events from happening in the park, but some liability policies are affordable.

“I wouldn’t tell anybody not to have insurance on their personal property or their events,” he said. “I believe in it because I sell it for a living, but we don’t want to be prohibitive to any event, but as Randy said, you can pick up some of these event policies at a pretty inexpensive price, and they’re pretty easy to attain.”

The board decided not to vote on the revisions at the July 23 meeting. Skinner suggested the board members evaluate the possible changes and vote on the matter next month.

“I would challenge the board members to review what’s in front of you and if you have questions, we can talk with (city attorney) Tom O’Neill,” Skinner said. “We want to be fair to everybody, so we have to make sure it’s going to be consistent.”

Other possible revisions to the city event request form include:

  • A hold-harmless agreement must be provided.
  • Tobacco, alcoholic beverages and gambling are prohibited.
  • Organizations using city property are responsible for the conduct of participants and spectators and must make adequate provisions to handle anticipated crowds.
  • Permission for use, when granted, is for specific rooms or areas. The remaining areas of a facility are not to be used or entered. The marking of event courses, such as 5k runs and walks, must be made with removable tape. It must not interfere or conflict with any traffic or utility signage or signals. Markings must immediately be removed as the event is concluding. Paint and chalk are prohibited. Event signage must be distinguishable from traffic signs and organizers must have the name of the event on the signage. Markings and signage not removed by the organizer will be removed by the city personnel and the organizers and/or event will be billed for labor and materials.
  • When city equipment is used, a designated city employee must be present and have general supervision of said use.
  • No signs, banners, pennants, etc., are permitted on city buildings. All decorations, furnishings and equipment provided by the renter shall be installed and removed under the supervision of city personnel.
  • When in the opinion of the city, police officers are needed to protect event participants, the public or city property, police officers will be assigned, and the additional costs will be included in the charges indicated on the application.

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