BUCKHANNON – Buckhannon City Council recently curbed action on an ordinance that would have allowed the city to boot vehicles whose drivers had racked up an excessive number of unpaid parking tickets – at least for now.
At its regular Oct. 18 meeting, city officials tabled the first reading of Ordinance 462, which would have allowed vehicle immobilization devices, also referred to as boots, saying they needed to have additional conversations with the Buckhannon Police Department’s leadership.
The issue initially arose at a late August Consolidated Public Works Board meeting at the recommendation of City of Buckhannon Municipal Judge Helen Echard. Echard asked Consolidated board members to consider implementing a new ordinance that would give her the authority to issue more severe penalties to people who chronically fail to pay outstanding parking tickets.
Mayor Robbie Skinner said city attorney Tom O’Neill was still working on the language in the proposed ordinance, and O’Neill elaborated further. O’Neill said he’d been engaged in discussions with Echard about how, exactly, the ordinance would function.
“During the course of those discussions, which were pretty lengthy, it became clear that this ordinance is going to implicate or could implicate the operations of the police department in some important ways, specifically with respect to removing boots, particularly on off-hours when the parking enforcement officer is not on duty,” O’Neill told council. “And because of the necessity of involving the police department in the practice of unbooting vehicles [I think] that we really need to consult with Chief (Matt) Gregory and Lt. (Doug) Loudin and the rest of the department, particularly to make sure there aren’t any CALEA implications to this because it will involve law enforcement.”
The Buckhannon Police Department is fully accredited by the Commission for Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies and must therefore abide by certain policies and procedures.
Councilwoman Pam Bucklew said she would also like to see the police department accompany the parking enforcement officer when she placed a boot on violating vehicles.
“People will be looking for her, and it could be getting a little dangerous for our [female] parking enforcement officer,” Bucklew said. “I don’t agree with just the police being involved with unbooting; I think they need to be involved with booting as well.”
Councilman David Thomas made a motion to table the ordinance until council’s first meeting in November, which was seconded by City Recorder Randy Sanders prior to passing unanimously.
In other city business, council approved on first reading Ordinance 461, which reduces the membership of the Stockert Youth and Community Center’s board of directors from 11 people to nine. The ordinance also changes how often the SYCC board meets, requiring that meetings be held quarterly instead of monthly.
“We are basically at nine now with the resignations of Rob Rupp and Troy Brady within recent months,” Councilman David McCauley said to Skinner. “Would it be your intention to come back before council after this ordinance passes and to formalize the nine members of the reformed Stockert board?”
Skinner said yes, and McCauley made a motion to approve the ordinance on first reading. Thomas seconded it, and the motion passed unanimously.
Also, during the council comments portion of the Oct. 18 meeting, McCauley began to read a statement in regard to the Sept. 30, 2022, search of his residence by federal law enforcement officers, but Skinner said council meetings were not the appropriate venue.
“On September 30, my home was searched by authorities,” McCauley began. “I have been entirely cooperative and forthcoming –”
“David, I’m not sure that this is the appropriate place to talk about this,” Skinner interjected. “We talk about the business of the city and the items on the agenda. I’m not sure this is the right platform.”
McCauley said he just had three additional sentences to read, but Thomas said, “Well, I think we should listen to the mayor.” McCauley then said he would “defer to my colleagues on council” and did not proceed.
In other city business, at a special Oct. 21 meeting, council approved a bid for on-call skilled labor and equipment contractual services from Tradeworx. City Public Works Director Jerry Arnold said that often, contractors have more downtime in the winter months, and the city is hopeful contractors can help advance and finish ongoing projects, such as the expansion of Jawbone Park/Madison Street and the Colonial Arts Center renovation.
“The actual vote should be that the low bidder is Tradeworx and that would be our primary [contractor] for the services they can offer and then that [if they are not available] we would go down the list to the second, third, fourth, whatever, depending on time constraints,” Arnold explained at the special meeting.
“We’re trying to get some turnaround on these projects quickly,” he added. “It helps us to be able to grab a contractor without going to bid on every single project we’re working on. I will note that this only entails labor and equipment. The city would purchase all materials for any of these projects. Our crews are going to be working alongside these contracted laborers to get a project accomplished, so it’s a way of us augmenting our workforce without actually having all of the overhead of the employees.”
Councilman CJ Rylands made a motion to approve the low bid from Tradeworx and move down the list if they’re not available. Sanders seconded the motion, and it passed unanimously.