City council voted to take over operation of the Event Center at Brushy Fork Thursday night. Pictured, from left, are city recorder Randy Sanders, mayor Robbie Skinner and councilman Jack Reger. / Photo by Katie Kuba

City to assume management of Event Center at Brushy Fork for one-year trial period

BUCKHANNON – The City of Buckhannon will assume control of the Event Center at Brushy Fork April 1, and that’s no joke.

Buckhannon City Council voted to take the helm of the facility, which is owned by the West Virginia Army National Guard, for a trial period through June 30, 2024. The Upshur County Convention and Visitors Bureau is relinquishing control of the event space as of March 31, and the city had agreed to take the reins through June 30 of this year at their Feb. 16 meeting. However, on Thursday, Buckhannon Mayor Robbie Skinner asked council for approval to run it for a one-year trial period.

Skinner noted council members have discussed management of the Event Center at Brushy Fork both in public meetings and executive sessions over the course of the last two months.

“Tonight, I’d like to ask the council that we move forward with the assumption of the management of the Event Center through June 30 of 2024, and we would re-evaluate at that time to make sure that things are still moving smoothly,” Skinner said. “If they are, there’s no reason to rock the boat; I wouldn’t know why we wouldn’t continue, but for our trial period, I would ask that we take this leap of faith and manage the Event Center for that time.”

City Recorder Randy Sanders made a motion to approve that action, which councilwoman Pam Bucklew seconded.

Councilman CJ Rylands, who owns the Buckhannon Opera House, a multi-use event space on Main Street, recused himself from the vote, and the motion to manage the event center through June 30, 2024 passed unanimously with the exception of Rylands’s exemption.

Skinner noted council has additional decisions to make in the future.

“Now we will begin talking about the management of it and who’s going to do that,” Skinner said.

At its Feb. 16 meeting, council voted to offer a part-time, temporary position to Katelyn Wine, the current full-time manager of the event center, through the end of June. Wine currently works for the Upshur CVB, which has managed the event center since it opened in fall of 2014, and will continue to operate the facility through March 31.

According to previous My Buckhannon articles, the CVB can no longer manage the center due to changes made by the West Virginia Legislature relating to how CVBs must spend their funding. Now, to remain accredited, salaries should be about 40% of the CVB’s budget, marketing another 40% and operating costs 20%. Previously, those ratios were simply guidelines, not law.

And because Upshur County is a smaller tourism market, the CVB can no longer employ a full-time manager and the part-time staff necessary to run the event center while still hitting those budgetary requirements.

The City of Buckhannon has two ongoing financial obligations related to the event center: first, repaying the $765,000 loan the city took out to finance construction in 2013, and second, a contract with the National Guard to pay 17% of all the utilities at the facility. The loan payments will run through 2043, according to previous coverage.

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