BUCKHANNON – The Consolidated Public Works Board agreed to add two accessible parking spaces on the west side of North Spring Street.
Central W.Va. Aging Services executive director Evelyn Post attended the June 23 Consolidated Public Works Board meeting to request that additional handicapped/accessible parking spaces be added near the social services organization’s office. Post also asked the board if Central W.Va. Aging Services could pay to reserve several parking spaces in a nearby parking lot.
“Parking has become a major problem for our organization on North Spring Street,” Post said. “We have been in our current location since 2001 when we moved there from South Florida Street. At the time we had free parking and [it has since become] paid parking; that worked out very well for us due to the frail, elderly clientele that we serve.”
She asked the board to designate two accessible (handicapped) spaces near the organization’s building and they also wanted to have eight parking spaces specially marked for their clientele, which they would purchase or rent.
“We previously paid so much a month per space – I think at one time we paid for 16 spaces – and we’re willing to do that again, just to have some designated parking,” Post said. “The technology building (Innovation Center) is a wonderful addition to the City of Buckhannon, but that alone has brought in an additional need for parking, so now we’re competing. We’ve been there for years, but we feel like we have to compete with the parking spaces every morning.”
Buckhannon mayor Robbie Skinner said that street previously had an accessible parking space before the city repaved and shortened the sidewalks to create parking on both sides of the street.
“I don’t think it’s unreasonable to request two handicapped spaces on North Spring Street, especially considering we’ve now added parking on the other side of the street,” Skinner said. “The second part of your request is designating spaces [for Central W.Va. Aging Services clients and staff] across the street, and we are talking about directly across the street, in the area directly behind the Chinese restaurant (China Wok).”
Skinner said designating any spaces in that lot would be difficult because it’s already marked as a free, public parking area in the city’s parking ordinance.
“It’s a slippery slope; we have to be uniform in these policies, and that’s why we spent several years trying to come up with our current, non-punitive parking policy,” board member and city councilman CJ Rylands said. “And that’s a tougher decision than the handicapped request from my perspective.”
Board member and councilwoman Pam Bucklew said the CPWB would consider the request in an effort to help Buckhannon’s elderly population, but Rylands disagreed, saying the arrangement could cause future parking-related complications.
“What do you do with the next request?” Rylands asked. “You have businesses in front of the post office parking lot, businesses in front of the Jawbone parking lot, we can’t be arbitrary and what we’re doing needs to be a thoughtful decision. I think we need to have a broader conversation about the impact that it’s going to have on the rest of our public parking because you can’t do it for one and not for the other. I understand being an elderly person and [having] mobility [issues] because I am one, but we need to have a broader conversation with council, and I understand the issue you’re having, but I think it’s a can of worms.”
City recorder Randy Sanders said the board should not decide about designating certain parking spaces without consulting city attorney Tom O’Neill.
“I sympathize, as you do, with the need for this agency, but senior citizens shop and go to all the businesses around Main Street, and I agree with the other comment that the other businesses could just flat out say, ‘well, we want to emulate that plan; it’d be very advantageous for us to go ahead and buy parking spaces,’ so I would say we probably need to consult Mr. O’Neill.”
The board approved a motion to paint and designate two accessible parking spaces on the west side of North Spring Street when the city repaints the parking markers.