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Buckhannon City Hall
Buckhannon City Hall

Council announces timeline for reopening city facilities

BUCKHANNON – Jawbone Park will open for business next Friday, May 29, following a Buckhannon City Council decision to relax a number of precautionary measures that had been imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

At council’s Thursday, May 21 meeting, which was live-streamed via Channel 3, members unanimously endorsed a set of 10 recommendations put forth by Mayor David McCauley.

One of those calls for the resumption of commercial activities – i.e. the Buckhannon-Upshur Farmers’ Market, Create Buckhannon’s barbecue chicken sales and other vendors’ sales – in Jawbone Park on Friday, May 29, provided that, “all of the constraints are observed, i.e. social distancing, proper sanitation practices, etc.”

All interested vendors must register at City Hall by calling 304-472-1651 before setting up shop, McCauley said, noting, “our streets and parks crews will return freshly painted picnic tables to Jawbone Park by that date.”

City crews will sanitize picnic tables and restrooms and collect trash daily.

However, despite the fact that vendors and farmers’ market operations will be permitted, Create Buckhannon’s Festival Fridays, which features a line-up of live music each week, has been canceled through the end of June 2020. The Festival Fridays Facebook page says although Create Buckhannon hopes they will proceed with Festival Fridays in July and August, the group will take it month-by-month.

So, what about the rest of the city parks, including City Park, North Buckhannon Riverfront Park (Sixth Street), Fred Brooks Triangle Park (Marion Street), Harley Brown Rotary Park (South Florida Street) and the Buckhannon Dog Park (Randolph Street)?

Council’s unanimous vote means that the remainder of those parks will reopen Monday, June 1 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. to allow time for city crews to sanitize playground equipment, picnic tables, restrooms and more for the following day.

“This sanitizing is not a fail-safe guarantee that surfaces will be entirely clean throughout the next day,” McCauley said. “We do not have the staffing to dedicate employees to each park all day long, so … park attendees need to be prudent during their visits to our public parks.”

Also on June 1, the foyer at City Hall will open to the public with safety precautions, including the installation of plexiglass, limits on the number of people permitted inside at one time and additional daily disinfecting measures. Individuals entering city hall will be encouraged but not required to wear masks, “all to reduce the threat of virus exposure to everyone who enters,” the mayor said.

The Charles W. Gibson Memorial Library will open, too, but by appointment-only on Monday, June 1. In the meantime, the city library plans to commence curbside pickup Tuesday, May 26, McCauley said, urging patrons to call the library at 304-472-2339 for details.

When the Stockert Youth & Community Center will reopen, however, is less certain. As part of the relaxation plan, the SYCC will open “sometime after June 1, and at such time as we are assured that our Center is prepared to meet all State criteria for operating a daycare center that includes SYCC’s annual, summer Camp Buccaneer program,” McCauley said.

Nonetheless, council gave the greenlight for cardio kickboxing classes to resume at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 2 at SYCC. (Stay tuned to their Facebook page for forthcoming updates.)

Other upcoming days of note include:

Monday, May 25 – Annual Memorial Day Commemoration in Heavner Cemetery will begin at 1 p.m. under the auspices of American Legion Post 7 and VFW No. 3663. Social distancing protocols will be followed.

Friday, June 5 – The Colonial Theatre reopens for the purpose of dedicating the new gallery and showcasing the Youth Art Exhibition that was postponed from March 14. City officials said the exhibition will be open on weekends through June with oversight by B-U art teachers. (The number of attendees in the gallery at one time will be limited to 12.)

Sunday, July 5 – The City of Buckhannon’s Fourth of July fireworks exhibition has been tentatively scheduled for 9:45-10 p.m., and attendees must remain within or immediately beside their vehicles. The mayor’s statement says city reps are “working with businesses around the launch site to create a master parking plan to accommodate residents and visitors wishing to watch fireworks.”

McCauley said the city as a whole was not, and had never been, ‘closed.’

“There has never been a stutter or a stammer insofar as our City’s execution of our essential services is concerned during the pendency of this pandemic threat,” the mayor remarked. “Our employees have performed day in and day out in an exemplary manner. We should all appreciate that dedication by our excellent City staff to their serving our community. Each one of them is a hero or heroine, or a ‘shero,’ as some say.”

Despite some reopenings, McCauley warned residents to remain on-guard, as the COVID-19 pandemic remains an ever-changing situation. The mayor said city officials will backtrack, if protecting public health warrants it.

“We are aware that our community trusts us with their health and safety to make the best decisions for our community with the information we now have, and we don’t take that duty lightly,” the mayor said. “If circumstances give rise to easing back even more on previously imposed restrictions, we’ll respond accordingly.”

“However, if circumstances dictate reimposing restrictions, those actions are possible, too, during the weeks and months ahead. Yesterday (Wednesday, May 20) West Virginia reported 53 new cases, the most in more than a month, so we need to be vigilant in monitoring for virus spikes. Needless to say, this remains a very fluid situation.”

City recorder Randy Sanders made a motion to approve the relaxed measures, which was seconded by councilwoman Mary Albaugh before passing unanimously.

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