Councilwoman Shelia Lewis-Sines and Buckhannon mayor Robbie Skinner discuss an ordinance pertaining to membership on teh city's Water and Waste Boards at council's June 2 meeting. / Photo by Katie Kuba

Council to broaden scope of membership on city’s utility boards by including county residents

BUCKHANNON – Should a new ordinance pass, local people will no longer be required to reside in the City of Buckhannon to serve on its utility boards; instead, they would merely need to demonstrate they’re Upshur County residents.

At Buckhannon City Council’s most recent meeting June 2, Buckhannon mayor Robbie Skinner introduced a new ordinance that, if passed, would allow Upshur County residents who don’t live within city limits – but are direct customers of the city’s Water and Waste department systems – to serve as members of two utility boards: the Water Board and the Waste Board.

“I think this makes an awful lot of sense [because] our water system goes beyond the City of Buckhannon’s corporate borders, as does our waste collection system,” Skinner said. “So,  I would ask that we change the language in both of these [regarding the composition] of each of these boards to include persons who live outside of corporate limits who would be customers of each entity.”

“So, if you are a customer of the City of Buckhannon Water Department, the water system, but you might live in Tennerton or you might live on the upper end of Shawnee Drive or you might live on the Weston Road or the Elkins Road, if you live in our water system – not Elkins Road Public Service District, not Hodgesville PSD, but in our water system – I’ve asked for [city attorney] Mr. (Tom) O’Neill to change the ordinance that created those boards to include those persons not just within corporate limits, and the same with the garbage collection … If you receive our garbage collection service, whether you live in Adrian or you live in Hodgesville, I would like for those folks to also have an opportunity to serve on the board.”

The mayor noted that the two utility boards don’t make decisions about how money in the city’s general fund is spent or about the city’s operations.

“They would only be making decisions for those specific enterprise boards,” Skinner said. “As long as they’re a customer of it, they have a stake in the game.”

City attorney Tom O’Neill said the new ordinance, 458, amends certain sections of Ordinances 117 and 126, modifying the qualifications individuals must meet to serve on Buckhannon’s Water and Waste Boards. The two boards, like the Sanitary Board, function as distinct enterprise funds and are not part of the city’s general fund, which only encompasses police, fire, Stockert Youth & Community Center, City Hall and the Streets Department.

“I would specify that this applies to residents who live in the city’s retail customer service area,” O’Neill said. “This does not extend to customers of systems that purchase their water from the city wholesale.”

Unlike individual customers of the city who might reside outside of municipal boundaries but still get city water directly from Buckhannon’s Water Treatment Plant, Public Service Districts in the county, such as Hodgesville PSD and Tennerton PSD, buy treated water wholesale from Buckhannon’s Water Department and then funnel it through their own infrastructure, i.e., the water system they maintain, to dispense potable water to their customers in outlying areas.

Councilwoman Shelia Lewis-Sines asked Skinner about his rationale.

“What’s your goal with that?” she wanted to know.

“I’m looking at it from a longevity standpoint,” Skinner replied. “We’re running out of people to put on boards. To get more people involved in our discussions, it makes it more attainable to put knowledgeable people on these boards moving forward down the road.”

Skinner said he could name about 200 people who used to dwell within city limits but have since moved to neighborhoods or developments like Deer Creek Ridge, Country Club, Knollwood and Brushy Fork Road.

“They would be tremendous assets,” he said. “They don’t live in city limits anymore, but they’re still our customers.”

Councilman Jack Reger said he views broader board representation in a positive light, especially given that only two of the utility board members could live outside Buckhannon’s bounds.

“I think two is fine; that puts them in the minority,” Reger said. “And, as the mayor shared, there’s just good, qualified people in Upshur County. There’s a lot of engineers who understand the dynamics behind an appropriate water system, and all the ins and outs of that.”

“I think it would be beneficial,” he added. “If you get the right people, they can make better decisions.”

O’Neill said he had recently been reminded by city finance and administrative director Amberle Jenkins that non-city residents are already eligible for appointment to the city’s Sanitary Sewer Board. He also explained the change would not mean city council had to appoint two county residents each to the Water and Waste Boards – just that doing so would be a possibility.

“It doesn’t require that they be non-city residents,” O’Neill said. “It just makes it an option, and the individuals still have to be approved by the council.”

Skinner agreed, saying he was attempting to “broaden the pool of potential candidates” who could serve on those boards long-term.

Councilman CJ Rylands made a motion to approve Ordinance 458 on first reading, which was seconded by councilman Jack Reger prior to passing unanimously.

In other city news, council also took the following actions:

  • Voted unanimously to approve a four-way memorandum of understanding between the City of Buckhanon, the Colonial Arts Center Board, West Virginia Wesleyan College and ART26201 regarding the college’s support of the Colonial Arts Center and to authorize Skinner to sign it.
  • Voted unanimously to approve on third and final reading Ordinance 457, which amends a subsection of the city’s zoning ordinance to include allowing for the placement of “certain condominiums or unit property within certain parts of the R-2 General Residential District A Zone. “Certain” means that condominiums and other unit property would not be permitted to be built or placed within the city’s historic districts, including the Central Historic District section of the R-2 zone.
  • Received notice that the city’s two newly hired probationary police officers, Jonathan Warner and Wade Loudin, had been sworn in and taken their official oaths of office.
  • Received notice that West Virginia governor Jim Justice had appointed mayor Robbie Skinner to the W.Va. Library Commission.

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