Buckhannon City Hall
Buckhannon City Hall

Almost all city employees have returned to work, city hall lobby to reopen in the coming weeks

BUCKHANNON – Buckhannon City Hall and other municipal facilities will likely reopen to the public in June, city officials said Thursday.

At the May 7 Buckhannon City Council meeting, Mayor David McCauley said the safety measures enacted by local elected officials in response to the COVID-19 pandemic will remain in effect for the next couple weeks.

However, almost all city employees have returned to work with modified schedules, and the public can take care of any business they might normally handle in person online or via telephone.

“We have about 99 percent of our employees back, and we’ve managed to modify our operations to keep people separate so we have all of our people back working regular hours in a safe atmosphere,” city finance and administrative director Amberle Jenkins told council during its meeting, which was held via teleconference.

Jenkins answered a few frequently asked questions, saying no date is etched in stone for reopening city hall to the public.

“We won’t do that until we have all the supplies we need – we have to install some plexiglass in some areas, we need thermometers to scan employees, we need some more masks, gloves and barriers in the lobby because we can only allow two people in the lobby at one time,” she said.

City residents may pay utility bills online here or reach city hall by phone at 304-472-1651 (general number) or 304-472-1430 (utilities).

“We do want people to continue to feel free to call us on the phone, and you can pay your bill online or via the phone – it’s actually more efficient that way, and you won’t have to wait in line,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins said she’s not sure when bulky goods pickup will resume, noting the decision is in the hands of the West Virginia Public Service Commission.

“We also got a question about curbside recycling, and that is unknown – we won’t know when we can safely do that,” she said. “This is a fluid situation, and we will follow the guidelines of the state.”

However, the waste transfer station on Mud Lick Road is open now from 7:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 7:30 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. on Saturdays, Jenkins said.

McCauley said he wanted to stress that city hall wasn’t closed.

“You can do everything you did before – you can sign up for utility service, you can pay your parking ticket, whatever it was that you did before, we still have a full-time staff here, so city hall is not closed,” he said. “City hall is just not receiving folks in the lobby, and it’s for your protection that we are operating this way.”

McCauley said city officials will begin to take steps within the next several weeks to reopen city hall and other municipal facilities to the public.
At the outset of the meeting, McCauley read a statement urging residents to remain cautious and be mindful of social distancing guidelines regarding the potential spread of COVID-19.

“In the weeks ahead, we’ll carefully consider measures to safely reopen City Hall, our public parks, the Stockert Youth & Community Center and the Gibson Library,” he said. “We’ll consider relaxing our city employee travel restriction. Now though is not the time for us to act irresponsibly by moving too quickly. We’ll mostly stay our course with previously adopted measures during the month of May, considering the reduction of earlier implemented measures thereafter.”

Also in his statement, McCauley offered condolences to Kelley Tierney and her husband, Steve, saying Steve’s father had recently passed away from complications related to COVID-19.

“We mourn with those who’ve lost loved ones to this viral demon,” the mayor said. “We especially think of our friend, Steve Tierney and his wife, Kelley – Steve lost his dad to COVID-19 just last week. We empathize with all of those who’ve been hurt, some irreparably – financially by the fallout from this horrid plague. We all have experienced sense of loss – of our freedom, our liberties and our gatherings with our loved ones and friends.”

McCauley said city officials are “hopeful” they’ll be able to host a portion of Festival Fridays and perhaps coordinate some type of Fourth of July celebration.

Read McCauley’s full statement from May 7 below:

Good evening. There are some hopeful signs for our world & our B-U community. “Things” -are slowly starting to come back. Perhaps symbolically the tulips along Main Street & in Jawbone Park have been blooming beautifully, seemingly oblivious to the global pandemic.

Plans are being made to begin our 2020-21 school year in our public school system as well at Wesleyan where about 300 or so new students are scheduled to settle in amid their Home Among the Hills in about three months. China Wok has reopened- thanks Karen! (heya Johnny & Sophie!) – & soon our friends at Don Pacos, Stone Tower Brews, CJ Maggies & several other favorite eateries will open up their doors- with various restrictions but reopening nevertheless. Many of our citizens who’ve been anxiously awaiting the opportunity to return to work are heading back or soon will head back to their jobs.

The Child Development Center plans on resuming their operations on June 1. We’re hopeful that we’ll be able to salvage a portion of our Festival Fridays’ season returning music, food, friendship, & fun to Jawbone Park. We’re hopeful that we’ll be able to have some sort of Fourth of July celebration.

We’re still going to dedicate the recently completed Gallery at our Colonial Theatre & recognize student art from all of our public schools. We’re starting to plan for Fall Fest in September. We ALL- want to be able to sing & dance & laugh & work together toward a better community again. Still- now is NOT the time to let down our guard. There’s a clever Bob Huggins’ commercial running right now where the Coach says about the pandemic- “The game’s not over yet.” Indeed, it’s not over yet. This remains a highly contagious killer of a virus.

This horrible disruption to our much taken for granted way of life- that has shaken us to our core- has also generated a certain eye-opening resolve that we are all so very interdependent upon each other. I choose to think that there is a lot of newfound respect for one another, appreciation of the fact that we’re not alone despite being isolated from our family & friends like never before. We recognize that our front line workers in healthcare & throughout our food & other supply chains are heroes who are essential to our very survival.

By the way, this week is International Nurses & Hospitals Week, so- send out some love to our healthcare folks. Just don’t hug them, at least not right now. We also should appreciate our public servants as we’ve never appreciated them before- our own City employees who’ve not flinched while continuing to provide our most basic services during these trying weeks & months. Our City employees still show up for work every single day to protect us, to tackle projects, & to maintain some level of normalcy during a very highly abnormal time. We’ve all been reminded that maintaining our world is a delicate matter.

We mourn with those who’ve lost loved ones to this viral demon. We especially think of our friend, Steve Tierney & his wife, Kelley- Steve lost his dad to covid-19 just last week. We empathize with all of those who’ve been hurt, some irreparably- financially by the fallout from this horrid plague. We all have experienced sense of loss- of our freedom, our liberties, & our gatherings with our loved ones & friends.

We have reflected together via social media about this shared sense of loss. Our friends at the Parish House & Salvation Army can use our blessings & our contributions more than ever before right now. If you have some expendable resources, please help support those who need our help the most. Drop off a couple of jars of peanut butter or a few cans of soup. There are hungry people living just down the road from you. That’s not just a line or cliche folks- let me say it again- there are hungry people living just down the road from you. Please help if you can.

We are slowly trying to emerge from this dark, challenging period. To be sure, Buckhannon’s best days are ahead of us. Still- in the coming weeks & months we must remain vigilant. We need to continue to focus on the basic pandemic tenets- social distancing, washing our hands, wearing masks when out doing grocery shopping & those kinds of errands, staying safe & at home as much as possible, & looking out for our most vulnerable, the elderly & those who are immunity system compromised.

Please do these basic things, not just for ourselves, but for our fellow citizens who may be more susceptible to this virus that we know will linger on at some level until we’re all vaccinated. Bless the scientists who are working night & day to cure us of this plague & the misery that accompanies it. We need to embrace the science behind this pandemic. Depending upon what news you listen to, we may have a trial vaccine by as early as this Fall. Sign me up! Let’s eradicate this virus.

We have had five positive tests confirmed here in Upshur County. Fifty-one of our fellow mountaineers have succumbed to the virus, & nearly 1,300 have tested positively in West Virginia. More than 75,000 Americans have now died from covid-19, & the total number of Americans who’ve contracted the disease has eclipsed 1.25 million, while approaching four million cases worldwide. Our City will continue to take its cues from Governor Justice & State officials. In the weeks ahead we’ll carefully consider measures to safely reopen City Hall, our public parks, the Stockert Youth & Community Center, & the Gibson Library. We’ll consider relaxing our City employee travel restriction.

Now though is NOT the time for us to act irresponsibly by moving too quickly. We’ll mostly stay our course with previously adopted measures during the month of May, considering the reduction of earlier implemented measures thereafter.

We continue to be all in THIS together, & I know as we get through the coming weeks, that we’ll remain strong as a community while minimizing the impact upon the health of our residents. Anyone having an emergency should contact 911 as you normally would. The best source of information about Covid-19 remains the Centers for Disease Control website. We remain “Buckhannon Strong,” but we still have a long way to go to get past this crisis.

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