Councilman CJ Rylands

Rylands urges council to begin work on joint city-county emergency response plan

BUCKHANNON – “I’ve never finished anything I didn’t start,” councilman CJ Rylands often tells his colleagues on Buckhannon City Council.

At Thursday’s council meeting, Rylands used the phrase once again in an effort to spur city and county officials to begin the process of developing a comprehensive, collaborative and coordinated plan for responding to natural disasters and other emergencies that may strike.

Rylands said starting the three-phase Buckhannon and Upshur County Strategic Planning and Emergency Operations Framework phase 1 would likely require a financial commitment from both the city and the county.

Rylands explained why he’d asked that the item be placed on Thursday’s agenda.

“Three years ago, we had several meetings about the delivery of emergency services in Upshur County, and we met with Jeff Harvey (of JH Consulting, emergency preparedness services) and developed a framework of a three-phase comprehensive study of the delivery of emergency services in Buckhannon and Upshur County,” Rylands said. “And that was three years ago, and we haven’t gotten started, and I don’t think it’s on the agenda to assign any funds to this.

“I would recommend that maybe in the next meeting or two, that we budget $5,000 in conjunction with the county putting up $5,000 to fund the first phase of this plan,” Rylands added.

The first phase would involve a survey of the delivery of emergency services in the city and county, Rylands said.

“It’s about what currently exists and what is happening with the delivery of emergency services in the city and county,” he said, “so that would be reaching out to every entity that’s involved in those services.”

Phase 2 – which should get underway about a year-and-a-half after the first phase is completed – would entail studying best practices and asking the question, “what has been successful in other communities?” Rylands said.

“The third phase would be, ‘how do we implement those best practices into our framework as we’ve identified it?’” he said.

Rylands said there’s a “strong likelihood” the city and county could be eligible for reimbursement for the money the entities would initially allocate through grants from the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies.

“We may just have to allocate it and never spend it, but we have to get this thing started, and I thought if we put up our share of the first phase, the county would then reciprocate, and we would have something started.

“It’s been three years, and nothing’s happened,” Rylands continued. “I’ve never finished anything I didn’t start. I would strongly recommend that we make this investment. It’s not unlike the decisions we made with the fire department and police department to seek accreditation.”

The Buckhannon Police Department is currently seeking accreditation through the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, while the Buckhannon Fire Department is applying for accreditation through the Commission on Fire Accreditation International.

BPD Chief Matt Gregory and BFD Chief J.B. Kimble have both told council studying best practices in their respective lines of work has benefitted their departments significantly.

“You can hear the positives blowing over from both chiefs,” Rylands noted. “This is not going to be easy; it’s going to be multi-year planning, but we have a local expert in Jeff Harvey.”

Harvey’s company, JH Consulting, specializes in emergency preparedness and safety consulting and has worked with Upshur County Schools on major safety initiatives.

Mayor David McCauley said information-sharing across the city and county will benefit all residents.

“The other element of this is … it’s going to raise the bar for everybody as far as sharing of information and collaboration throughout all of Upshur County,” McCauley remarked. “Everybody’s going to be better off in our community, not just those within the corporate limits.”

The mayor said city officials would make a commitment to allocate the necessary $5,000 as they prepare the 2019-2020 fiscal year budget.

Prior to adjourning, council also:
-Approved Ordinance 432, expanding the Stockert Youth and Community Center Board of Directors from 10 to 11 members on second and final reading

-Approved the appointment of retiring Upshur County Commissioner Troy A. “Buddy” Brady to the SYCC Board of Directors, effective Jan. 5, 2019

-Approved the appointment of Erasmo Rizo to the city’s Water Board, effective Jan. 1, 2019, due to the resignation of Eric Waggoner

-Approved a request that city hall and city of Buckhannon operations be closed on Monday, Dec. 24, Christmas Eve (in addition to Tuesday, Dec. 25, Christmas Day).

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