BUCKHANNON – City Council has voted to create an all-volunteer Buckhannon Parks and Recreation Board of Directors.
At council’s March 3 meeting, council voted unanimously to form the board and direct city attorney Tom O’Neill to draft an ordinance governing the board’s composition and functions.
In 2021, council voted in favor of exploring not only enhancing the city’s park facilities and recreational programming but also hiring a full-time parks and recreation director.
Most recently, council and the city’s Planning Commission hosted a joint public meeting Feb. 23 to gather feedback from community members. At that meeting, council and planning commission agreed that establishing a parks and recreation board of directors who could then assess programming needs, evaluate the status of park facilities, and more was the best path forward.
City recorder and information coordinator Randy Sanders led last Thursday’s meeting due to Mayor Robbie Skinner participating by phone as a result of illness. Sanders asked councilman CJ Rylands, who sits on the Planning Commission where the idea originated, to lay out the proposal to form a parks and rec board.
“We’ve had several meetings and discussed this – what our intentions are, if we do this, what we’re going to try to accomplish – and I move that we direct the city attorney to begin to start this up,” Rylands said.
Councilman David Thomas seconded the motion.
Prior to the vote, councilwoman Pam Bucklew asked how many members would sit on the board, and members settled on seven.
O’Neill said writing the ordinance would likely span several weeks because he wanted to ensure it reflected council’s intentions and input.
“I can draft an ordinance, but I want to draft an ordinance about what you envision, so we need to communicate about what’s going in it,” the city attorney said. “Over the next couple of weeks my intent is to reach out to you, every member of council, and we can sit down in small groups, so we don’t violate open-meeting laws and hash out the details. It might take a little while, but we’ll get there.”
“When do we hope to have this in place?” Bucklew asked, and Sanders said as soon as possible.
“There’s not a date or deadline, but obviously, as soon as possible,” Sanders replied. “It’s a process that’s in the works and has been moving along very smoothly and very quickly, but it will take a few weeks for Mr. O’Neill to get together with everyone.”
Thomas suggested O’Neill prepare the ordinance for first reading at council’s first meeting next month, set for 7 p.m. April 7 at city hall, and council members agreed.
Skinner thanked council for creating the Buckhannon Parks and Recreation Board of Directors.
“This is going to be a very important board for the City of Buckhannon, and it is a board, so that’s why it needs to be created via ordinance,” the mayor said. “I think it’s a good direction to head in, and this model [of a council-appointed, all-volunteer board] has been very successful with the Colonial Arts Center Board.”
Thomas emphasized the board will be entirely comprised of volunteers, none of whom will receive monetary compensation, similar to how the city’s Planning, Building and Historic Landmarks commissions function.
Council members voted unanimously to approve the formation of the board and set a date of April 7 for the first reading of the ordinance that will officially create the board.
“I think this is going to be a turning point for the recreational spaces in our community,” Skinner remarked. “I think this is a priority of ours … it’s economic development in its own way. When people choose to live in an area, they want good spaces to be able to take their families to, to enjoy, so I look forward to working with that group and seeing where it takes our public spaces.”
Before adjourning, council also approved directing O’Neill to prepare an agreement regarding the city’s acquisition of a 10-foot strip of property near the rear of Madison Street owned by the Upshur County Development Authority.