Buckhannon considering residency requirements

Buckhannon city leaders are considering adding a residency requirement for all new emergency responders.

City Attorney David McCauley told the city council that both the police and fire chiefs are in favor of this hiring requirement as a way to improve response time for off-duty personnel.

“First responders are basically on-call 24/7,” McCauley said. “There have been issues where we have had responders live uncomfortably far away.”

The idea of adding a residency requirement for future hires in the police and fire departments return to the front burner now that there could be at least two new police officers coming on duty in the coming weeks. McCauley said a new paid firefighter may also be coming on board with the city in the near future.

McCauley said the plan is to have the officers and firefighters live within 15 miles of Buckhannon. The residency requirement would not apply to other emergency responders. McCauley noted that the City of Wheeling requires all of its employees to live inside of Ohio County.

“But that’s not what I’m advocating,” he said.

Councilman Ron Pugh, however, wants an even closer proximity for the city’s responders. He asked that any drafted ordinance require those employees to live within five miles of the city. He said the 15-mile radius could have responders living outside of Upshur County.

“The police take their cruisers home,” he said.

Council members agreed the requirement could help improve the response time to emergencies, especially for the fire department, which relies heavily on volunteer efforts when it is dispatched.

Current officers and firefighters would not be subject to the residency requirement, McCauley said.