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Buckhannon mayor gives State of the City address

David McCauley

BUCKHANNON — The mayor of Buckhannon gave his annual State of the City address taking a look back at 2019 while announcing focus for 2020.

David McCauley’s seven-page address given at the outset of the first Buckhannon City Council meeting of the year announced the continuation of several projects as well as proposing a new revenue stream from a first due fire fee.

“I will be appointing a fire finance committee to investigate a self-sustaining model for our fire department that will emulate the successes realized in our neighboring cities of Bridgeport and Elkins through our consideration of a first due fire fee,” he said.

Forty percent of all the Buckhannon Fire Department calls occur outside of city limits and the “meager contribution from the county fire fee to our expanding protection for about 80 percent of the county’s population and the vast majority of total property value in Upshur County is simply unfair to be shouldered near exclusively by Buckhannon’s residents,” McCauley said.

The mayor is also proposing a water summit this year in which all public service districts will meet together to better determine how to work together to reduce potable water loss.

“The members of the Upshur County Commission are invited particularly since they are responsible for the formation and oversight of all PSDs,” McCauley said. “The leakage rates of some PSDs is untenable and we must all work together in becoming better stewards of our precious water.”

In March, the city will partner with J.F. Allen on the south side of Route 33 West to extend water for future development along Corridor H and also plans to build new sanitary sewer on both the north and south sides of Route 33 West beginning in March.

McCauley said city engineer Jay Hollen is identifying ways to increase raw water storage that might double for a form of water recreation and is evaluating another substantial water storage tank that would allow the city to decommission both the Corhart and B-UHS water storage tanks while adding more volume to the reserve water storage tanks.

McCauley said the city needs to prioritize construction of a new welding garage, tool building and locker room at the Mud Lick Run Facility in partnership with the streets and parks department.

“Jerry Arnold will share details in the months ahead, but we know that there will be a cost association of several hundred thousand dollars with this project that will be shared by Waste Collection and our General Fund,” he said.

McCauley also hinted at a possible rate increase in waste collections.

“We need to continue to invest in and be good stewards of the physical plants of all our facilities, but we have not been as attentive to waste collection and streets and parks’ facilities as we need to be,” he said. “I note that there has not been a rate increase in waste collections here since 2011, and in this age to see the rates of any service remain the same for nine years is unheard of. We need to improve our reserve funds for waste collection emergencies.”

McCauley said that grants have allowed tremendous strides in the Colonial Theatre rehabilitation and more than half of the founding for the four-phase project has been secured.

“We have a new floor that can sustain 200 tons, a new roof has been installed, the restored marquee is back up, the windows have been rehabbed, the stage and proscenium have been reinstalled, the HVAC, water and gas plumbing and electrical systems are nearing completion,” he said.

This winter, the street department will be working on the balcony and lobby.

“This facility will be a crown jewel of our community when completed servicing our arts’ entities, but especially our youth,” he said. “Soon we will need to consider the hire of a talented person to oversee theatre management and our Stockert arts programs.”

The mayor said the city plans to break ground on the new multi-use complex at Stockert Youth and Community Center in 2020. The capital campaign stands at about $330,000.

More paving and sidewalk projects are slated for 2020 including near the city seal mural and extending north along Route 20, Kanawha, North Spring and Florida Streets.

“The several hundred feet of new sidewalk along Madison and Meade Streets enhance pedestrian access to downtown and Jawbone Park,” he said. “The Gateway West project will start this spring and soon there will be an amazing mile of new sidewalk, period lighting, holiday banners and complete streets from the first Buckhannon exit all the way to our college campus.”

In summer 2020, McCauley said the city hopes to dedicate the Men in Black car, Pankow Cover and other art installations to connect downtown to Jawbone Park.

A pavilion is still planned for the river walk trail along with the handicapped access fishing pier.

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