By Peggy Mackenzie
The May edition of Lewisburg City Council’s virtual meetings, held on Tuesday, included a range of topics.
Changes are under way at City Hall over recent weeks with Planning and Zoning Department Clerk Marsha Cunningham being promoted as Planning and Zoning Officer, replacing Gary Ford in that position. Ford left the department several months ago and Cunningham has been handling not only both the planning and the zoning officer positions, but the clerk position as well – with considerable aplomb. Mayor Beverly White applauded Cunningham for her efficient service to the City. She is now officially the head of the Planning and Zoning Department.
In addition, Jacy Faulkner announced that she is stepping down from her position as City Manager, citing personal reasons. She and her husband will be relocating to follow his medical career objectives. He is in his third year at the WV School of Osteopathic Medicine.
Mayor Beverly White shared Faulkner’s letter of resignation to the council. She expressed appreciation for Faulkner having so ably shouldered the position of City Manager, previously held by former Mayor John Manchester, and she thanked her for a job well done. Her praise was joined by the city council with their thanks and regrets to Faulkner, who will be leaving her position on June 5. “I’m leaving on my own terms,” she said, “but with some bittersweetness at the timing.” She will have the warm good will from her former workmates to remember.
Mayor White said Human Resources Director Misty Hill will step up as interim City Manager, while also continuing as HR director. Council approved her installation at a salary equal to Faulkner’s in this interim period. “I have every confidence in Misty,” Faulkner said.
In other City business:
- Faulkner reported that City employees and city residents have come to understand the way the world is working now and how to operate in it. Fewer call-ins to the Police and Fire Departments, fewer complaints, fewer ambulance calls and the like. More City residents are using the autopay option for their water bills, which, Faulkner said should be encouraged even after restrictions are lifted. Other measures and procedures are being put in place when City Hall reopens to establish proper social distancing. Towards that effort, the City is working to get reusable face masks for all City employees.
In a related topic, Faulkner said the City is anticipating some revenue losses, but that, “Overall we’re in a better boat than some.” Information from across the state is being compiled regarding COVID-19 costs to know what may be reimbursable.
Whether or not to open the Green Space after Memorial Day weekend for the summer, spawning opinions from various council members. Heather Blake opined it was too premature to announce opening for the summer and to instead opt to go on a month by month basis. Mark Etten said the health department’s occupancy limits related to public pools should be considered for the water spout fountain. HR Director Misty Hill also remarked that children playing at the Green Space water fountain could put more pressure on police and fire personnel as one more place demanding their attention in maintaining social distancing. Although Blake’s suggestion to opt for a short-term opening was well received, Faulkner said the discussion will need to be revisited because there are mixed public views on the topic of reopening to social gatherings. “No matter what we do, it’s likely people will be upset,” she said.
- Council approved the annual maintenance and support contract with Mountaineer Computer systems at the discounted cost of $8,250. A lengthy discussion with Jeff Feamster, accountant for the firm, on the potential for considering AccuFund Cloud as an additional online service for the City. The potential for COVID-19 to reappear should be considered, said City Treasurer Susan Honaker, forcing the City to once again shut down again. Given the unknowns the City is working with, the service would allow City administration to work from home and still have access to the files and records at City Hall. Should that happen, we would still have people on hand. The AccuFund Cloud access could be a good advantage for the City, she said.
Council member Joshua Edwards agreed, with some reservations, saying, “I’m a big fan of the Cloud, but I’m concerned about the cost of this particular offering.” Mountaineer Computer Systems was offering 10 gigs of space, plus the running the application at a proposed price of $15,000 per year. Feamster explained the City is currently running on 9 gigs and would likely continue at that measurement for up to five more years before needing more space. “It comes down to what options do you want,” he said. After considerable discussion, the council opted to table the item to gather further cost estimates and other options.
- A discussion about domestic chickens within city limits, begun at the March council meeting, continues. Council and administration reached out to other cities, to find that several do allow chickens within their city limits, including, Beckley, Bluefield, and Charleston. However, Fayetteville, Faulkner said, found enormous pushback once their ordinance came before the citizens of that town, and they had to withdraw their proposal. As a result, a raft of issues still need considering, for instance, property boundary setbacks, numbers of chickens, roosters or no roosters, odors and cleanliness, and, most of all, how to enforce anything? Who decides what is too stinky or noisy? “These are all subjective concerns,” Faulkner said. The issue has been put before the City attorney Tom White and City administration to draft an ordinance.
- Public Works Director Roger Pence reported the Lee Street curbing replacement project to replace the curbs in front of the WV School of Osteopathic Medicine, where groundwork has been ongoing for the past few months, was awarded to Radford and Radford Construction. Pence also said that the City has approved the purchase of playground equipment for Dorie Miller Park, an exciting development many local children will be thrilled to hear. With the purchase of several all new pieces of playground play structures, Dorie Miller Park will definitely take on a whole, new look. Hollowell Park’s new restroom is also under construction to finish the foundation. A bid for the job by J.D.L. Contracting has accepted for $5,250. The City Hall roof repair project is under way, with work proceeding as weather allows.
- Police Chief Chris Teubert reported that the announcement of an additional officer position has drawn several responses. Interviews, with appropriate social distancing, are under way, he said.
- Fire Chief Joey Thomas announced that Melissa Dunbar has resigned from her position as Chief Aide. He is reviewing four applicants for the position.