The late Gary Bunn memorial, a revenue bonanza and new Floodwall trespassing penalties – highlights from the Huntington City Council meeting on Monday, July 25.
By David Shanet Clark, M.Ed.
City Council President Holly Mount called the meeting to order at 7:30 p.m. Mayor Steve Williams opened the meeting with a few announcements, including the Huntington Police Department’s “National Night Out” event in the town square. Ritter Park fountain on Tuesday, August 2 at 7 p.m. This will be a family-friendly event with HPD K-9 dog training exhibits, crime-fighting tips, inspection of public police equipment and vehicle tours – complete with complimentary hot dogs and refreshments . Mayor Williams also announced a $25,000 urban grant from the Bloomberg Foundation, which will be used for three colorful public murals in the Fairfield, Central City and Highlawn neighborhoods.
The council meeting took a dark turn as the mayor and council came together to publicly acknowledge the late Gary Bunn, who died on June 5, 2022, aged 88. With Bunn’s extended family in attendance, the council and mayor took turns congratulating former county commissioner, town Gary Bunn, council member and director of planning. Colonel of the National Guard and commander of the West Virginia Guard and Reserve Special Forces Unit, Gary Bunn served on the Cabell County Commission in the 1990s. He was inducted into the Wall of the of Huntington fame, served on the GHPRD Parks Board, YMCA Board and City Council, as well as Director of Planning in Huntington for over twenty years, from 1967 to 1989 Bunn’s family received a certified copy of the mayor’s official keepsake.
One of the highlights of the Monday evening meeting was agenda item 16, when the city’s budget manager, Scott Arthur, announced a budget review. He announced to Council and city officials present that the city’s revenue for 2022 had exceeded published projections by approximately one and a half million dollars.
Agenda Item 5 was passed unanimously, following remarks by Brian Bracey, Manager of the Huntington Stormwater and Floodwall Department. The resolution revised the city’s code regarding criminal penalties for trespassing on flood wall property and clarified easements for access, utilities and communications. The changes “will update the city’s ability to keep levees and flood walls safe and secure and provide procedures for the removal of the homeless,” Bracey said. Homeless Services lawyer Mr Peregrine Lloyd spoke about the measure, specifically addressing the question, ‘how many times would a homeless person be allowed to move their property before criminal charges?’ Lloyd answered Council’s questions about the increase in homelessness related to COVID-19 and told Council, “we need more affordable housing, multiple housing and more responsible landlords.” The consensus of city officials seemed to be that criminal charges for homeless encampments were not a first response priority – but that city code changes were needed to give the flood wall authority. and at the HPD, better control of the rights-of-way of the anti-flood wall and clarify access. rules for city waterfront properties. The changes passed unanimously (Board members Jackson and Anderson absent and Board member Sweeney voting remotely via audio link).
Item #6 also passed unanimously, it was a zoning ordinance amendment to reclassify a number of properties on the north side of 8th Ave between Hal Greer Blvd. and 17th Street from “C-1 commercial” to “I-1 light industrial”. Planning director Janney Lockman spoke in favor of the changes, saying the light industrial zone would improve the redevelopment of this corridor and allow for a wider range of commercial activities, including light manufacturing units and storage. The zoning change was approved by the Planning Commission and then passed by Council at second reading.
Items seven and eight on the agenda were routine changes to the City’s building and fire codes. City attorneys explained that whenever the state of West Virginia changes state building and fire codes, all cities must update their municipal codes accordingly. After approval by the council’s public safety committee, these engineering changes were unanimously approved to bring Huntington into compliance with new fire codes and building regulations for the state of West Virginia.
Item #9 passed and moved to second reading, it allows the mayor to enter into a civic partnership with KYOVA and the West Virginia Department of Highways to spend approximately $150,000 on KYOVA and WVDOH block grant for improve pedestrian and bicycle access from Ritter Park through the West 14th Street underpass to the Central City Antiques Corridor.
Agenda item ten brought Huntington Police Chief Karl Colder to the podium to make the case for “six night vision optics and six illuminators…for use in SWAT operations, active fire situations and training exercises”. Chief Colder said the $65,730 contract was a low bid and would be paid for by federal Homeland Security funding that is otherwise set to expire in August. The council unanimously passed the police force night vision device authorization.
Items twelve and thirteen were staff appointments, Lee Cannup and Ann Dandelette were unanimously approved to serve on the Zoning Appeal Board and City Parking Boards respectively. Both have received positive feedback from various board members.
Director of Public Works Jim Insco spoke in favor of agenda item 14, “a contract to remove and replace paving along 17th Street near McVeigh Avenue” behind the Cabell Huntington Hospital. Insco advised the city council that serious slip and basement issues required “six new driveway bays and concrete.” The winner of the Benchmark Construction Company tender in Hurricane, West Virginia, will be awarded the $350,000 infrastructure contract. In a related agenda item, Mr. Insco also received approval to begin paving the 20th Street Overpass between 7th and 8th Avenues “approximately 600 feet by 40 feet, including painting to the line and the new signage”.
The city council then approved the disbursement of $63,000 for a grant to the Cabell County Library Board. Councilman Patrick Jones asked for clarification on these expenses and indicated that he would donate additional discretionary funds to the Gallaher Village County Library to upgrade this facility. County Library Chief Executive Breanna Bowen was praised by the chairman and council members for her work at this stage of the proceedings.
In the “wellness and welfare” portion of the meeting’s open comments, Vice President Sarah Walling recognized Ms. Lauren Kemp for her nonprofit work in Central City and the West 14th Street Antiques Corridor. Finally, a number of Guyandotte community boosters wearing distinctive red t-shirts showed pride in the Guyandotte community. The meeting adjourned at 8:25 p.m.