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City Council Writes $10K Check to the Almost Heaven BBQ Bash, Fiscal Responsibility Concerns Raised

February 21, 2023

Mountaineer News

Buckhannon City Council

BUCKHANNON - During the February 19th Buckhannon City Council Meeting, a financial request for the 2023 Almost Heaven BBQ Bash event was approved by Council in the amount of $10,000, but not unanimously.

The original request had been for the sum of $15,000, but Mayor Robbie Skinner explained that the City's Revenue and Expense Review Committee had some discussion, and where they (the BBQ Bash) had included infrastructural requests that would amount to roughly $5,000, the City would be saving a little money by doing some of the 'nuts and bolts' themselves.

Watch Mayor Skinner bring the request to the table:

Jody Light, organizer of the Almost Heaven BBQ Bash provided a brief event update to Councilmembers:

After Light provided the update, Councilwoman Pamela Bucklew wanted to clarify what the $10,000 was going toward. She also raised concerns about the specific amount, and how the Strawberry Festival was given $25,000 for an 8-10 day event while the BBQ Bash was requesting $10,000 for a 2-3 day event.

Watch City Recorder Randy Sanders, Mayor Robbie Skinner and Almost Heaven BBQ Bash organizer Jody Light address Councilwoman Bucklew's concerns here:

City Councilman David McCauley shared Bucklew's concern.

"$10,000 is a lot of money, and we're in the middle of our budget sessions. We just heard from our fire department about needing 49 cylinders at $1105 a pop… a total cost of $50,830. We're looking at seating that we don't know yet how much that's going to cost at the Colonial. We got a guesstimate as to what the Stockert building is going to cost us,” McCauley said.

McCauley remembered a time when City Council talked about projects like the Colonial and Stockert between 2016 to 2020, and how they discussed borrowing the money because rates would never be better than they were then. “We resisted that because we didn't want to put that debt on the city and make the next couple of generations pay for it”, he said.

“I fully support the return of the barbecue bash to Buckhannon, but I think $10,000… what message are we going to send to Create Buckhannon and the Senior Center and everybody else out there about giving $10,000 to one entity for a weekend event? The optics concern me a little bit. I'm all about bringing the barbecue bash back and contributing something… but $10,000 cold cash is a lot of money,” McCauley concluded.

Watch Councilman McCauley's full remarks here:

City Councilman Dave Thomas responded to McCauley's concerns while also stating that, over the next ten years, the City of Buckhannon is going to have an extra $20M that wasn't available three years ago. Mayor Skinner immediately interjected: "I would be very careful... that is not really accurate. We are using $1.8 million of our sales tax money in our current budget. That's not just extra money that's just over here that we're going to have the access to," Skinner said.

"Let's say the state all of the sudden says 'we don't want you to have the sales tax anymore. You're done. Okay?' That could happen at some point. We don't want to spend more money than we have...," Councilman Thomas said.

Watch the entire segment here:

City Recorder & Information Coordinator Randy Sanders shared his thoughts and personal experiences he's had in the past with bringing events to municipalities across several states and to the City of Buckhannon.

Mayor Skinner talked about doing their part in making sure the event is as successful as it can be and stressed that he understood everyone's fiscal concerns.

"But I don't see that $10,000 to bring an event back that hasn't been here in several years… to make it be as successful as we can possibly make it, I don't see that as us jumping off of the fiscal cliff personally," Skinner said.

“That’s my point. We don’t have a fiscal cliff right now,” Councilman Thomas responded.

Watch Recorder Sanders and Mayor Skinner's additional comments here:

City Councilman Jack Reger also shared his thoughts with Councilmembers.

"With everything that's been said, there's no question as to how many people this (BBQ Bash) brings in. I remember the first year we had it... the lines, all the vendors... they ran out of food," Reger said.

"Same things gonna happen and we want to draw people in. We want Buckhannon to be in the forefront of people’s thoughts. The Dickens Village has the potential to be a draw, so there are things we do need to support. The barbeque bash is a huge step forward," he said.

Watch Councilman Reger's full remarks here:

Council approved the $10,000 funding to the 2023 Almost Heaven BBQ Bash. Councilman David McCauley was the only Councilmember to vote against the request. "And again... only as to the amount," McCauley stated.

Watch Council approve the request 6-1 (with McCauley recording the only 'no' vote).

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