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Town Council discusses Market House restoration, agrees to send resolution to governor

By Staff | Jul 3, 2020

The Market House restoration will begin its next phase, following Tuesday's Special Town Council Meeting on Zoom. Courtesy photo

SHEPHERDSTOWN — On Tuesday afternoon, the Shepherdstown Town Council met on Zoom for a special meeting, focusing on the town’s immediate concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Market House restoration.

Shepherdstown Farmers Market President Natalie Friend was asked to speak at the beginning of the meeting, to request permission for the market to return to its regular summer location behind the Market House building on King Street.

Friend explained the social distancing precautions that the market would be taking, to prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, when the Town Council voted on whether or not to allow the market to permanently move back from its White Hall parking lot location to behind the Market House, they were evenly divided. Councilman David Springer then proposed a new motion, to allow the market to move back to its regular location for a one-time trial period this Sunday.

“I think there’s enough protections and enough safeguards to minimize the risks,” Springer said. “I think it could be worth trying it out for one week as a trial.”

The motion passed, with only one council member abstaining from the vote.

“I can’t support any vote that would require masks on a public street,” said Councilman Mark Everhart, explaining why he opposed the motion. “I don’t think we should be requiring anything that we can’t enforce.”

However, the rest of the Town Council agreed that the market had the right to post prominent signage with the market’s social distancing requirements, such as “no mask, no service.” Vendors, as private businesses, they argued, have the right to require customers to observe current health practices mandated by the market’s governing authorities, the West Virginia Department of Agriculture and Jefferson County Health Department.

The Town Council then discussed the continued restoration of the Market House building, which is currently inhabited by the Shepherdstown Public Library.

“We have the brick work done, and in order to not have to do brickwork any time soon, we have to get it painted and ready, now that the brickwork’s done and dry,” Auxer said.

A motion was passed, approving the town’s continued funding of the restoration project, with Everhart voting in opposition.

“I will reiterate what I said in the Finance Committee meeting, which is that the library has raised millions of dollars for its new building, yet has let its current building fall into disrepair,” Everhart said. “I think, frankly, that the library should pay for the painting. It’s a nominal amount of money, and they should share in the cost of upkeep of the building.”

However, the rest of the Town Council agreed that the building was owned by the town, so it should be maintained by it.

The town then moved onto discussing signage needs, for conveying the town’s social distancing requirements to town visitors. The Finance Committee meeting on Friday ended with the committee agreeing that banners for German Street are too hard-to-see to be worth the expense. However, the Town Council decided to move forward with ordering the banners, along with other recommended signage by the Shepherdstown Reopening Task Force Messaging Committee.

The total cost of the signage is $1,700, which Messaging Committee Co-Chair and Councilwoman Deb Tucker said she believes will pay off in the end.

“We were devastated that most of our signage was torn down the first week we put them up,” Tucker said, referring to the signs the committee had placed around town. “We feel that, for an overall cover for the businesses here, that we expect when people come here to act respectfully toward our community. We had a great number of people in town over the weekend. I’m just giving a passion plea to the Town Council members for my committee to be leant money to put up these signs.”

The final agenda item the Town Council discussed and approved, was for Mayor Jim Auxer to send a resolution to the governor, letting him know of the town’s support, should the governor choose to require everyone in the state to wear a mask in public.

“The governor [may be] confused about this – it is a divisive thing. But maybe if he hears from constituents how we feel about that, maybe it will help him make that decision,” Auxer said, mentioning other towns have already sent similar resolutions to their governors. “We’re giving him valuable information, valuable data in the decision he makes. We know that the numbers [of COVID-19 cases] are rising, so as the Shepherdstown community, we’re saying ‘we’re behind you if you mandate masks in West Virginia.'”