Buchanan leaders look back at a successful 2020

Published 8:52 am Wednesday, December 30, 2020

BUCHANAN – The 2020 year saw many changes in the city of Buchanan. Not only did the community have to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, new city commissioners were elected, and a new city manager was hired to lead the city.

On top of everything, the community celebrated being named “The Nicest Place in America” by Reader’s Digest. City leaders are ending the year looking for ways to capitalize on that recognition and move forward with development opportunities.

Mayor Sean Denison said this week that while 2020 might have seemed like a nightmare at first glance, it was actually a great year for the city of Buchanan. He put hiring Heather Grace as the new city manager at the top of the list of good things that happened.

“The selection of Heather Grace was a huge win for the city in 2020,” Denison said. “She has proven to be a tireless worker, and has a deep understanding of what it takes to make City operations more efficient, and our local economy more attractive and successful. The best is yet to come.”

“This past year, believe it or not – was a good one for the City of Buchanan,” he added. “The coronavirus pandemic made us stronger, forced us to think outside the box and taught us what is truly important.”

He noted that the city was able to safely host three elections during the year and also developed new safety protocols to deal with the pandemic. A new service window was installed at City Hall and commission and board meetings went virtual for much of the year.

“While not without its challenges, moving to a ‘virtual’ meeting platform brought to light our need for updated computer equipment, and showed us that there are things we can continue to do to make our city government more transparent and accessible,” he said.

The pandemic also caused changes with local businesses. He said the city’s marijuana dispensaries saw increased traffic even as the pandemic forced them to do curbside sales. All businesses had to be innovative and come up with new and creative ways to sell products, he added.

Denison also touched on what was the hot topic of the summer: the dissolution of the city’s Downtown Development Authority. While the decision was controversial, city officials and residents appear to have moved on.

“While the DDA in Buchanan no longer exists, there seems to be a fresh new optimism and a sense of excitement for the economic development opportunities that lie ahead,” he said. “Coupled with the city earning the Nicest Place in America designation from the Readers Digest, the plans for an economic development leader in City Hall has our City leadership excited at the new and growing list of economic opportunities before us,” he added.

On the infrastructure side of things, the city was able to spend nearly double the normal amount of money for road repairs which resulted in the resurfacing of Fourth Street and Schirmer Parkway. Progress was also made on the new wastewater treatment facility on River Street.

“The past year seems to have thrown everything it could at us – and then some,” he said. “Despite that, we made it through even better than we were before. Now, as we head into 2021, we do so with a new city manager, two new city commissioners, and a new sense of optimism.”

Grace agreed with many of Denison’s assessments of 2020.

“For better or worse, the year 2020 is one that none of us is likely to soon forget,” she said. “Rather than focusing on the negative, I think that it is vital that we remind ourselves of just how much we have grown together as a community during these trying times.”

She noted that the city was able to host elections with record voter turnouts and hold virtual meetings with a dramatic increase in the number of people tuning in. In addition, residents found ways to keep community spirit alive whether it was the Memorial Day veterans’ banners or the Santa fire truck parade through city neighborhoods.

“They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and in this case, I think that the necessity of these changes has forced us as a community to become more flexible, more adaptable, and more open to trying new things,” she said. “Speaking as the new city manager, I can say with pride that I am extremely excited to see what new things Buchanan has in store next.”