By Liz Beavers

Tribune Managing Editor

KEYSER - Keyser plans to reopen its city office on June 1, but playgrounds will probably remain closed for awhile.

The city closed its buildings and parks to the public in mid-March, when Gov. Jim Justice issued the “stay-at-home” recommendations for the state due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The water, sewer and streets employees continued to handle calls as needed, a skeleton crew in the office handled water bills, and the mayor and council conducted business online via Zoom.

Justice has begun opening the state back up in phases, however, and mayor Damon Tillman said during their May 13 meeting that he felt June 1 would be a good target date for reopening the city.

“We did close down out of concern for our employees, but now I think it’s time we go back to work,” he said.

The city’s parks, however, are a different matter.

Council member William Zacot, who serves as parks and recreation chairman, said he had met with representatives of the Mineral County Health Department to discuss the issue.

“As of right now, the parks are to remain closed and no outside events are to be held,” he said.

Admitting that the sight of the empty parks was depressing, he said they were kept closed because “it’s a big safety concern.”

“The parks need to be clear at all times,” Tillman agreed, adding that the Keyser Police Department would be asking anyone found playing in the parks to leave.

“We’re not the gestapo, but it’s for the protection of the people,” he said.

According to Gov. Justice’s “West Virginia: The Comeback” plan for reopening, however, more and more outdoor activities are being permitted as the phases progress. Whitewater rafting and ziplining were to resume on Thursday, for example, and state parks can resume renting cabins and lodges to in-state residents only next week. Swimming pools will be able to open on May 30.

Contact sports, however, are not expected to be permitted until June 8.

The city’s parks are on the agenda for the council’s next meeting, scheduled for Wednesday, May 27, at 7 p.m. It will be held live in the council chambers.