Athens borough mayor George Whyte proclaimed Friday "Athens Is Back Day" and commended those who lent their time last year to contribute to flood cleanup in a brief ceremony on South Main Street.

Whyte spoke Friday following a ribbon-cutting ceremony that kicked off the Athens Business Association's street fair and acknowledged the year that had passed since flood waters struck the borough's business district and residential neighborhoods.

"Disasters have a way of bringing out the best and the worst in people," Whyte read from the proclamation thanking the "helpful and passionate individuals" who helped residents and businesses in the days following the flood. Their acts of generosity, dedication and teamwork helped to restore the area, Whyte said.

Whyte also presented a key to the city to Chesapeake Energy, a company that rushed to the area's aid with equipment and manpower in the flood's aftermath. Operations manager Joe Jones and community affairs manager Jane Clements accepted the key on behalf of Chesapeake.

Whyte rarely issues the keys - he's only presented four of them in 20 years, he said, reserving the gesture for those who contribute to the borough in an outstanding fashion and "further the ideals of the community."

Chesapeake offered to help with the cleanup process and swiftly sent employees, trucks and heavy equipment to the area. The team "really did an amazing job," Whyte said.

Whyte also thanked borough employees, including borough manager Mark Burgess, secretary and treasurer Tara Westbrook, and members of the fire and police departments for their tireless efforts last year. He thanked the ABA as well for their work in bringing business back to the borough. "What they've done here in this town is amazing," he said.

Officials in attendance at the ceremony included Burgess, members of the borough council and state Rep. Tina Pickett, who said the people of Athens have shown a remarkable willingness to reinvest in their community.

"I am so very impressed with the work and effort that brought this town back," Pickett said Friday.

Amanda Renko can be reached at (570) 888-9652; or email: