Elkins, W. Va., March 31, 2021: The establishment of a new department within the Elkins city government will enable City of Elkins to take even better advantage of modern digital tools and techniques for analyzing and presenting important data. Ben Martin, formerly an AmeriCorps member working with Elkins Main Street, has been hired as the city’s first Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technician and the sole member of the city’s new GIS Department.
The term GIS refers to specialized hardware, software, and personnel organized for the purpose of gathering, managing, and analyzing data with geospatial components. Most associated with the field of geography, GIS combines non-spatial data, such as demographics, records, or other details, with a spatial component, such as an address, coordinate, or boundary. Adding a spatial component to data allows GIS technicians to perform a range of analyses to better understand how data is related, where those relationships exist in the world around us, and what insights can be obtained from these relationships.
“While GIS tools help collect and discover new insights into data, GIS is most well-known for the ability to produce maps, and for good reason,” said Martin. “Without accurate, easily understood maps, the most profound insights from data won’t be visible to the end user. A lot of the efficiencies from GIS in local government come from being able to share information effectively with the public, elected officials, and city employees, and maps are a great tool for doing so.”
Indeed, one of the first priorities for the new department will involve mapping, specifically to capture the huge amount of infrastructure information that is currently recorded only on old paper maps and in the heads of longtime city employees.
“Right now, we have to rely more than we want to on human memory when it comes to locating key pieces of underground infrastructure,” says Bob Pingley, the city’s operations manager. “It will be a big step forward to be able to start systematically mapping all of that so that all city departments can access the information.”
The GIS technician will also collect data on new infrastructure components, such as the replacement remote-read water meters currently being installed citywide, as they go into the ground.
“The value of having every one of these water meters in a GIS database is not just being able to see them on a map and locate them more easily in the field, it’s being able to easily access information about each one, like its installation date, maintenance history, and other details that can save our crews time troubleshooting problems or making maintenance decisions,” Pingley says. “That’s just one of many examples of how GIS can help us by centralizing information in one easy-to-access place.”
Other high-priority projects for the GIS Department include managing the public-facing dilapidated properties dashboard that will come online during 2021 and coordinating sharing city address information with county E911 and addressing officials. GIS solutions can also help improve interdepartmental data sharing, support timesaving use of mobile devices in the field and enable streamlined communication between citizens and government officials.
Martin has already begun deploying GIS applications on the city’s GIS homepage (coewv.maps.arcgis.com).
“As quick demo projects, we’ve put up apps for exploring results from the 2019 and 2021 city elections, as well as a dashboard to help city residents figure out what ward they’re in for Spring Cleanup,” says Martin. “These are just simple first steps, but they give a taste of what GIS can do for Elkins. I’m really excited about building out these offerings and seeing what Elkins can accomplish with GIS tools.”
Elkins, W. Va., March 19, 2021: The City of Elkins Operations Department will be offering Spring Cleanup April 5-16. Street Department crews will visit each ward to collect certain categories of bulk refuse items at no charge. This service is for residences only, not businesses. No more than one level pickup-truck load will be accepted from each household, and loose trash will not be collected. Click here to download a flyer.
The ward schedule is as follows:
- First Ward: April 5-6
- Second Ward: April 7-8
- Third Ward: April 9 & 12
- Fourth Ward: April 13-14
- Fifth Ward: April 15-16
To take advantage of this service, please have all items at the curb in front of your house or building no later than 5:30 a.m. on the first assigned day for your ward. Crews will not return to the part of the ward they visited on the first day, so placing your items out on the second day may result in your items being left behind.
Crews will only accept one level pickup truck load from each residence. The following items will not be accepted: appliances, tires, free flowing liquids, batteries, and yard waste. Please make all items as easy to collect as possible, such as by bagging or boxing smaller items. Crews will not collect loose trash.
The 2020 Spring Cleanup was postponed during the first month of the coronavirus epidemic in West Virginia before ultimately being canceled. The decision to postpone was based on public health recommendations and advice from the West Virginia Public Service Commission about reducing the risk of transmitting the COVID-19 virus on surfaces. Because of that postponement, the city missed the ideal window of opportunity for providing this courtesy service to city residents.
Elkins, W. Va., March 19, 2021: The City of Elkins will soon be accepting bids for construction services for a project to pave and make other improvements to the parking lot at Elkins City Hall. Parties interested in bidding must attend a mandatory pre-bid meeting on April 1 and submit bids by April 26. The pre-bid meeting and the bid opening will both be held at Elkins City Hall.
The project site includes both the police parking area adjacent to Davis Avenue and the large city/public parking area extending from behind city hall to Railroad Avenue. The lot, which is partially paved and partially gravel, or aggregate, is currently not ideal for year-round use.
“Right now, with that gravel surface, most of that parking lot is really not very useable during the winter months or during rainy weather,” says Bob Pingley, the city’s operations manager. “It’s also frankly not very attractive right now, and that’s unfortunate given the high utilization of Railroad Avenue by train customers and other visitors.”
Pingley says the project will correct these shortcomings and provide a parking alternative for anyone who needs to come downtown.
“Our goal with this project is to create a paved, well-lit, attractive parking lot with a large number of spaces for downtown business owners, customers, and other members of the public to use, free of charge,” he explained.
Project components include asphalt paving and striping; construction of concrete curbing and sidewalk; storm sewer, sanitary sewer, and electrical/communications modifications; landscaping, including planting green spaces with native species; and other items as time and budget allow.
“In the design process, we’re also going to be looking at implementing a standard look for signage and other elements to be used at all city properties,” said Pingley.
The firm of Pickering Associates is already under contract for project management, civil engineering, landscape design, and related services.
A pre-bid meeting will be held in council chambers at Elkins City Hall (401 Davis Avenue) on Thursday, April 1, at 9 a.m. This meeting is mandatory for any company planning to submit a bid. Bids will be accepted until 1 p.m. on April 26, 2021, at which time they will be opened in a public meeting. Both meetings are open to the public. This project is expected to be completed this year.
Parties interested in bidding must obtain a bid package from Pickering Associates. Electronic bid documents are available at www.pickeringplanroom.com at no cost.
Elkins, W. Va., January 28, 2021: On Monday, City of Elkins contractors will kick off two major infrastructure projects. Bear Contracting will begin Phase II of the city’s sewer/stormwater separation project, and Newman Plumbing will begin replacing remote-read water meters for all city water utility customers.
The sewer/stormwater separation project is the second phase of sewer-system improvements Elkins is required to implement under a 2011 consent decree with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The goal of this project is to reduce the number of combined sewer/stormwater pipes in Elkins, so that sudden downpours are less likely to overwhelm the sewer system’s capacity and cause overflows of untreated sewage to the Tygart Valley River.
In the phase of the sewer/stormwater project commencing Monday, crews will eventually excavate sections of 15 city streets and alleys in the neighborhood west of Wimer Field to install new, dedicated stormwater lines and related infrastructure components, such as manholes and catch basins.
The first street that will be excavated is Railroad Avenue, starting where it dead ends against the south bank of the Tygart Valley River, near Kelly Foundry.
This project, which is funded by a $4.9 million bond issue, will not result in any additional increase in sewer rates. More information about this project, including a list and map of the affected streets, can be found here: www.bit.ly/Phase2Sewer.
The water-meter project will replace the remote-read meters currently in use by the city’s approximately 4,200 water customers. These water meters are five years past warranty coverage, and about 1,300 have already failed. The opportunity to replace these water meters arose when aggressive costsaving measures during the 2016 water plant construction project spared the necessary $1.5 million. As a result, this project will not result in any increase in water rates. More information about this project can be found here: www.bit.ly/ElkinsWaterMeters
The impact of the water-meter replacement project, which must be completed by September, is projected by the contractor to be minor for most customers, involving only about 15 minutes’ disruption of water service per meter. The impacts of the sewer/stormwater separation project will vary by street but can be expected to include changes to traffic and parking patterns and the presence of heavy equipment; this project is not projected to disrupt any customer’s sewer service, however.
To stay current on information about these and other projects, as well as city news and safety alerts, please follow City of Elkins on one or more of the following communication channels:
- Website: cityofelkinswv.com
- Nixle (text messages): bit.ly/ElkinsNixle
- Facebook: facebook.com/ElkinsCityHall
- Twitter: twitter.com/ElkinsCityHall
- Newsletter: cityofelkinswv.com/newsletter-signup
Last Monday, City of Elkins announced that “garbage pickup in Elkins may be delayed or disrupted over the next few weeks due to personnel shortages resulting in part from exposures to the COVID-19 virus.”
Today, Operations Manager Bob Pingley provides the following update:
“We seem to have weathered the storm with regards to the Sanitation Department, at least for now. We have enough employees back that the department can operate on its own, with only one employee still out on quarantine.
“We couldn’t have done it without numerous people stepping up and lending a hand to make sure the job got done. Donnie Hedrick, Water Distribution Department supervisor, and Brad Curtis, Building Maintenance supervisor, got the opportunity to brush up on their garbage truck driving skills. Paul Youtzy and Danny Harris from the Central Garage pitched in, as did the entire Street Department. Ron Corcoran from the Fire Department hauled roll-offs for us. We also appreciated the assistance of Elkins City Councilor Chris Lowther.
“It’s teamwork like this that allows us to continue to provide the critical services that our residents depend on. And it’s the opportunity to work with people like these that is the best part of my job here with the city.”
Elkins, W. Va., January 4, 2021: Garbage pickup in Elkins may be delayed or disrupted over the next few weeks due to personnel shortages resulting in part from exposures to the COVID-19 virus, City of Elkins Operations Manager Bob Pingley announced today. Four of the department’s five drivers are in quarantine, and the department is three short of its normal complement of loaders.
“To maintain our regular level of service, I’ve pulled employees from three other departments to work as drivers and loaders,” said Pingley. “These are some of our best employees and will do all that they can, but unfortunately they just do not know these routes like our regular drivers do.”
As a result, Pingley says, not all garbage may be collected on time or as usual.
“We’ll do our best to get all garbage picked up on schedule, but there are inevitably going to be some hiccups as we go along. We ask for everyone’s patience and understanding as we work through this unprecedented situation.”
Intervention Prevented Child’s Serious Injury or Death
Elkins, W. Va., December 21, 2020: Elkins Mayor Van Broughton will recognize three City of Elkins Sanitation Department employees for intervening to end an assault on a child in an alley near the city’s Sanitation Department building last week. The recognition ceremony, which will honor COE employees Brandon Harris, Brian Jenkins, and Zachary Ketterman, will be held in the Elkins City Hall council chamber at 2 p.m. on Tuesday.
Last Friday, Harris, Jenkins, and Ketterman were working in the Sanitation Department building when they heard sounds of distress outside. Exiting the building to investigate, they saw a woman struggling with a small boy. A call to 911 around this time reported that a woman was attempting to “drown a child in a puddle.” Elkins Police Department officers raced to the scene.
Before police arrived, Harris, Jenkins, and Ketterman had separated the child from the woman, brought him inside the Sanitation Department building, and locked the doors. The child was wet and shivering, the men later told police, and his lips were blue. They dried him off and began wrapping him in articles of their own clothing to try to warm him up.
“I instructed Mr. Harris to take the child inside of my patrol car where the heat was running,” said EPD Senior Patrolman Kevin Shiflett, who was now on scene along with EPD Patrolman First Class William Butcher. “While Mr. Harris and the child got inside of the vehicle we were alerted by Mr. Ketterman and Mr. Jenkins that the female subject was back outside.”
When Butcher and Shiflett contacted the suspect, who was later identified as Catherine Briggs, she charged them and was tased before being restrained and placed under arrest. Officer Butcher took custody of Briggs while Shiflett ran back to his vehicle.
“I drove Mr. Harris and the child to the Davis Medical Center emergency department,” said Shiflett. “The child was later released. I did go and see the child on Saturday, and he appeared to be doing well, all things considered.”
Shiflett was impressed by the three Sanitation Department employees’ quick thinking and selfless actions.
“Brandon Harris showed great courage and compassion in a risky situation,” says Shiflett. “Seeing a child in danger, he didn’t hesitate to jump in and take that child to safety. I also commend Zack Ketterman and Brian Jenkins for backing him up, securing the building, and providing the child with warmth from their own coats.”
Shiflett says his investigation was further aided by Donald Huffman, an employee of a property management company that operates a nearby apartment building.
“Mr. Huffman contacted me to advise that their cameras had captured footage of the incident,” says Shiflett. “Mr. Huffman provided me with a clear video that’s really going to help make our case in court.”
The terrible incident could have turned out much worse if it hadn’t been for the intervention by Harris, Jenkins, and Ketterman.
“In a perfect world something like this would never happen at all but thank goodness it happened near three people who were so ready to help,” says Shiflett. “On behalf of myself, EPD, and the Elkins community, I want to thank all three of these men for stepping up like they did.”
Elkins, W. Va., November 20, 2020: On Wednesday, a demolition crew contracted by City of Elkins tore down a derelict structure at 506 South Randolph Avenue in Elkins. The demolition was authorized by a Randolph County Circuit Court order. The city does not have title to the property and so cannot auction it, but a city lien against it seeks to recoup approximately $40,000 in demolition costs at the time of any future sale. (more…)
Elkins, W. Va., November 19, 2020: As city governments across the nation increasingly integrate digital technology into their administration and operations, it is becoming more and more common to find Geographic Information Systems (GIS) specialists among the ranks of municipal employees. City of Elkins is about to take this step as well. The city is advertising for its first GIS technician and hopes to bring a qualified candidate aboard within the next several months. (more…)
Elkins, W. Va., October 19, 2020: The 2020 Elkins Spring Cleanup event, postponed earlier this year, has now been cancelled, officials announced today. The event was postponed during the spring for safety reasons and now will not be rescheduled during 2020. (more…)