City Hall News: Week of April 12, 2021

Elkins, W. Va., April 10, 2021: Council’s regular meeting has been postponed to Tuesday, April 20. Meeting this week are council’s Public Safety Committee, Personnel Committee, and Rules & Ordinances Committee.

On Monday at 10 a.m., the Public Safety Committee will hear reports from city public safety officials and continue discussions of public complaints about the property at 898 Cole Avenue. The committee has announced that it will continue to meet second Mondays at 10 a.m.

Later Monday, at 1 p.m., the Personnel Committee will discuss personnel policy and consider a personnel matter in the Elkins Fire Department.

On Wednesday at noon, in a meeting that was postponed from last week for lack of a quorum, the Rules & Ordinances Committee will consider dissolving the city’s Enforcement Agency. This action was recommended by the mayor’s ad hoc Committee on Boards and Commissions because the Enforcement Agency has not met in several years and its responsibilities have shifted to full-time public safety employees and council’s Public Safety Committee.

Also on the Rules & Ordinances agenda are proposed changes to the Firefighters Civil Service Commission rules and possible amendments to the ordinance that established the Elkins Tree Board.

The Elkins Planning Commission meets virtually on Thursday at 1 p.m. to continue work on a new zoning ordinance, a project that began in 2016 and is planned for completion in 2021. Agenda items include rules related to telecommunications infrastructure and the boundaries of the Central Business District zone. Login info here: www.cityofelkinswv.com/council-and-committee-meetings

Council’s regular second meeting of the month, which would normally occur on Thursday, has been postponed to Tuesday, April 20, the date on which all West Virginia city councils and county commissions are required to finalize their budgets for the 2022 fiscal year, which begins July 1. The April 20 meeting will be held at the Phil Gainer Community Center.

All of this week’s meetings will be held in person in council chambers at Elkins City Hall (401 Davis Avenue), unless otherwise stated. Agendas may be adjusted until two business days before meetings.

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Mayor Announces New Committees, Committee Memberships

Establishes Ad Hoc Collaboration and Marketing Committee and Addiction and Homeless Resources Task Force

Elkins, W. Va., April 7, 2021: Mayor Jerry Marco has made changes to Elkins council committee memberships and announced the formation of a new ad hoc Collaboration and Marketing Committee and a new inter-agency Addiction and Homeless Resources Task Force.

Under the new city charter adopted by council last year, Elkins mayors are granted authority to decide the membership of council’s standing committees and may also establish and appoint members of ad hoc committees. By longstanding custom, committee memberships are typically updated immediately following the city’s biannual elections.

Mayor Marco explained that the purpose of the new Collaboration and Marketing Committee is to further strengthen lines of communication between city officials and other agencies, organizations, and stakeholders in the Elkins community. Committee members will be charged with reducing duplication of efforts and increasing collaboration communitywide toward a goal of making Elkins even more appealing and attractive to new residents and businesses. Appointed to this committee are Councilors Charles S. Friddle, III; Nanci Bross-Fregonara; Clint Higgins; and Linda Vest.

The Addiction and Homeless Resources Task Force will consist of one council member, the chief of the Elkins Police Department, and the Randolph County sheriff. There will be at least four citizen members, as well. This body will also look for opportunities to reduce duplication of efforts, but specifically in the areas of addiction and homelessness prevention and response. According to Marco, task force members will seek and share information about available strategies and resources, as well as identifying and advocating for needed new resources.

Prior to adoption of the new charter, there were five standing council committees, and these are now stipulated as permanent: Finance, Rules & Ordinances, Municipal Properties, Public Safety, and Personnel. The table below shows the previous and new membership of each.

Committee Previous Membership New Membership
Finance Charles Friddle, III (chair)
Carman Metheny
Marilynn Cuonzo
Mike Hinchman (chair)
Rob Chenoweth
Christopher Lowther
Rules & Ordinances Linda Vest (chair)
Mike Hinchman
Rob Chenoweth
Nanci Bross-Fregonara (chair)
Clint Higgins
Marilynn Cuonzo
Municipal Properties Marilynn Cuonzo (chair)
Christopher Lowther
Karen Wilmoth
Marilynn Cuonzo (chair)
Charles Friddle, III
Judy Guye
Public Safety David Parker (chair)
Linda Vest
Mike Hinchman
David Parker (chair)
Judy Guye
Mike Hinchman
Personnel Carman Metheny (chair)
David Parker
Judy Guye
Rob Chenoweth (chair)
Linda Vest
Christopher Lowther

 

The Finance Committee has announced that it will continue to meet first Mondays at 10 a.m. Public Safety will continue to meet second Mondays at 10 a.m. The other committees have not yet announced the dates/times of their regular meetings.

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EPD Statement Regarding Missing Child

From Chief Travis Bennett:

The Elkins Police Department and other area law enforcement agencies responded this morning to a report of a 4-year-old boy missing from his mother’s residence. Resources deployed for the search included K9s from the Randolph County Sheriff’s Office and the W. Va. Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, as well as the EPD drone. Citizens also assisted by reporting sightings.

The child was located approximately one mile from the residence. He appeared to have suffered minor abrasions and was transported to Davis Medical Center for evaluation. The incident is under investigation by EPD.

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City Hall News: Week of April 5, 2021

Elkins, W. Va., April 3, 2021: New councilors and a new mayor settle into their roles this week. Council’s Finance Committee meets Monday, the Elkins Tree Board meets Tuesday, and the Rules & Ordinances Committee meets Thursday.

Meeting Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. in the Darden House (next to city hall), the Elkins Tree Board will plan the transfer of plants from the city hall parking lot, discuss board membership and duties, and strategize upcoming tree plantings.

On Monday at 10 a.m., the Finance Committee will discuss American Rescue Plan Act funds and hear proposed FY 2021 budget adjustments.

The Rules & Ordinances Committee meets Thursday at noon to discuss the future of the Enforcement Agency, which was recommended for elimination by the Mayor’s Ad Hoc Committee on Boards and Commissions. The Enforcement Agency has not met in several years as its responsibilities have shifted to full-time public safety employees and council’s Public Safety Committee.

The Elkins Municipal Court is referring overdue accounts to collections. Anyone with past due court costs, fines, or other payments owing should contact the court clerk to discuss options: (304) 636-1414, ext. 1529.

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Elkins Announces New GIS Department

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.”

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Mayor Lifts State of Emergency

In an order effective April 1, Mayor Van Broughton is lifting the citywide state of emergency he declared last spring in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Mayor Broughton’s March 17, 2020 citywide emergency declaration did not impose any restrictions on the public and mainly served to enable more flexible internal decision-making within the city government.

With infections surging in some states and barely more than half of West Virginia counties designated as “green” on the W. Va. DHHR County Alert System map, the end of the state of emergency does not signal the end of the pandemic. City of Elkins has no immediate plans to alter current precautions, including requirements for face coverings and social distancing. Council meetings will continue to be held at the Phil Gainer Community Center through April.

After the declaration of the citywide state of emergency, the only public-facing order subsequently issued by Mayor Broughton was a temporary ban on yard sales and door-to-door solicitation. This ban was lifted on May 15, 2020.

Using his powers under the emergency declaration, the mayor ordered several modifications to the city’s internal personnel policies that remain in effect: a COVID-19 Emergency Leave Policy, an Extended COVID-19 Emergency Leave Policy, and a COVID-19 Vaccination Policy. His suspension of a city policy that would have required call-out pay for all work performed by city employees during this state of emergency also expires as of April 1.

Mayors are granted authority for emergency declarations under West Virginia Code 15-5-1. The mayor’s proclamation ending this state of emergency has been posted online and at city hall. It will also be transmitted to the governor’s office and to the office of the Randolph County Commission.

A scan of the signed proclamation ending the state of emergency may be viewed by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

City Hall News: Week of March 29, 2021

Elkins, W. Va., March 27, 2021: Council meets Wednesday, when newly elected officials will also take their oaths of office. Council’s Economic Growth and Development (EGAD) Committee meets Thursday, and city hall is closed Friday.

Council meets Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Phil Gainer Community Center. The agenda may be adjusted through Monday. Current agenda items include appointments to the newly established water board, establishment of a separate fund and bank account for American Rescue Plan Act funds, and a request to waive B&O taxes for the city hall parking lot project. The winning candidates from the 2021 election, who take office Thursday, April 1, will be sworn in after the meeting.

B&O tax return forms will be mailed to city business-license holders on Wednesday. Returns are due by April 30.

On Thursday, restrooms at city parks open for the season and, at 5 p.m., the EGAD Committee meets at city hall to discuss annexations and incentives for new businesses.

City hall is closed Friday in observance of Good Friday. Trash will be picked up as usual.

Spring Cleanup 2021 will occur on the following schedule: 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. This service is for residences, not businesses. Appliances, tires, free flowing liquids, batteries, and yard waste will not be accepted. Learn more here: www.cityofelkinswv.com/spring-cleanup-dates-announced.

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Paperless Billing Could Save City $30,000 a Year

Online bill payment reduces errors, frees time for value-added work

Elkins, W. Va., March 26, 2021: Significant savings and efficiency improvements could be achieved if city utility customers opted for paperless billing and paid those bills online or by phone, a City of Elkins official announced today.

Most of the city’s utility customers still receive paper bills and remit payments using paper checks, incurring significant costs and processing time, according to Elkins City Treasurer Tracy Judy.

“Over the last three fiscal years, the cost of sending out utility and fire-fee bills averaged $29,296 annually for postage alone,” says Tracy Judy, the Elkins city treasurer. “That’s not counting the costs of paper, ink, equipment, and labor for doing the printing and mailing. I know we probably won’t ever get to 100-percent paperless billing, but it would be great to save even half of the money we’re currently spending on paper billing.”

Similarly, if more people paid bills online or by phone, Treasurer’s Department personnel could be reassigned from processing paper checks to more value-added work.

“Around 60 percent of our customers are still paying by check, so my staff is spending at least 15 workhours a week slitting envelopes, sorting checks, and performing manual data entry,” said Judy.

In addition to the high cost, this heavy reliance on paper bills and check payments has significant downsides for the city and its customers.

“The more manual data entry we perform, the higher the chance of errors, and that’s reduced with online payments,” she says. “Also, those fifteen hours a week we spend processing payments are fifteen hours we can’t spend making sure all businesses in town are paying their B&O taxes, contacting customers about payment discrepancies, and tracking down missing information on filed paperwork. It’s also fifteen hours we can’t spend on planning, professional education, and cross-training. Obviously, there is only so much we can fit into an extra 15 hours a week, but I would love to be doing at least some of these other things instead of opening envelopes.”

Requesting paperless billing is as easy as contacting Treasurer’s Department staff by phone or email to supply an email address.

To make online payments, customers must first take just a few minutes to set up an account with PSN, the city’s online payments contractor. Payments can be made via credit card or from checking or savings accounts. PSN uses strong encryption and security protocols to protect users’ financial information. There is no charge for customers to use this service, which may be accessed here: www.bit.ly/ElkinsBills.

After setting up a PSN account, customers can activate autopay and never miss a payment, a feature that is especially helpful given current U.S. mail slowdowns.

“With all of my own bills, I always use autopay whenever possible,” says Judy. “The mail has been a lot slower lately, but utility payments are due on time even if the bill is delayed. With autopay turned on, customers can be sure their payment will be received before the penalty date, avoiding late fees and cutoffs.”

Customers who don’t want to use autopay have the option of logging on to pay each bill individually, sending payment immediately or scheduling it for later. On the PSN platform, customers can also view current and past bills and review payment history.

Customers who prefer to pay by phone can call 877-885-7968 and make payments either through an automated phone system or by speaking with a PSN call-center representative.

Judy says that maximizing paperless billing and online or pay-by-phone payments is in the best interests of city residents, businesses, and other community stakeholders.

“When I talk about wanting to save 15 hours a week that we’re currently using to process checks, I know some people may see this as complaining because processing checks is part of our job,” she says. “I see our job as saving taxpayer money wherever we can and providing maximum value for the money that is spent. That’s why I want to see more customers adopting paperless billing and paying bills online or by phone.”

To request paperless billing or for help with questions about paying bills online or by phone, contact the Treasurer’s Department.

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City Hall News: Week of March 22, 2021

Elkins, W. Va., March 20, 2021: The only meeting next week is that of the Mayor’s Ad Hoc Committee on Boards and Commissions. Spring Cleanup 2021 starts April 5.

On Thursday at 9 a.m., the Committee on Boards and Commissions considers the Enforcement Agency, the Randolph-Elkins Board of Health, and the Elkins Sanitary Board. Committee members are working to ensure consistency between local and state laws stipulating numbers of members, appointment processes, and related matters. The committee will also review current board and commission vacancies. Find out how to get involved with boards and commissions here: www.cityofelkinswv.com/government/mayor-city-council/boards-commissions

Spring Cleanup 2021 will occur on the following schedule: 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. This service is for residences, not businesses. Appliances, tires, free flowing liquids, batteries, and yard waste will not be accepted. Learn more here: www.cityofelkinswv.com/spring-cleanup-dates-announced.

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Spring Cleanup Dates Announced

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.

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