2017 Water Rate Increase: You have questions, we have answers!


Water rates are going up in the City of Elkins.

The new, higher water rates will be applied to all water usage occurring after the October 16, 2017 round of meter readings. The first bills reflecting the new rates will be mailed in late November and due December 19.

Below, we’ve supplied answers to many of the questions we are hearing about this increase. You can also read our press release here or review the ordinance that enacted this increase here.

Jump to answers by clicking on the list below:
Why are water rates going up?
Will this water-rate increase cause sewer rates to rise, too?
How much will water rates increase?
Who decided to raise rates, and when?
Can these rates be changed?
Why just before the holidays?
Can’t we move money from elsewhere in the budget?
What is this rate increase paying for?
Why do we need a new water plant?
Who can I contact with more questions?

Why are water rates going up?

Water rates are going up because, in January 2018, the city must start paying back the $37 million package of loans and bonds that funded the new water-treatment plant, pumping station, reservoir, and other critical improvements to the Elkins water system. From January 2018 until 2055, Elkins will need to pay $116,000 each month to service this debt.

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Will this water-rate increase cause sewer rates to rise, too?

No. Although each customer’s sewer bill is based on the volume of water that customer uses, sewer rates are set independently of water rates. This increase will have no effect on sewer rates.

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How much will water rates increase?

The following table shows the changes between the rates set in 2015 and the new rates that will go into effect this fall.

Levels2015 rate
(per 1,000 gallons)
2017 rate
(per 1,000 gallons)
Percent change
First 2,000 gallons
$10.00$15.2552.50
Next 3,000 gallons
$5.49$8.5054.83
Next 5,000 gallons
$3.24$7.06117.90
Over 10,000 gallons$2.42$5.22115.70

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Who decided to raise these rates, and when was that decision made?

This rate increase is the second of two that were enacted into law by the Elkins Common Council in 2015. The first increase, which became effective in 2015, only covered the increased cost of ongoing operations, a type of increase that is sometimes referred to as “going level.”

The increase that will be seen on bills due December 19 was designed to cover the cost of the Elkins Water System Improvement Project and was a loan condition imposed by the project’s funders. Before Elkins could access the needed $37 million of project funds, the city’s water utility had to commit to raising water rates enough to cover the $116,000 monthly loan payments that we would have to start paying no later than January 2018.

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Can these rates be changed?

Without this rate increase, the city would not be able to make the monthly $116,000 loan payments that will commence in January 2018. As a practical matter, lowering or delaying this rate increase would cause the city to default on its loans. As a legal matter, West Virginia utilities may not change their rates without the permission of the West Virginia Public Service Commission (PSC); because a reduction or delay in this rate increase would place Elkins in default, the PSC would not grant permission.

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Why did you pick just before the holidays to make the new rates effective?

The effective date of the rate increase was triggered by the fact that we must start making our $116,000 monthly loan payments in January 2018. That date, in turn, was established by the lending agencies at the time that the package of loans and bonds was finalized, in 2015. In order to access project funds, the city had to comply with the lenders’ requirements, including the date of commencement of debt service and the resulting effective date of the needed rate increase.

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Can’t we move money from elsewhere in the city budget to cover these payments?

West Virginia state law requires that municipal utility services, such as the City of Elkins Water Distribution System, be run like independent businesses, with no income other than customer payments for services provided. The purpose of this law is to ensure transparency with utility customers concerning the true cost of providing utility services. Moving money from other sources into the water system’s budget would be illegal.

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What is this rate increase paying for?

As mentioned elsewhere in this FAQ, the sole purpose of this increase is to cover the $116,000 monthly payments that the city will have to make from January 2018 until 2055. In turn, these payments repay the $37 million package of loans and bonds that funded the Elkins Water System Improvement Project.

The results of that project include:

  • A new water plant that can produce clean drinking water at 4,000 gallons per minute, with backup generators and a membrane filtration system that provides a positive barrier against waterborne viruses and which can be upgraded as filtration technology advances.
  • A new pumping station, also with backup generators as well as new intakes and raw-water pumps.
  • A new 3-million gallon, pre-stressed-concrete reservoir tank, which replaces the end-of-life, welded-steel Crystal Springs and McQuain Road tanks.
  • Gravity-fed water distribution that will reduce fluctuations in water pressure, eliminate system shocks from pump restarts, and simplify line flushing.
  • The installation of 43,540 feet of new water lines and 41 new fire hydrants.
  • The removal of many old, deteriorated sections of pipe.

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Why do we need a new water plant?

The old water plant has served Elkins since 1921. It was extremely well constructed and incorporated the most advanced water-treatment technology of that time, but of course significant advances in water treatment have occurred in the century since then. Obtaining twenty-first-century water-treatment technology for Elkins would be a good enough reason to replace the old plant, but the 1921 plant also has vulnerabilities that create an even more urgent need for replacement.

One of the old plant’s biggest vulnerabilities is that, because its electrical system was not built to modern standards and codes, it has never been possible to connect it to generator power. As a result, if the city experienced a long enough power outage before shifting to the new water plant, the city water system could run dry. This could also happen in the event of an equipment breakdown, because repairing the old plant’s original pumps and other equipment often requires the custom fabrication of parts, placing the city’s water supply at the mercy of the timetables of outside commercial vendors and other factors the city does not control.

If the city were to run out of water in these or other scenarios, possible results include:

  • Conditions in homes quickly becoming unsanitary.
  • Schools and businesses closing.
  • Hospitals and other care facilities being forced to limit services and evacuate patients.
  • Dry hydrants and sprinkler systems making it difficult or impossible to fight fires.

The City of Elkins takes very seriously its obligation to provide a reliable supply of clean drinking water to all of its water customers. Therefore, given the above risks and vulnerabilities, it is no longer prudent to rely on the old water plant, and replacing it is an absolute must.

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Who Can I Contact if I Have More Questions?

If you have more questions, please contact the Elkins Operations Department.
Phone: 304-635-7021
Email: mhimes@cityofelkinswv.com

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WV Heroes Day

Please join Mayor Van Broughton and the City of Elkins in celebrating WV Heroes Day on Saturday, September 9, 2017. Reach out and thank anyone you may recognize as a hero, including fire, police, emergency medical personnel, 911 dispatchers and first responders. These people make a difference in our lives every day.

Heroes Day Proclamation 2017

Tire Collection Event

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, the Randolph County Solid Waste Authority and Weston Tire and Recycling are jointly sponsoring tire recycling days. Up to ten (10) tires per load will be accepted from each driver presenting a valid license. The dates, times and locations for drop off are as follows:

  • August 25, 2017, 8a – 4p @ Leslie Bros. Equipment in Norton
  • August 26, 2017, 8a – 4p @ Tygart Valley Sanitation in Dailey

School Year Safety Reminders and Tips

The beginning of the new school year is approaching. Whether it’s preschool, elementary school, middle school, high school, or college, the start of school means increased pedestrian and vehicle traffic in neighborhoods and around schools throughout the City of Elkins. Traffic safety is a high priority for the City of Elkins Police Department. We want to remind commuters, parents, students, pedestrians, and bicyclists to:

  • STOP for any school bus that has lights and “stop arm” activated to load and unload children. Drivers must STOP in both directions. It is illegal to pass a stopped bus that is loading or unloading children.
  • Be alert when around school zones.
  • Leave earlier to accommodate the increased congestion and delay surrounding school start and end times.
  • Familiarize yourself, and your children, with laws and safety tips related to school buses, school zones, crosswalks, and signals.

SCHOOL BUS:

  • Buses are the safest mode of transportation for children; however, children need to be aware of the bus “danger zone”, blind spots around the bus where the driver may not be able to see them. Children should maintain a distance of 10 feet away from the front, sides, and rear of the bus.
  • Children should wait until the bus stops completely and the driver signals that it is okay to board; if crossing the street is necessary, wait for the driver to indicate it is safe to cross.

MOTORISTS:

  • Obey all school speed zones.
  • Slow down and be alert for children, walking or biking; they may be difficult to see and may appear suddenly and unexpectedly.
  • In low light and bad weather, pay extra attention around bus stops and school zones.
  • DO NOT be distracted by electronic devices; STAY FOCUSED on the roadway.

WALKERS:

  • Children should walk with a responsible adult or in a group.
  • Walk on sidewalks, when available.
  • Pay attention to the road and where you are going; do not play with, push, or shove others.
  • Wear brightly colored clothing for better visibility.
  • Cross at the proper crosswalks, street corners, or intersections. Obey traffic rules when crossing.

Thank You for taking the time to read these safety reminder tips. As always, if you have any concerns of school safety, within the City of Elkins, please contact us.

Sincerely,

Chief G. Galloway

Region VII Multi-Jurisdictional Hazard Mitigation Plan

The City of Elkins is currently updating its part of the Region VII Multi-Jurisdictional Hazard Mitigation Plan. We are looking for community input. Please follow the link below and participate in the survey. It only takes a few minutes and will greatly inform our efforts! The hazard mitigation planning process is required by federal regulations. The plan helps increase resiliency by looking at hazard vulnerability and identifying projects to lessen or eliminate the losses our community could sustain as a result of natural and other hazards.

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/Region7_Survey1

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/Region7survrey2

Water outage on July 17th

Water outage on July 17th from S. Davis Ave. bridge to Tenth St. Crews will restore service as quickly as possible.

Elkins PD testing for vacant position

The Elkins Police Civil Service Commission has intitiated the testing process in order to fill a patrolman vacancy within the police department. Information about the civil service hiring process is available here.  The hiring packet, including an application, can be found here.

Applications must be received by the City Clerk by 4:00 p.m. on Friday, July 28th. The written test will be administered on Saturday, July 29th, followed by a physical test on Saturday, August 5th and for those who qualify, interviews will be conducted on Wednesday, August 9th beginning at 5:00 p.m.

Combined Sewer Smoke Testing to begin on May 22nd

ATTENTION

COMBINED SEWER SMOKE TESTING NOTIFICATION

The City of Elkins is conducting a sanitary sewer smoke testing evaluation designed to detect ground water and storm water that is entering the sanitary sewer system through defects in the pipe or illicit connections such as catch basins or downspouts.  We will be testing sewer lines adjacent to South Davis Avenue in an area approximately bounded by the river, Industrial Park Drive, and Conway Drive, as well as the Teaberry Hills area and areas around Sycamore Street adjacent to Davis & Elkins College.  The smoke testing will be performed during the week of May 22, 2017 to May 26, 2017.  In the event of inclement weather, the smoke testing will continue into the following week.

Smoke will be blown into the sewer system at manholes, and may be seen coming from roof vents, building foundations, or manhole covers.  The smoke is a non-toxic substance which is clean and harmless to humans, pets, food, and material goods and creates no fire hazard.  The smoke should not enter your home unless you have defective plumbing or dried up drain traps.  Ensure that all plumbing traps, including basement floor drains, are not dry and contain water.  If you have any seldom used drains, pour water into the drain to fill the trap.  If smoke enters the home through faulty plumbing, this indicates the possibility that dangerous sewer gases are also entering your home and you should consider contacting a licensed plumber to identify and make repairs.  You can report any presence of smoke within the house to the crews working in the street conducting the tests.

Please avoid unnecessary exposure to the smoke.  Although the smoke is relatively harmless, smoke of any kind can be irritating to the nasal passages for some people.  If you experience smoke irritation, it should be temporary and quickly disappear after exposure has ceased.

If you or any member of your family have respiratory problems, are immobile, or have any other health condition that you feel we need to be aware of, please contact the City of Elkins Operations Division, at 304-635-7021.

If you should have any further questions, additional information on smoke testing can be obtained in the lobby of the City Hall.

Click here to download the smoke testing FAQ sheet.

 

Curbside yard waste pick-up no longer offered

As a result of discussion with the Region III office of the US Environmental Protection Agency, the City of Elkins has been advised by the EPA that our obligation for the 5 year yard waste project under the Consent Decree signed by the City in 2011 has been satisfied.

While we recognize that the curbside yard waste pick-up has proven to be a popular service offered by the City, the burden on the City’s resources can no longer be sustained. Therefore the City will no longer be able to offer curbside pick-up of yard waste.

However, we realize that offering City residents a means for disposal of yard waste material has significant benefits, so we intend to keep our receiving area open in its current location at 31 Jones Drive.

Kudos to the Elkins Police Department

On March 1, 2017, Officers of the Elkins Police Department Tactical Response Unit supported by the Mountain Region Drug and Violent Crime Task Force, the Randolph County Sheriff’s Office and the WV State Police Special Response Team executed two search warrants at 461 Wilson Street and 98 Washington Avenue, Elkins WV. The search warrants executed were the result of recently developed information associated with an ongoing Elkins Police Department investigation into Elkins Drug Trafficking. During the execution and search of the referenced residences three individuals were detained. Officers seized approximately one-half pound of methamphetamine, two to three ounces of hard crack cocaine, two firearms and twenty five thousand dollars in U.S. currency. In addition to the above seized evidence voluminous intelligence information of value to ongoing Elkins Police Department investigations was obtained. The above seized evidence will be presented in the near future to a Federal Grand Jury. The Elkins Police Department extends a sincere appreciation for the significant cooperation received from the Mountain Region Drug and Violent Crime Task Force, the Randolph County Sheriff’s Office and the WV State Police Troops 1 and 3 Special Response Team without whose help the successful results of this law enforcement effort could not have been achieved.