Downtown Christmas Lights

It is the beginning of December and the holiday season is upon us. However, as a few of you have already noticed, the Christmas lights that have decorated our downtown streets in years past have yet to be put up. The unfortunate news is that they won’t be. The City purchased the homemade lights used downtown secondhand many years ago and through weather and use, they have deteriorated to a point beyond repair. A number of the lights don’t work at all, and those that do light, do not have working timers requiring them to burn continuously using significant energy and money. The City knew this day would come and had hoped to purchase new lights before the old ones were no longer useful, however there was never enough room for this significant cost in the budget. Our intention moving forward is to join with local organizations and property owners to formulate a plan for 2018, so that we may light the City for the holidays once again. In the meantime, we are thankful to have the lighted baskets down Davis Ave. and Third St., businesses with beautiful window and storefront displays throughout the downtown, and the Christmas light display in the Railyard.

Happy Holidays to you all,

Mayor Van Broughton

Call Notification Alert

The City of Elkins has heard several concerns from local residents about receiving phone calls attempting to solicit information or sell products from the City Hall phone number, 304-636-1414.

City officials would like to caution residents that these calls are not coming from the City of Elkins, but from telemarketing companies or individuals that have the means to use a local phone number for display on your caller ID.

Legitimate calls from City Hall will only be made by employees able to provide their name and position and for City business only. At no time will a city employee ask for private financial information from a customer.

1% Sales Tax Public Event

 

Stop by the Elkins YMCA lobby on Monday, November 13th to learn about City revenues, the proposed 1% municipal sales tax, and to let the City know how you would prioritize spending any additional revenues. The event is open from 4pm to 7pm for City residents, property owners, business owners, representatives of local service organizations, and any other individual(s) with a vested interest in the furture of Elkins.

Public Hearing – Suddenlink office closure

Elkins City Council is hosting a public hearing on Thursday, November 2nd at 6:00 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall to both inform citizens of actions already taken by the City in response to Suddenlink’s closure of their Elkins office, and to solicit citizens’ interest in the City taking further action to try and reverse this closure. If you wish to comment you must appear in person at the public hearing or submit a statement in writing to the Elkins City Clerk at 401 Davis Ave. or jsutton@cityofelkinswv.com.  Comments posted on this website or the City’s Facebook page will neither be responded to nor included in the permanent record made of the public hearing.

Elkins Trick or Treat

Elkins residential trick or treat will be held on Tuesday, October 31, 2017 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Road Work on August 26th

Crews will be repairing a water line on North Washington Avenue beginning at 6 p.m. on Thursday, October 26th. Flagging will take place to direct a one lane alternating traffic pattern on Harrison Avenue. Drivers are advised to choose an alternate route to avoid delays.

Correspondence with Suddenlink Communications

Mayor Broughton shares an update regarding his correspondence with Suddenlink Communications

Elkins Water Rates to Rise in Bills Due December 19

The increase pays for the $37 million Water System Improvement Project.

City of Elkins water customers will see sizable rate increases in their bills due December 19. Here’s why: The city is commencing debt service on 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. The new water-treatment plant is anticipated to go into service in December.

[Related: 2017 Water Rate Increase FAQ]

The New Rates
This rate increase is the second of two approved by Elkins Common Council in 2015. The first increase, which went into effect in 2015, covered the increased cost of ongoing operations. The increase that will be seen on bills due December 19 covers the cost of the Elkins Water System Improvement Project and was a loan condition imposed by the project’s funders, according to Bob Pingley, the operations manager for the City of Elkins.

“Just like individuals applying for mortgages have to prove they have the income to make repayment, we had to commit to raising our water rates enough to cover our monthly payments before we could access project funds,” Pingley says, going on to explain that the sole purpose of this increase is to cover the almost $116,000 monthly payments that the city will have to make until 2055. West Virginia law requires that municipal water utilities be run like independent businesses, with no income other than customer payments.

Under the new rates, the cost for customers’ first 2,000 gallons will rise from $10 to $15.25 per 1,000 gallons, a 52.5 percent increase, and the cost for customers’ next 3,000 gallons will rise from $5.49 to $8.50 per 1,000 gallons, a 54.83 percent increase. The full text of the water-rate ordinance, including other rate changes, may be reviewed online here.

Just in Time
The city’s new water plant marks a big step forward from the old plant, which has been in service since 1921. “The people who built our old plant almost a century ago did great work,” says Pingley. “But everything has a lifespan, and the old plant has gotten to a point where we can’t prudently rely on it much longer.”

One of the most crucial capabilities of the new water-treatment plant is that it is equipped with backup generators, which the old plant has always lacked because of the nonstandard design of its 1920s-era electrical system. Lack of backup power isn’t a problem when power outages are brief, but there have been times in the city’s recent history when longer power outages have come close to draining city reservoirs, such as during Hurricane Sandy.

“During the Hurricane Sandy power outage, we got to within about 5 hours of running our reservoir dry,” says Pingley, who points out that—although Elkins can supply backup water to neighboring utilities if their plants break down—no neighboring utility can generate enough water to supply both its own customers and Elkins. “Until the new plant comes on line, if a power outage lasts long enough, Elkins could simply run out of water.”

The effects of losing city water range from inconvenient to grim to terrifying. Conditions in homes would quickly become unsanitary; schools and businesses would close; hospitals and other care facilities would have to limit services and evacuate patients; and dry hydrants and sprinkler systems would make it difficult or impossible to fight fires.

“Everyone at the City of Elkins is going to heave a huge sigh of relief once we shift to the new plant,” says Pingley.

A New Plant for a New Century
The new plant can produce 4,000 gallons of clean drinking water per minute, compared to the old plant’s 3,800. The new plant also provides a positive barrier against waterborne viruses by using filtration membranes, which are replaceable and so can be upgraded as filtration technology advances. A new 3-million-gallon, pre-stressed-concrete reservoir tank, which replaces the welded-steel Crystal Springs and McQuain Road tanks, has also been constructed next to the new plant atop Reservoir Hill in the city’s Wees District.

Because of the hilltop location of both the new plant and the new reservoir, the city’s water distribution system will be entirely gravity-fed for the first time, which Pingley says offers additional customer benefits.

“A gravity-fed distribution system eliminates fluctuations in water pressure, makes the system less vulnerable to shocks from power surges and restarting the pump after power outages, and simplifies flushing lines,” says Pingley. “That should translate to fewer water-main breaks and other service disruptions, less sediment at the tap, and decreased stress on appliances and fixtures.”

More Than Just a New Water Plant
Pingley emphasizes that this isn’t a “water-plant project,” it’s a “water-system improvement project.” In other words, that $37 million price tag is buying Elkins a lot more than a twenty-first-century, state-of-the-art water plant and a new, highly durable reservoir tank. Other water-system improvements include the installation of 43,540 feet of new water lines; the removal of many old, deteriorated sections of pipe; 41 new fire hydrants; and a new pumping station with backup generators and new intakes and raw-water pumps.

“I know no one is happy about this big jump in water rates, but I want everyone to understand how much value we are getting for the money,” says Pingley, who explains that the city’s new water rates are similar to those charged by other West Virginia cities that have also recently completed large water infrastructure projects. “After this project, Elkins will have a much more robust, redundant, reliable water system, which I know everyone wants—not just for ourselves, today, but also for the future generations who will live and work in Elkins. These new rates are simply what it costs to achieve that.”

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