Update Concerning New Billboards in Elkins

As extensively discussed on the city’s Facebook page, two billboards (one LED, one non-LED) are currently being installed in the City of Elkins. Here are some fast facts about this situation:
  • Yes, NEW billboards (LED or traditional) are illegal in Elkins going forward, as a result of the sign ordinance approved in the summer.
  • However, the signs going in at Davis and Randolph and on Harrison are nonetheless LEGAL, because the company that owns them, Legends Outdoor, applied for  sign permits before the final approval of that ordinance.
  • Once in place, these signs are considered “grandfathered,” meaning that the ordinance’s prohibitions against such signs do not apply, just as they do not apply to the several other existing billboards in town. However, the ordinance’s requirements concerning upkeep and repairs, etc., will apply to them. Also, they cannot ever be enlarged.
  • In other words, there is NOTHING the city can do to prevent this sign from going in, AND the city has also taken action to prevent all future such signs from going in. The only entity with any ability to alter the course of this project is Legends Outdoor; their representative, Steve Snyder, may be reached at ssnyder@legendsoutdoor.com and by phone via the information provided on his company website’s contact page.
  • Silver lining: Legends Outdoor has pledged that they will, for free, display information requested by local authorities (e.g., Amber/Silver Alerts, boil water advisories, etc.).
To expand on that last point: Mr. Snyder spoke with Mayor Broughton yesterday. In that conversation, Mr. Snyder reemphasized his company’s willingness to work with the city to broadcast urgent/emergency messages. This could even include giving the city direct access to be able to place an emergency message day or night, but the technical specifics of that capability need to be researched, so this is not yet a firm arrangement.
 
Mr. Snyder also confirmed that the sign will be dimmed to some extent at night and said that the company might consider turning it off altogether between midnight and 5 a.m., depending on community input.
 
We have heard from many upset residents about this issue. We want you to know that we hear you and understand why you are upset. However, the current elected leadership and administration of the City of Elkins are committed to the rule of law; we cannot pick and choose who the law applies to and who it does not apply to.
Therefore, no matter how strongly many of us might wish otherwise, there was no magic parliamentary or other maneuver available to council or any city official that could have legally prevented the issuance of this permit, which was due to the applicant (Legends Outdoor) on April 29, before the first reading of the first version of the sign ordinance on May 7, 2015 (and of course even that version was later changed substantively enough to require two further readings, such that it was not finally approved until mid-June). As asserted to us by an attorney retained by Legends Outdoor:
  • “West Virginia law does not give cities the authority to suspend a valid ordinance. See Bittinger v. Corporation of Bolivar, 183 W.Va. 310, 314-15 (1990) (rejecting the city’s attempt to defer consideration of any new permits for ninety days by declaring a “moratorium” on any applications while a new ordinance was adopted).”
  • “West Virginia case law does not support the ability of the City of Elkins to retroactively apply any revised code that may be adopted to my client’s previously submitted applications. See Far Away Farm, LLC v. Jefferson County Bd. of Zoning Appeals, 222 W.Va. 252, 259 (2008).”

Thanks for reading, and we will keep you posted.

Search Warrant finds Drug Paraphernalia, Possible Stolen Items

October 29, 2015

9:36 a.m.

From Chief Cross: Early this morning, Elkins Police Department officers Shifflett and Wyshyvanuk obtained a search warrant for a garage on the curtilage of 1106 South Kerens Avenue. Upon executing the warrant, the officers discovered drug paraphernalia and numerous items matching the description of items recently reported stolen. The resident of this garage, an individual named Christopher Bibey, was arrested on multiple related charges. Officers are currently examining and inventorying the contents of the garage and will begin contacting recent theft victims if it appears that their lost items have been recovered.

What’s Up with all the Water Main Breaks and Leaks?

It’s not your imagination: we have had a real spike in water main breaks and leaks recently. But don’t worry, the end of the world is not near! According to Operations Manager Bob Pingley, these events don’t signal a general collapse of our water infrastructure. There’s a simpler explanation.

“It’s actually because we had to close the line filling the Crystal Springs reservoir tank,” Pingley said at last night’s council meeting, referring to one of the city’s two reservoir tanks (the other one is on top of “reservoir hill,” above High Street). He explained that the city’s Water Plant pumps water out through the city’s piping system at a certain pressure. When everything is functioning normally, the water flows out through the lines and eventually fills up the tanks at each end of the city. The main function of those tanks, of course, is to store fresh water, but a byproduct of the action of filling them up is that each tank provides a sort of ‘relief valve’ for pressure throughout the system of pipes that serves the city. For an admittedly inexact analogy, think of the expansion tank on a water heater: a place for water to keep flowing into so that it doesn’t raise the pressure of the system it’s coming from.

But as water customers along Harrison Avenue and in Crystal Springs know, everything hasn’t been functioning normally. At least not since October 13, when we suffered a break to a 24-inch water main in that area. Although crews were able to implement a temporary solution that restored water service, that solution left the line to the Crystal Springs tank closed. Without the “relief” of that tank, the water pressure throughout the system was substantially raised.

Now, as you may know, we have a lot of old pipes out there, some almost 100 years old. Many of these already had hairline fractures and even small leaks. Not surprisingly, when the pressure goes up for any reason, those hairline fractures start turning into small leaks, those small leaks start turning into larger leaks, and the larger leaks–well, just ask the customers along Harrison or in South Elkins this week.

The good news is that the line to the Crystal Springs tank is back open as of today. We hope it can stay open, although we should all be ready for some continued “aftershocks” of the experience we’ve just been through. As you can imagine, that raised pressure might have created some really weak spots that are just waiting for some other factor to put them over the edge. Rest assured that, if that happens, our hardworking water crews will get things fixed just as fast as they can. Thanks for your understanding and patience, and check out these resources to learn more about the city’s water system and plans to improve it:

 

Atlantic Coast Pipeline Certificate Application Filing Notification

The City of Elkins is in receipt of a packet from Atlantic Coast Pipeline, constituting notification that, on September 18, Atlantic officially applied to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for permission to build and operate what had until then only been a proposed pipeline. This packet contains:

  • A cover letter from Atlantic
  • A copy of FERC’s notice that it has received Atlantic’s application
  • A map showing the proposed 564-mile route of the pipeline
  • A summary of “landowner rights”

You may download a PDF file of the packet by clicking here.

Elkins Police Department Calls, Cases, and Arrests: September 2015

The Elkins Police Department currently reports monthly statistics on calls*, cases*, and arrests* to council each month. We thought you might be interested, too.

* “Calls” are requests for an officer’s services or assistance. “Cases” are all calls and/or situations observed by an officer in which there is evidence of a crime having been committed; the number of cases shown in this table is only those with an initial “call” or report date during the given month. “Arrests” are the number of people arrested in the given month. Because one individual may be arrested for multiple crimes, we also report the total number of “violations by arrestees.”

Electronics Recycling: Oct. 17, Walmart parking lot

We are passing along the following information as a service. This is not a city event. Please contact the below organizations with questions.

“It’s almost that time of year again — E-CYCLING by the D&E GreenWorks! student group!

In partnership with the Randolph County Solid Waste Authority, GreenWorks!, Sustainability Studies, Environmental Science students, and D&E Center for Sustainability studies staff will be collecting electronics

**Saturday, October 17th, 8am – until the truck is full**, at the **Wal Mart parking lot** on the Beverly 5-lane.

Please bring your items for recycling at this time, earlier is better as the collection will end when the 53’ trailer is full (have filled every year for 7 years!). The collection is free of charge but donations to the GreenWorks! group in any amount will be accepted in support of future student projects and event expenses. No items will be accepted prior to or after the event.

Hope to see you there! Volunteers are welcome – please reply to this post if you wish to help out for any amount of time on the 17th. Lunch and gloves will be provided.

Acceptable Items:

Computers and Peripherals:
Complete and partial systems (working or not), processors (CPUs), optical drives (CDROM, CDRW, DVD, etc), network and communications hardware (modems, routers, hubs, etc), drives (hard drives, floppy), keyboards, laptops, mice, monitors, network hardware (servers), paper tape readers and punchers, plotters, printers, tape drives

Subassemblies and Components:
Any subassemblies of the above, boards, cables, casters, circuit boards, computer chips, controllers, disk storage products, expansion products, fans (200/240v, 115v, 12v 24/48v), motors, PC cards, power supplies, wire (telephone, networking, electrical), fiber optic (kinked or broken cable, drop, etc)

Home Electronics:
NO WHITE GOODS (including: refrigerators, freezers, washers, dryers). But we do accept TVs (CRT, flat panel, plasma, etc), microwaves, mixers, phones (corded, cordless, and cellular), entertainment goods (VCRs, DVD players, radios, speakers, cameras, recorders, alarms, VCR’s, key pads

Central Office and Communication Room Equipment:
Chillers, communication equipment, mainframe equipment, motor generator Sets (MG sets), power distribution units (PDU), uninteruptable power supplies (UPS Systems)

Office Equipment:
Barcode equipment, pagers, copy machines, fax machines, telephone systems (cordless, cellular, desk)

Utility and Power Equipment:
CATV, cable, electric generators, gas meters, repeaters, transformers, water meters, specialty equipment, construction, production, manufacturing equipment.”

EPD: Shots fired on South Davis Avenue

From Chief Craig:

Tuesday morning, at about 2:45 a.m., Elkins Police Department (EPD) received reports of a “shots fired” incident in the 900 block of South Davis Avenue.

EPD and Randolph County Sheriff’s Deputies responded to the scene and discovered multiple shell casings and one expended bullet in a nearby parking lot. Officers observed damage to a nearby business consistent with bullet strikes. Officers also encountered and interviewed two male subjects who may have been involved in this incident.

Based on information collected so far, this does not appear to have been a random incident, but rather an altercation between individuals known to each other. The damaged business does not seem to have been targeted directly and is believed to have been damaged collaterally during this altercation that just happened to occur in its vicinity. We do not believe that the general public is in danger.

We would greatly appreciate the public’s assistance in locating a silver car, possibly a Dodge Neon, that may have been involved in this incident. As always, we also request that the public be vigilant and report any suspicious activity to law enforcement.

In an emergency, please dial 911.
During business hours (8:00-4:30), EPD may also be reached at (304) 636-0678.

No, home rule does not mean tax hikes (corrected)

Like an early Halloween present to the City of Elkins, the InterMountain ran a letter on Saturday that compared your elected representatives to Dracula.

This comparison came in the course of French Creek resident Robert Ware’s analysis of Elkins’s plan to apply for acceptance into the West Virginia Municipal Home Rule Pilot Program (HRPP). First asserting that “home rule is one of the most financially devastating schemes any politician has ever come up with,” Mr. Ware then warned readers that “home rule will automatically bestow upon Elkins elected officials … a slew of broad new powers,” including what he called “unlimited taxing power.”

Wrong.
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Hydrant flow test

A hydrant flow test will take place on Friday, October 2nd at the old National Guard Armory between 9:00 a.m-9:30 a.m. Customers in this area may experience cloudy water as a result.

“Cured-in-place pipes”: saving time and money for Elkins

COE_SewerProj_CastCrewIf you were downtown at all over the last several weeks, you might have noticed crews operating a strange, steam-powered contraption, pictured at right. Just what the heck were those guys doing?

In short, saving time and money for the people and businesses of Elkins.

As you may know, the city is currently in the midst of a project to separate certain combined sewer/stormwater lines. Along the way, we are taking the opportunity to repair some existing sewer lines that are at risk of failure. And how do you repair a failing sewer line?  (more…)