“Street Legal” ATVs on City Streets?

Elkins Council Committee Seeks Public Input on Possible Rule Change

Elkins, W. Va., October 12, 2020: Lawmakers amended state code this year to allow ATVs and UTVs meeting certain safety requirements to be operated on public roadways, and an Elkins Common Council committee is considering similar changes here. Council’s Rules & Ordinances Committee, which will decide at its November 12 meeting whether to recommend council approval of an ordinance making such changes, is seeking public input on this matter before that meeting.

Since 2001, Elkins city code has prohibited operation of ATVs and UTVs inside city limits, except on private property. At the time of its passage, this local law mirrored state code provisions that then prohibited operation of ATVs and UTVs on paved, public roads.

During the 2020 legislative session, however, state lawmakers created a new West Virginia Code section, §17A-13-1, which allows certain ATVs and UTVs—if licensed, registered, insured, and outfitted with specific equipment and safety features—to be designated “street legal” and to be operated on most public roadways. Required equipment includes head, tail, and brake lights; reflectors; turn signals; mirrors; and a muffler.

Cities and counties are not required to mirror these changes and may continue to prohibit ATV and UTV usage on streets inside their jurisdictions. Local jurisdictions also have the option to adopt only some of the state’s changes. For example, although the new state code section imposes no restriction on the time of day these vehicles may be operated, local jurisdictions may do so.

At its November 12 meeting, the committee will discuss a draft ordinance that would amend local laws to allow ATVs and UTVs that are compliant with W. Va. Code §17A-13-1 to be operated on highways, roads, streets, and alleys inside Elkins, with some limitations. The local ordinance would also establish an annual fee of $50 for a permit to operate ATVs and UTVs on public streets in Elkins. This ordinance would not permit operation of these vehicles anywhere currently closed to motor vehicles; it would also not impose any new limitations on any previously allowed uses of ATVs or UTVs.

The draft ordinance may be viewed by clicking here.

Please submit comments no later than November 11 to the committee members:

Linda Vest (Chair)
304.636.1220 (H)
lvest@cityofelkinswv.com

Robert Chenoweth
304.614.2676 (C)
rchenoweth@cityofelkinswv.com

Michael Hinchman
304.636.7139 (H)
mhinchman@cityofelkinswv.com

Elkins Cancels 2020 Spring Cleanup

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.

The initial postponement came during the first month of the coronavirus epidemic in West Virginia. 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 and businesses.

“The problem is really one of timing,” says Bob Pingley, the city’s operations manager. “Providing the Spring Cleanup service ties up our street department personnel for about two weeks straight. Spring is a good time for that, because by then we’ve usually wrapped up with plowing and other winter work but haven’t yet started doing street repairs and other typical summer work. At this point, it really doesn’t look like we can fit it in this year without sacrificing some projects that need to take a higher priority at this point.”

For households and businesses that need to dispose of large items now and cannot wait until next spring, one option is to request a special pickup. For information about special pickups, please visit: www.bit.ly/ElkinsSpecialPickup. Items can also be delivered directly to Tygarts Valley Sanitation or other licensed waste collection facilities.

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City Hall News: October 17, 2020

Elkins, W. Va., October 17, 2020: Next week’s meetings include those of the Elkins Sanitary Board, which oversees the city’s sewer system, the Elkins Historic Landmarks Commission, and the Elkins Parks and Recreation Commission. The regularly scheduled meeting of council’s Municipal Properties Committee is postponed, with its new date to be announced.

The Sanitary Board meets Monday in city hall at 3:15 p.m. for agenda items including actions related to the bonds recently issued by council for the Phase II Sewer Project. (For more information about this project: www.bit.ly/Phase2Sewer).

The Historic Landmarks Commission meets on Tuesday at 4 p.m. in the Darden House (next door to city hall). The Parks and Recreation Commission meets Wednesday at 5 p.m. at the Phil Gainer Community Center (142 Robert E. Lee Ave. Ext.).

As of Friday, the street sweeper has concluded its 2020 operating season. Street sweeper parking rules will not be enforced until the resumption of street sweeper operations in 2021.

Leaf pick up begins Monday, October 19, 2020 and continues for the rest of the fall, until either all leaves have been collected or snow has started falling. To make use of this service, rake leaves into piles in the grassy area between the curb and the sidewalk or bag up leaves for pick up.

There is no announced schedule for leaf collection by neighborhood or ward; crews will target areas that have the most leaves ready for collection. Contact the Operations Division at (304)-636-1414, ext. 1437 to report the location of bagged leaves for pick up. More information: www.cityofelkinswv.com.

Utility bill payments and in-city fire protection service fees (included on utility bills) are due Monday.

EPD to Host Active Shooter Response Training for Area Agencies

Training Will Focus on Solo Officer Emergency Response

Elkins, W. Va., October 16, 2020: Over the next several months, the Elkins Police Department will host a series of five Solo Officer Emergency Response training sessions for officers from area law enforcement agencies. The series of two-day training sessions, which presents the latest best practices for officers responding to active shooter and similar violent incidents, will be delivered by Omega Tactical Concepts, a West Virginia-based firm specializing in scenario-based training for individuals, private companies, and law enforcement.

The term “active shooter” describes incidents in which one or more perpetrators are actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill other people. The tactics for responding to these attacks have evolved over the years.

“The original tactic for these situations was that responding officers would establish a perimeter and wait for SWAT,” says EPD Chief Travis Bennett. “The problem with that approach is that it takes time to deploy a tactical team. An active shooter is trying to kill as many people as possible, and the thinking now is that even waiting a few minutes for a second or third patrol officer, much less waiting for SWAT, is probably going to increase fatalities.”

Because experience has shown that these incidents often end upon first contact between the shooter and law enforcement, it is now widely accepted that the best tactic is for the first officer on the scene to enter and move toward the sound of shooting as quickly as possible.

“Active shooters are not courageous individuals,” says Bennett. “They’re launching a surprise attack against people they think are defenseless, and they usually either give up or kill themselves as soon as they encounter trained responders. The thinking behind Solo Officer Emergency Response is to push the incident as fast as possible to the point where the shooter knows he doesn’t have much longer and the attack comes to an end—one way or another.”

However, solo response in such situations involves considerable risks for law enforcement officers. For example, there is an increased risk of “blue on blue” accidents, in which one officer mistakenly shoots another.

“One danger with this approach is that you’re going to have officers from multiple agencies and jurisdictions arriving, one by one,” says Bennett. “As they make entry and move toward the sound of gunfire, they may be hearing a fellow officer rather than the shooter. There may be crowds of frightened civilians, smoke, power outages—it’s going to be a confusing situation, to say the least.”

That’s why EPD has invited participation by the Randolph County Sheriff’s Office, the West Virginia State Police, and other area law enforcement agencies.

“We want to really blanket the area with this training so that, no matter who the first responding officers are, they’ve all been trained the same way and are operating under the same protocols,” says Bennett. “Communication is going to be key. The second, third, and fourth officer arriving on scene really need to know where that first officer is and what they’re seeing.”

Bennett explains why he selected Omega to deliver this training.

“Omega is one of the leading companies offering this specific training, and I also have a lot of direct experience working with the lead instructor,” says Bennett, who also serves as the commander of the EPD Tactical Response Unit. “We’ve worked together a good bit over the years.”

A great deal of preparation went into this training, which will use both range time and simulated scenarios to deliver instruction on tactical firearms, small unit tactics, room and building management, emergency medical techniques, and managing law enforcement and EMS response.

“We’ve been planning this for about a year and a half,” says Bennett. “A few weeks before the first training session, Omega sent a team up here for a day to take a look at the facility we’ll be using for the scenarios and to talk to us about what we want to get out of this training.”

Bennett says this training exemplifies his philosophy where professional development for his officers is concerned.

“The state requires a certain amount of continuing education for officers each year, and everyone’s been in the situation where time is running out so you just squeeze something in,” says Bennett. “I’m not a fan of putting my people through training just to satisfy requirements. We all want good quality training that benefits us directly, so we’re really looking forward to this. Obviously, we hope we never need this training, but it’s a good feeling knowing we’ll be ready if we do.”

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Leaf Pickup Begins October 19

Leaf pick up begins Monday, October 19, 2020 and continues for the rest of the fall, until either all leaves have been collected or snow has started falling.

What to do with your leaves
To make use of this service, rake leaves into piles in the grassy area between the curb and the sidewalk or bag up leaves for pick up.

Please do not place leaves in the street, as this causes problems with storm drains as well as parking and traffic concerns. City employees will not go into yards to collect leaves.

Is There a Schedule?
In the interest of efficiency, we do not schedule leaf collection by area but instead target the heaviest concentrations of leaves on any given day.

However, we are continuing last year’s practice of collecting bagged leaves within 48 hours. Customers will need to place the bagged leaves at the curb and contact the Operations Division at (304)-636-1414, ext. 1437 to report the location of the bagged leaves for pick up. Bags must contain only leaves and no yard waste or trash.

Other Information
Please remember that this process is weather dependent. For example, we can’t effectively pick up leaves in a pouring rain.

Also, keep in mind that we only have one leaf truck to cover the city. Please be patient—we will get to each property as soon as we can.

Yard-waste drop-off
Residents may drop off yard waste, including leaves, between 6:30 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday; 6:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Wednesdays and 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on Saturdays, at the City of Elkins Wastewater Collection Plant located at 31 Jones Drive (adjacent to Robert E. Lee Avenue/Flood Control Road).

Reminder: Significant Penalties for Passing Stopped School Busses

From EPD Chief Bennett:

EPD has received several reports of vehicles passing stopped school busses. I want to remind motorists that passing a school bus that is displaying its flashing warning signal is illegal and punishable by a minimum fine of $500 and/or up to 6 months in jail—even for a first offense.

I urge motorists to pay attention to their surroundings and keep their eyes open for school buses and children along the roadways on their way to and from school. If you approach a school bus with its warning signals flashing, regardless of the direction you are traveling, state code requires you to stop until the lights go off and the bus resumes motion. I would also ask that motorists pay attention to their speed in school zones.

The safety of children is of paramount importance to the Elkins Police Department. To protect children traveling to and from school, our officers will be conducting targeted enforcement of these violations. Here is a link to the relevant state code section if you would like to review the law yourself.

Thank you for helping us keep Elkins safe!

Chief T.C. Bennett

City Hall News: October 10, 2020

Elkins, W. Va., October 10, 2020: This week, there will be a council meeting and meetings of council’s Public Safety Committee and Personnel Committee and the Elkins Firefighters Civil Service Commission.

On Monday at 10 a.m., the Public Safety Committee meets to hear reports from city public safety officials, including one concerning the status of buildings slated for demolition. Also on Monday, at 1 p.m., the Personnel Committee continues its discussion of the code enforcement department and the reappointment of the city clerk.

On Tuesday at 4 p.m., the Elkins Firefighters Civil Service Commission meets to finalize its new list of candidates eligible for appointment to the Elkins Fire Department.

Council meets in regular session Thursday at 7 p.m. Although the agenda has not yet been finalized, one item will be the call of the March 2021 city election.

Council’s Rules & Ordinances Committee is in the process of considering allowing certain UTVs and ATVs to be operated on city streets. Committee members Linda Vest, Michael Hinchman, and Robert Chenoweth request interested parties submit comments directly to them. Contact information is available in the council section of the city website: www.cityofelkinswv.com.

As of today, council has released a revised draft city charter and commenced the steps required for that draft to be eligible for adoption via ordinance in November. Please visit www.bit.ly/ElkinsCharterUpdate to learn more.

Council Releases Draft Charter Update

Timing Enables Adding Disputed Changes to the March 2021 Ballot

Elkins, W. Va., October 9, 2020: Elkins council has released a revised draft city charter and commenced the steps required for that draft to be eligible for adoption via ordinance in November, Elkins City Clerk Jessica Sutton announced today. Under the plan released by the city clerk’s office, councilors will be able to adopt uncontroversial charter changes on November 19 while still leaving time to place disputed changes on the ballot for the March 2021 city election. The plan states that the effective date of any charter amendments, whether adopted via ordinance or election, would be April 1, 2021.

“A city charter is the foundational document of a municipality,” says Elkins City Clerk Jessica Sutton. “It lays out the structure, authorities, and basic operating rules of a city’s government. Here in Elkins, our charter hasn’t been updated since 1901, so it was time to take a look at what may need adapted to the times.”

According to Sutton, the charter-change process permitted by W.Va. Code § 8-4-8 and now being followed by council gives councilors needed flexibility while ensuring that the resources expended this year to research and recommend possible charter changes—including more than $10,000 in legal fees and hundreds of hours of staff time—are not wasted.

“It’s up to city councilors to accept or reject whatever charter changes they see fit, but they can’t do that without releasing an official endorsed charter draft and following the steps laid out in state code,” says Sutton. “The draft we released today, which is based on direction provided by council at its last meeting, includes some items where council has reached consensus and other items that not everyone agrees with. The good thing about this process is that it enables council to easily make the changes everyone agrees with while still allowing the option of putting the remaining changes in the hands of voters.”

Significant changes proposed in the draft charter update include adoption of what West Virginia state code calls the Manager-Mayor plan of government, extending the mayor’s term from two to four years, and shifting city elections from March to June (starting with the 2023 election). The update would not change either the number of or the required qualifications for council members but would allow voters to cast a ballot for every ward’s representatives, not just their own.

The process announced today includes a public hearing on November 9, when any qualified city voter or freeholder may enter objections concerning the proposed draft. This input opportunity is in addition to an in-person Q&A that was hosted by council in early September, an online survey, and correspondence submitted to the clerk’s office.

Qualified objections to the charter update submitted between today and the close of the hearing on November 9, if not withdrawn within 10 days after the hearing, would prevent the indicated charter changes from being adopted via ordinance. Council could then either place these changes on the March 2021 ballot or decide not to pursue them further.

Sutton explains that the adoption-via-ordinance process gives Elkins voters and freeholders significant influence over the final results.

“I’ve heard people say that adopting charter changes via ordinance somehow cuts the public out of the process, but nothing could be farther from the truth,” says Sutton. “In the ordinance process, all it takes is one qualified objection to any proposed change, and that change is off the table. At an election, a simple majority vote carries the day.”

City officials hope that city voters and property owners see this process as an opportunity to make their voices heard.

“All I ask is that people use their leverage constructively,” says Sutton. “Please don’t say no just for the sake of saying no, and don’t just tell us what you don’t want—tell us how the draft could be changed to satisfy your objection. Review the draft, share your opinions, and let’s all work together to get to a final charter update that is good for the whole community.”

The proposed charter draft, along with a variety of informational resources, may be accessed at: www.bit.ly/ElkinsCharterUpdate

Important Dates:

  • November 9, 2020: Public hearing/first reading of adoption ordinance
  • November 19, 2020: Second and final reading of adoption ordinance (can only adopt changes with no remaining objections)
  • March 2, 2021: Elkins city election (ballot can include charter changes objected to during and not adopted by ordinance process)
  • April 1, 2021: Effective date of changes adopted via both ordinance and election

Second Round of Elkins Paving Work Begins Wednesday

Elkins, W. Va., October 5, 2020:  Elkins officials have adjusted the city budget to fund additional street repaving this fall. The fall paving project, during which contractors plan to lay fresh asphalt on sections of city streets totaling more than one and a half miles in length, follows a spring paving project that repaved more than a mile’s worth of city streets. Work is scheduled to begin Wednesday.

“We budget around $100,000 for street repaving each fiscal year, and that’s about what the spring paving work cost,” says Bob Pingley, the operations manager for the City of Elkins. “This summer, we decided to rework the budget so that we could fund a second round of paving.”

Pingley explains that several factors can limit the scope of city paving projects, which are contracted to private companies specializing in asphalt work.

“With paving, we’re at the mercy of contractor availability,” he says. “The paving contracts that a city the size of Elkins puts out are small potatoes compared to the DOH contracts, so we typically have to wait until contractors finish the big highway jobs before they will turn to our projects.”

In addition to the volume of DOH paving work, weather can also delay the city’s paving projects. Downpours can be detrimental to fresh asphalt installation, so crews typically postpone work when heavy rain is expected.

“The more it rains in a given year, the longer those DOH projects can take, and the longer it takes our contractor to get to our projects,” says Pingley. “Some years, depending on the weather and the number of contracts DOH puts out, we can’t get any repaving in at all. When we get a chance to double up, like this year, we like to take it, because next year could be one of those years when we are prevented from getting any paving done.”

For more information about street paving and patching in Elkins, see: www.bit.ly/ElkinsPaving

City Hall News: October 3, 2020

Elkins, W. Va., October 3, 2020: This week, council’s Finance Committee and Rules & Ordinances Committee, as well as the Elkins Tree Board, will be meeting.

The Finance Committee convenes in person on Monday at 10 a.m. to take up new business items including funding for lighting improvements in City Park and the purchase of a new sanitation truck.

At 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, the Elkins Tree Board meets in person to welcome Eric Schwartz, the new AmeriCorps member assigned to assist both the tree board and Elkins Main Street. Randolph County Development Authority Director Robbie Morris will also attend to discuss collaborative greenspace opportunities.

The 12 p.m. Thursday meeting of the Rules & Ordinances Committee, also in person, will see continued consideration of changes to the city’s laws concerning ATVs and UTVs. In new business, the committee will hear a request for revisions to the city’s restrictions on limited video lottery locations.

The Treasurer’s Department reminds city business owners that third-quarter business and occupation (B&O) tax forms have just been mailed, and returns are due by the end of the month.

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