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.

 

 

 

 

Elkins to Seek Input on Rescue Act Funds

The city’s $2.9 million disbursement could come with significant restrictions

Elkins, W. Va., March 15, 2021: In response to news reports that the City of Elkins is slated to receive approximately $2.9 million in federal funds through the recently enacted American Rescue Act, city officials have begun considering how this money might be used. The city has not yet received any official guidance concerning allowed uses or other restrictions.

“This payment is one of the biggest things to happen to Elkins in generations,” says Finance Committee Chairman Charlie Friddle. “We need to think carefully about what the highest and best uses for it would be.”

Friddle emphasized that it is early to begin considering concrete possibilities.

“Frankly, we don’t know any more about this funding than what has appeared in the news,” he said. “The federal government hasn’t communicated with us in any way about this yet, so we really don’t know how this money can be spent.”

Although details concerning this payment are not yet known, past stimulus funds have had significant restrictions attached.

“CARES Act money could only be spent on very specific categories of pandemic-related costs,” said City Clerk Jessica Sutton. “We don’t know if this funding will be as restricted, and it’ll be a bit of a waiting game before we find out. Remember, CARES Act money took a long time to reach states, and the guidance on how it could be used changed frequently throughout last year.”

Before finalizing any decisions about this money, officials will seek input from the community at large. Officials will also consult with partner agencies and organizations, including the Randolph County Commission, which is reported to be receiving its own $5.6 million disbursement.

According to statewide organizations and news reports, American Rescue Act funds for local governments are expected to be disbursed in two payments, one in April and one about a year later.

“One thing we have to keep in mind is that this is one-time windfall money, not new recurring income,” said Treasurer T. Judy. “We need to make sure we don’t spend it in ways that create ongoing costs that would be difficult to cover once it’s gone.”

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Elkins Returning to In-Person Meetings

Council Meetings will be held at Phil Gainer Community Center

Elkins, W. Va., February 24, 2021: Elkins Common Council and its committees will return to in-person meetings March 1, Mayor Van Broughton ordered last week. Committee meetings will be held in council chambers, while council meetings—including when council convenes as the Board of Canvassers following the March 2 city election—will be held at the Phil Gainer Community Center.

“We can hold committee meetings in council chambers because, with only three council members and some city staff members, there will be enough room for people to spread out,” said Broughton. “We’re moving council meetings to the Phil Gainer Center because there just isn’t room in council chambers for social distancing between ten council members and a half dozen city employees.”

The mayor’s order prohibited attendance by anyone currently experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, having tested positive for the COVID-19 virus within fourteen days of the meeting, or residing in a household with anyone in any of these categories. Attendees will be required to sign in, provide contact information, and affirm that they are in compliance with these requirements.

The mayor also listed safety precautions that councilors, city staff, and audience members will be asked to follow at in-person council and committee meetings.

  • Face coverings must be worn by all persons at all times, except when speaking. Speakers must be six feet or separated by a partition from other persons.
  • Audience members who do not reside in the same household must maintain a six-foot distance from each other.
  • To enable appropriate distancing, a maximum capacity will be enforced for both council chambers and the Phil Gainer Center. (The number will depend on how many attendees are from the same household and so cannot be posted in advance.)

The mayor says he believes returning to in-person meetings with these precautions in place achieves the necessary balance of safety and openness.

“As mayor, I take my responsibility to the citizens, to city employees, and to [council] very seriously,” said Broughton, in his order. “This includes protection of health and safety along with operation of a transparent government. I have continued to work with the administrative officers in evaluating our local pandemic-related health conditions and balancing that with our duty as elected officials. I am confident we have made the right decisions so far and that we will continue to make good decisions moving forward.”

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City Hall Closed to Public in Response to Infection Upsurge

This payment dropbox, located behind city hall, may be used for both utility and court-related payments.

Elkins, W. Va., January 11, 2021: In response to the current upsurge in coronavirus infections, Elkins City Hall will be closed to the public until further notice starting Tuesday, Mayor Van Broughton ordered today. All city staff are to report for duty as usual and most city operations will continue as usual. One exception is that the Elkins Municipal Court judge has postponed all pending court hearings, including virtual hearings, until January 19.

“I have grave concerns about the current surge in positive COVID-19 cases in Randolph County and across the nation,” said the mayor in his order.

Randolph County’s infection rate has nearly doubled in the last week, from 81.65 to 160.8 per 100,000, according to the W. Va. Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR). The percentage of positive tests for the COVID-19 virus has risen from 7.87 last Monday to 12.38 today. Both figures place Randolph County in DHHR’s “red” category, like most other W. Va. counties.

Utility customers and persons needing to pay municipal court fines and fees may do so by phone, by mail, or via the drop box behind city hall. Payments may also be made online. Both the utility bill and municipal court payment portal may be accessed at this link: www.cityofelkinswv.com/online-payments. Contact information for all city departments may be found here: www.cityofelkinswv.com/government/departments-divisions

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Update: Elkins Sanitation Department Quarantines

Left: City Councilor Chris Lowther. Right: Sanitation Department Loader Charles Westfall.

Last Monday, City of Elkins announced that “garbage pickup in Elkins may be delayed or disrupted over the next few weeks due to personnel shortages resulting in part from exposures to the COVID-19 virus.”

Today, Operations Manager Bob Pingley provides the following update:

“We seem to have weathered the storm with regards to the Sanitation Department, at least for now. We have enough employees back that the department can operate on its own, with only one  employee still out on quarantine.

“We couldn’t have done it without numerous people stepping up and lending a hand to make sure the job got done. Donnie Hedrick, Water Distribution Department supervisor, and Brad Curtis, Building Maintenance supervisor, got the opportunity to brush up on their garbage truck driving skills. Paul Youtzy and Danny Harris from the Central Garage pitched in, as did the entire Street Department. Ron Corcoran from the Fire Department hauled roll-offs for us. We also appreciated the assistance of Elkins City Councilor Chris Lowther.

“It’s teamwork like this that allows us to continue to provide the critical services that our residents depend on. And it’s the opportunity to work with people like these that is the best part of my job here with the city.”

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Elkins Garbage Collection Disrupted Due to Quarantined Employees

Elkins, W. Va., January 4, 2021: Garbage pickup in Elkins may be delayed or disrupted over the next few weeks due to personnel shortages resulting in part from exposures to the COVID-19 virus, City of Elkins Operations Manager Bob Pingley announced today. Four of the department’s five drivers are in quarantine, and the department is three short of its normal complement of loaders.

“To maintain our regular level of service, I’ve pulled employees from three other departments to work as drivers and loaders,” said Pingley. “These are some of our best employees and will do all that they can, but unfortunately they just do not know these routes like our regular drivers do.”

As a result, Pingley says, not all garbage may be collected on time or as usual.

“We’ll do our best to get all garbage picked up on schedule, but there are inevitably going to be some hiccups as we go along. We ask for everyone’s patience and understanding as we work through this unprecedented situation.”

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Elkins Council Returns to Virtual Meetings

Elkins, W. Va., December 9, 2020: In response to high coronavirus infection rates in Randolph County and statewide, as well as Governor Jim Justice’s recommendation on Monday that West Virginians 65 and older should self-isolate for the next several weeks, Elkins Mayor Van Broughton has ordered a return to virtual council and committee meetings for at least the month of December. (more…)

Reminder: Masks Required in Municipal Court

As a reminder, anyone appearing in Municipal Court, whether as a defendant or witness, must wear a face covering to reduce the risk of transmitting the COVID-19 virus.

People without face coverings will not be admitted to the courtroom. If you are on trial or under subpoena, this will be considered a failure to appear. These safety precautions are based on an order of the West Virginia Supreme Court.

Learn more here.

Governor Orders Masks at All Times in Public Buildings

Warns noncompliance could result in criminal charges, additional shutdowns

Elkins, W. Va., November 13, 2020: At today’s coronavirus briefing, Governor Jim Justice made mask-wearing mandatary “at all times” in businesses and other public buildings, ordered state public schools to offer remote instruction only Dec. 1-3, and postponed the start of the winter sports season. (His executive order is here.)

Observing that the state has recently set records for daily hospitalizations and use of ICU beds, Justice warned that people who refuse to wear masks and businesses who fail to require masks risk triggering another shutdown of non-essential businesses. He also said that people who fail to comply with his executive orders could be charged with obstruction of justice. (more…)

EPD Safety Advice for Halloween

From EPD Chief Travis Bennett:

“This Halloween is going to be different from past ones in many ways, but we all still need to work together to keep the kids safe.

“Parents, make sure your trick-or-treaters are visible to drivers by not using dark-colored costumes at night or at least adding reflective tape. Check costume masks to see if they restrict your child’s field of vision.

“Drivers, if you’re out and about on Halloween night, please slow down and keep your eyes open. Children might be running across streets in the middle of the block and might not be paying attention to traffic because they’re so excited.

“Council has asked that everyone take steps to keep things as safe as possible during the pandemic. The most important things would be not attending indoor parties with people from multiple households, trying to keep good distance while walking from house to house, and using self-serve candy bowls or other similar ideas to reduce the need for close interactions.

“If we all work together, we can have a safe holiday. I wish a Happy Halloween to the kids and I hope everyone has a great night!”

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