Elkins Council Considering Charter Changes Thursday

Elkins, W. Va., August 3, 2020: Elkins Common Council will hear a presentation from its charter-change consultant at Thursday’s 7 p.m. meeting. The presentation will include analysis of and recommendations for improving the city charter. Immediately following, council will begin public deliberations concerning what charter changes to pursue. Following Thursday’s meeting, subsequent planned steps in the charter review process include opportunities for questions and input from the public, a formal public hearing, and at least two additional public council meetings.

“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.”

Council set goals of updating the charter and evaluating the feasibility of adopting a city-manager form of government in its 2018-2023 Strategic Plan. Members began working toward these goals in committee meetings during the summer of 2019. In December of that year, council hired Tim Stranko, an attorney specializing in municipal law who has assisted other cities with charter changes, to make informational presentations to council about allowed forms of government for West Virginia cities; council structures in use at other cities; and municipal best practices that might be considered for inclusion in an updated charter.

“Mr. Stranko wrapped up his presentations in June, and now council is going to start actively discussing and deliberating about what changes it can support making to the charter,” says Sutton.

One planned topic for discussion is the possibility of shifting to a city-manager-based form of government. State code authorizes five “plans” of municipal government. Elkins currently uses the Mayor-Council Plan, in which both governing and administrative authority are held, collectively, by the mayor and the council.

“Under the Mayor-Council Plan, mayors have almost no authority and all important decisions—both policy and administrative—ultimately fall to council,” says Sutton. “Council wants to consider whether shifting administrative authority to a manager might enable members to focus on policy, strategy, and goalsetting and leave day-to-day management decisions to someone with training and experience in city administration.”

Council will also discuss the possibility of making changes to council structure and election processes, extending the mayor’s term from two to four years, changing the date of elections, and including financial processes in the charter.

“This process is certainly not going to end on Thursday,” says Sutton. “Council discussions concerning the charter will continue at as many meetings as necessary until there is consensus on changes members feel they can publicly endorse.”

Once a draft charter has been endorsed, the subsequent steps will be a public Q&A session with Mr. Stranko and council, a public hearing, and two readings of an ordinance adopting the new charter.

Elkins Officials Explain Railroad Avenue Parking Decision

Change Necessary Due to Substantially Increased Traffic, Federal Standards

Elkins, W. Va., July 31, 2020: The decision to prohibit parallel parking along Railroad Avenue in Elkins was triggered by concerns about increasing traffic volumes and was necessary to comply with federal traffic safety standards, city officials explained today.

The change, which eliminated parallel parking in front of the offices of the Inter-Mountain, the Randolph County Senior Center, and the American Legion, among other Railroad Avenue buildings, was approved at an October meeting of council’s Municipal Properties Committee. The decision to make this change was supported by the city’s operations manager, police chief, and fire chief. A representative of the American Legion was also in attendance at the October meeting.

Increasing traffic on Railroad Avenue led officials to reevaluate parking rules there.

“One of the main issues creating the need for this change is the ever-increasing volume of traffic on Railroad Avenue,” says Elkins Operations Manager Bob Pingley.  “Time was that Railroad Avenue was a quiet little side street. Now it’s really the gateway to downtown. It gets more traffic on a daily basis than even Davis Avenue.”

As the number of motor vehicles traveling Railroad Avenue has grown, so have the risks to drivers and pedestrians alike.

“The busier a street is, the less safe it is for people to be getting in and out of cars parked along that street,” says Pingley. “Other issues include lines of sight for drivers making turns onto Railroad Avenue, such as from Fourth Street. Blind spots from parked cars combined with high traffic volume is really a recipe for disaster.”

In making determinations about traffic and parking safety, the city must do its best to conform with the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), a publication of the Federal Highway Administration.

“The MUTCD lays out standards about stoplights, signs, sight triangles at intersections, road widths, and safe parking,” says Pingley. “Elkins is a 100-year-old city, so we’re probably never going to be perfectly compliant with standards like these throughout the whole downtown. But wherever possible, and especially as we make improvements like the work that’s been done on and along Railroad Avenue recently, we absolutely have to make every effort to get as close as we can to these accepted standards.”

The change eliminated no designated handicapped parking spots.

“There wasn’t any handicapped parking affected by this decision,” says Pingley. “There is still handicapped parking on Fourth Street, just down the block from the American Legion. There is also free, unlimited parking available in the lot behind city hall.”

Pingley says he recognizes the change is not welcome in all quarters but wants the city’s residents, business owners, and visitors to understand that it was made with safety in mind.

“When there is an official set of published traffic safety standards, we simply cannot ignore them,” says Pingley. “Those standards are issued by traffic engineers and other experts in keeping pedestrians and drivers as safe as possible. Taking away parking that people have come to depend on is never going to be the most popular decision, but I’m confident it is the safest decision in this case.”

Stepped Up Parking Enforcement to Start July 20

Enforcement was scaled back due to stay-at-home/safer-at-home orders

Elkins, W. Va., July 13, 2020: Enforcement of city parking laws will return to normal on Monday, July 20, Elkins officials have announced. After the governor’s declaration of a statewide state of emergency in March, city officials deemphasized and even suspended issuing citations for street sweeper parking restrictions and certain other parking rules in Elkins. With many businesses having reopened, officials say there is a need to return to normal enforcement of street sweeper parking restrictions and all other parking laws in the city.

“Our city, along with the rest of the nation, has experienced extraordinary challenges this year resulting in modifications to business and personal schedules for many,” said Elkins Mayor Van Broughton in a notification letter sent last week to many city businesses and residents. “As many businesses and residents return to modified or normal operating procedures, so shall parking enforcement.”

The mayor’s letter listed violations about which the city hears the most frequent complaints and which may have been receiving reduced enforcement in recent months. These and all other parking violations will now be cited when encountered by enforcement personnel:

  • Parallel parking facing in the wrong direction
  • Street sweeper parking restrictions (please note: vehicles may be parked on the sidewalk temporarily during your designated sweeping time)
  • 3-hour parking limits downtown and in Seneca Mall lot
  • Parking on and other obstructions of sidewalks in all residential and business districts (except during street sweeping)
  • Obstruction of alleyways
  • Parking on Railroad Avenue except in lined spaces near the Delmonte and the Depot (the rest of the street is a no parking zone)

If businesses wish to seek exceptions to these or other parking rules, they should apply to the city clerk by submitting the following information:

  • Contact name, phone number, and email address
  • Name and address of business
  • Description of requested exception and its location
  • The reason for the request

Although not all such requests can be granted, a response will be provided within 14 days.

Residents, business owners, and visitors are reminded that free, unlimited parking is available in the unpaved sections of the lot behind city hall. The street sweeper parking schedule may be found here: www.bit.ly/ElkinsStreetSweeper.

Elkins City Hall Reopening Monday, July 13, 2020

Elkins, W. Va., July 12, 2020: Elkins City Hall, which closed on Thursday and Friday because an employee tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, will reopen Monday morning at 8 a.m. for normal hours of operation.

The purpose of the closure was to prevent any additional virus transmission while the extent of current spread within city hall staff was evaluated. On Thursday, city employees identified as having been in contact with the first affected employee were swabbed for the COVID-19 virus. As per DHHR and CDC guidelines, these employees then self-isolated while awaiting the results of their tests. During the closure, city hall maintenance staff performed deep cleaning of the first affected employee’s workspace and other nearby areas.

Although not all pending test results have been received yet, enough employees have tested negative for the virus to enable resumption of normal city hall operations. So far, no additional employees have tested positive. Employees who have not yet received test results by Monday morning will continue self-isolating at home until their results are received.

Everyone entering city hall is asked to adhere to the following West Virginia Governor’s Office safety guidelines and requirements.

  • Please visit city hall only if there is no other option. Remember that utility bills and municipal court fines can be paid by mail, online, phone, or via the dropbox behind city hall. Questions can be answered by phone or email. See cityofelkinswv.com for more details, including departmental contact information.
  • Wait your turn to enter. As ordered by the W. Va. DHHR, only two people may be admitted to the building’s lobby at a time.
  • Maintain the 6-foot social distancing requirement.
  • Wear a mask and sanitize your hands upon entering. As of July 6, 2020, the governor has ordered that all people wear face coverings inside public buildings. Sanitizer will be available at the counter.
  • Make an appointment to meet with non-Treasurer’s Department personnel. If you require a face-to-face meeting with a city hall employee located on the second floor, please contact that employee in advance, via phone or email, to arrange a time. This meeting will occur on the first floor, in the municipal courtroom, pending availability of that space.

Update Concerning Elkins City Hall COVID-19 Closure

Reopening Date Depends on Pending Test Results

Elkins, W. Va., July 10, 2020: Elkins City Hall remains closed today after one city hall employee tested positive for the COVID-19 virus on Wednesday. Reopening could occur as soon as Monday, July 13, but it is not yet possible to announce a firm reopening date.

This closure was ordered because, according the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, it is possible to carry the virus for as long as two weeks before showing symptoms, and city officials wanted to prevent additional cases being transmitted among other city staff members while the situation was being evaluated.

After learning of the first employee’s positive test and closing the building, city officials followed W. Va. DHHR and Randolph-Elkins Health Department (REHD) guidance to identify and document all known contacts with that first employee during the window of time when transmission might have occurred. City hall maintenance staff also commenced a deep cleaning of the indicated workspaces.

On Thursday, the identified individuals were swabbed for the COVID-19 virus. As per DHHR and CDC guidelines, these employees are required to self-isolate until test results are received.

“Employees whose tests come back negative are permitted to return to work immediately under strict precautions, such as distancing, masks, gloves as needed, and frequent sanitization measures,” said Elkins City Clerk Jessica Sutton. “The original employee who tested positive and any others who may test positive will have to follow individual guidance from the health department as to when and how they can return.”

After analyzing the layout of the building, the testing efforts that are underway, and the extent and nature of city hall employees’ interaction with customers, REHD officials have approved the reopening of city hall to the public once the testing process is complete. City officials are waiting to announce a firm reopening date until test results are received. City hall could reopen as early as Monday if a sufficient number of employees test negative for the COVID-19 virus.

“Of course, if we learn about any new positive cases, we will have to reevaluate additional potential employee exposures and any risk to the public before determining next steps,” said Sutton.

Reminders About Fireworks Safety and Laws in Elkins

Elkins, W. Va., June 29, 2020: As Independence Day draws closer, Elkins Mayor Van Broughton and city public safety officials are reminding area residents about important precautions and legal restrictions to keep in mind when using fireworks.

“The Chamber has postponed their annual fireworks show until at least Labor Day,” said Mayor Broughton. “In case people are thinking about doing their own fireworks, we just want to make sure everyone’s following the law and staying as safe as possible.”

Although state laws concerning fireworks were loosened in 2016, Elkins city code states that “it shall be unlawful for any person to use, shoot, or discharge consumer fireworks within the City limits.” Violators of the city fireworks ordinance may be fined as much as $500.

“Consumer fireworks—which include firecrackers, rockets, Roman candles, and that sort of thing—are illegal inside city limits,” said Elkins Police Department Chief Travis Bennett. “Basically, if it’s a handheld device like a sparkler, or if it’s a ground-based device like fountains, snakes, or smoke bombs, it’s allowed. If it fires something into the air or explodes, it’s against the law in Elkins.”

Regardless of whether fireworks are being used inside or outside of city limits, Elkins Fire Department Chief Tom Meader hopes everyone will follow certain important safety precautions.

“Don’t let kids use fireworks, don’t use fireworks when you’ve been drinking, and never try to relight fireworks that didn’t go off,” says Chief Meader. “Also, please make sure you have a bucket of water or a garden hose ready just in case you accidentally start something on fire.”

Mayor Broughton hopes residents will consider their neighbors when using fireworks.

“I would ask everybody to stop and think about how their fireworks displays might be affecting others in our community,” says Broughton. “Especially when people use fireworks on days other than the fourth of July, it can cause a lot of anxiety for people with PTSD, like some of our veterans. And no matter what day you do it on, it’s going to be really frightening for a lot of people’s pets. I know people just want to have fun and celebrate America’s birthday, but let’s all try to be as considerate as possible.”

Davis Medical Center Press Release: Revised Patient Visitation Rules

ELKINS, WV – Starting this week, some patient visitation rules at Davis Health System hospitals will be relaxed.  Stricter guidelines were put in effect amid the Coronavirus pandemic which began in March, 2020.  Health system officials hope lessening those strict rules will alleviate anxiety felt by patients, families and caregivers alike.

“It’s not the nature of caregivers to suggest patients and families be kept apart.  In fact, under normal circumstances we promote it as essential to healing,” said Dr. Catherine “Mindy” Chua DO, FAAFP, FMNM, CPE, Davis Health System Chief Medical Officer.  “We’re happy to finally begin slowly lessening the rules of the temporary visitation policy.”

Davis Medical Center Instructions for Visitors: 

  • All visitors will wear a mask throughout their entire stay. Masks will be available for those who do not have their own.
  • All visitors will practice proper hand hygiene upon entry and departure from patient rooms and the facility.
  • Visitors must be age 18 or older.
  • Further visitation exceptions for compassionate care and essential caregivers will be made on a case-by-case basis.
  • Each patient will determine 2 persons as “designated visitors” during the admission process. Only designated visitors will be allowed to visit during the patient’s length of stay.
  • Only one visitor will be allowed in the room with the patient at a time.
  • Designated visitor must check in with the unit secretary upon arrival to receive a “punch card”.   When the visitor leaves the hospital for the day, the punch card will be marked.   Visitors must present the punch card each day they present for visitation.
  • During their visit, guests may leave only for dining within the hospital.  Those who leave the building will not be allowed to return to the patient room on that same day.

According to Davis Health System, the rules are enforced for the further protection of guests, patients and staff, and are subject to change in response to future COVID activity.

“Until our communities are completely free from the threat of Coronavirus spread, we will continue to follow CDC safe practice guidelines.  This revised policy is geared toward minimizing any risk of exposure or spread.  Guests may not visit patients in the hospital who have tested positive for COVID, or who are under investigation for a positive result,” Chua added.

Additional department-specific guidelines apply to Davis Medical Center visitation.  These include:

  • Emergency Department patients are allowed one person to accompany them.  They must remain with the patient at all times.   Other visitors must remain in vehicles. Compassionate care exceptions may be made on a case-by-case basis.
  • Adult and pediatric patients having an outpatient procedure or surgery may have one designated guest accompany them, and remain with them until the procedure.  Once the patient is taken for their procedure, the guest will wait in the Surgical Waiting Area.
  • Inpatient surgical case visitors will wait in the patient room.   Once the surgical procedure is finished, the visitor will be directed to the physician consultation room to await the surgeon.
  • Adult and pediatric patients with appointments in the Family Practice, Pediatric, or Specialty Clinics may have one designated person over the age of 18 accompany them. Guests must wear a face covering throughout the office visit.

Contact:

Tracy D. Fath
V.P., Marketing & Development
812 Gorman Ave.
Elkins, WV 26241
cell: 304.614.2460
office: 304.637.3467

Elkins Announces Next Reopening Steps

City hall opening to public May 18; Yard sales permitted May 15

Elkins, W. Va., May 13, 2020: Elkins officials today announced the scheduled dates of multiple reductions in coronavirus-related restrictions, including the reopening of city hall to the public, permission to resume yard sales and door-to-door solicitation, and the resumption of municipal court proceedings. To reduce COVID-19 infection risk, the public is encouraged to continue using no-contact methods for paying utility bills or contacting city staff. Multiple additional safety precautions will be required as well. (more…)

Elkins Event Organizers Urged to Be Realistic, Apply for Permits Early

Elkins, W. Va., May 7, 2020: With what is usually the summer events season fast approaching, Elkins officials are urging event organizers to carefully consider the viability of their planned events under social-distancing requirements and other CDC recommendations for reducing the risk of COVID-19 spread. Applications to the city for special WVABCA licenses or events on public property must include detailed plans for complying with these requirements and recommendations. Because these additional considerations will lengthen the review and approval process, organizers should submit event applications as early as possible. (more…)

FAQs About Upcoming Primary Election

From the Office of
West Virginia Secretary of State
Mac Warner

Primary Election set for June 9; Secretary of State Mac Warner shares “Frequently Asked Questions” related to upcoming Primary Election

Charleston, W. Va. – As many changes have been made to the 2020 Primary Election due to COVID-19, West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner, his elections staff, and county clerks have worked to keep voters informed. (more…)

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