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)
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.
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
- 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
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
At last night’s meeting, Elkins Common Council did not restrict or limit Halloween trick-or-treating, which–by order of a 2019 action of council–is always observed in Elkins on October 31st, from 6:30 until 8:00 p.m.
However, council urges residents and trick-or-treaters to follow CDC recommendations for reducing the chances of transmitting the COVID-19 virus during Halloween celebrations.
The CDC considers the following traditional Halloween activities to be “higher risk”: trick-or-treating (in which treats are handed directly to children who go door to door in groups), trunk-or-treat events, and indoor parties.
As one alternative to traditional trick-or-treating, the CDC recommends “one-way trick-or-treating.” In one-way trick-or-treating, individually wrapped goodie bags are lined up for families to grab and go while continuing to social distance (such as at the end of a driveway or at the edge of a yard). Persons preparing goodie bags for one-way trick-or-treating should wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before preparing the bags.
Learn more about CDC recommendations for safer Halloween observances here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays.html#halloween
Elkins, W. Va., September 24, 2020: The Elkins Tree Board recently presented the Elkins Parks and Recreation Commission a commemorative tree and plaque in gratitude for EPRC staff’s efforts in keeping Glendale Park open this past Spring.
“For many area residents, walking at Glendale Park was one of the few places available to enjoy the outdoors in a safe environment,” said Nanci Bross-Fregonara, Tree Board member. Dog-walkers, runners, and families on bikes were all able to be outside and have a chance to enjoy nature and exercise.”
The plaque, which will be installed by the planted bald cypress tree near the park’s entrance, expresses the Tree Board’s appreciation for the EPRC “providing a place of beauty and inspiration during the national pandemic.”
“I am sure there are many people in the community who are grateful for all the work the EPRC does to keep our city parks in great condition, especially during these challenging times,” said Bross-Fregonara. “This was just one small way we could honor them and commemorate what affected our area in 2020.”
For information on supporting the EPRC and its efforts, please contact the Elkins Parks and Recreation office, 304-636-3960 or email email@example.com.
Photo: Tom Tesar, Director of the Elkins Parks and Recreation Department accepts the cast plaque from Nanci Bross-Fregonara, Elkins Tree Board member, right and Marilynn Cuonzo, Chair of the Elkins Tree Board and Fourth Ward Council member.
Weather conditions contributed to widespread fungal infection
Elkins, W. Va., September 2, 2020: The city’s downtown flower display was afflicted with a fungal infection earlier this summer, and the contractor that manages the display will replant the affected baskets next week at no cost to the city.
“Earlier in the season, the plants in the downtown hanging baskets were doing really well, but the rainy weather we’ve been having recently seems to have led to a fungal outbreak among most of the baskets,” says Tammy Dolly, who manages the downtown display. “In response, we treated the affected baskets with a copper fungicide around August 12. We began to gain a little ground before the last run of rain, but that just sent them over the edge.”
Dolly reported the problem to city officials and offered to remove and compost the dead plants, then replace them with mums at her own expense. Council’s Municipal Properties Committee accepted this offer at its August 19 meeting, and replanting will proceed during the week of September 7.
“I take great pride in the flowers and look forward to caring for them each year, and I’m sincerely sorry this year’s display turned out this way,” says Dolly. “We’ve never had anything like this happen to any of our flowers anywhere, and I’m not sure what we could have done differently. We’re just happy to have a plan in place to move forward, and we will keep watering as long as we can this fall to keep the mums looking nice.”
First in a series of four articles about the charter-change process.
Last week, Elkins Common Council began public deliberations on possible changes to the city charter. Because changes to a city’s charter can have profound effects on that city, it’s important that members of the public understand the process so they can provide informed input. Today through Friday, we’re running a series of blog posts providing background and contextual information about the charter-change process. (You can find more about this process, including an analysis of the current charter and charter change FAQs, here.) (more…)
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. (more…)
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. (more…)