Council Committee Diary: October 2021

Following is a summary of committee work from the month of October 2021.

Most council agenda items originate in one of council’s standing or ad hoc committees. You can learn more about council committees here and find meeting times and agendas here.

  • ARPA Advisory Committee: As the name suggests, this committee’s work is entirely devoted to preparing recommendations for council concerning the best uses for the $3 million the city is receiving under the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The best place to catch up on this committee’s work is in this post on the city news blog.
  • Finance Committee: At its October 4 meeting, the committee reviewed a request to provide $5,000 for prizes in the Elkins-Randolph County Chamber’s Christmas lights contest but declined to recommend approval to council.
  • Public Safety Committee: At its October 11 meeting, the committee heard an update on body-worn cameras (EPD will test a Motorola model in January) and considered next steps for a collaboration with area businesses to address discarded shopping carts.
  • Personnel Committee: At its October 14 meeting, the committee discussed the city’s policy concerning the definition of full-time employment, the need for additional staff members in the Water Department, and the reappointment of the city treasurer (the committee recommended reappointment).
  • Rules & Ordinances Committee: At its October 13 meeting, the committee asked the police chief and city attorney to research possible changes to the city’s laws concerning the use of ATVs on city streets. This matter will be taken up at its next meeting, which will be held November 10 at 9 a.m. The committee also discussed the possibility of better regulating parking in city alleys.
  • Municipal Properties Committee: After a hearing on the subject, the committee voted to recommend approval of a request by several city property owners for the abandonment of unopened sections of Wilmoth Avenue and Main Street. The committee also voted to recommend approval of a request for the dedication of parking spaces in the Seneca Mall Parking Lot for the use of the Tygart Hotel after completion of planned renovations by Woodlands Development & Lending.
  • Special Hiring Committee: This committee was formed to manage the search for a new operations manager. In order to be able to create an accurate job description, the committee has first been considering possible restructuring of the Operations Department. The job description is still pending and the job opening has not yet been advertised as a result.
  • Planning Commission: At its October 28 meeting, the commission continued work on updating the city’s zoning laws, which were adopted in the 1950s and have not been significantly updated since the 1970s. This update work, which has been underway since 2016, will soon complete. At this meeting, the commission considered which zoning districts should permit docks and what the front setback requirement should be in the Central Business District. The commission also discussed plans for a public open house concerning the proposed zoning ordinance, tentatively scheduled for November 17.

Governor Eases Pandemic Restrictions

From the governor’s website: “During Friday’s briefing, Gov. Justice announced that, after numerous discussions with members of the West Virginia pandemic response leadership team and other state leaders regarding the decreasing number of COVID-19 cases and the increasing number of vaccinated West Virginians, he has decided to issue a series of executive orders, lessening restrictions on several types of businesses, as well as schools, social gatherings, and more.”

Follow this link to learn more and access guidance documents.

City Hall News: July 25, 2020

Elkins, W. Va., July 25, 2020: There are currently no council or committee meetings scheduled for next week.

Quarterly B&O tax returns are due to the treasurer’s department by Friday, July 31. If you need a new form, you may download one at this page: www.cityofelkinswv.com/working/business-licensing-taxes.

Remember that the hours of the Elkins Municipal Court recently changed. Court is now in session Wednesdays and Thursday, 2-4:30 p.m. The judge is available by appointment Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays, 3-4 p.m., for those needing to contest traffic and/or parking citations. For more information about the municipal court, please visit this web page: www.cityofelkinswv.com/living/public-safety/municipal-court.

Justice Calls Masks Crucial to Reducing Infections

 May 21, 2020

Masks are crucial to reduce the spread of coronavirus, Governor Jim Justice emphasized at yesterday’s press briefing.

He used the country of Japan as a comparison with the United States.

Japan has lost less than 800 people to coronavirus so far—that is, 800 cumulative coronavirus deaths.

The United States has lost an average of about 1,000 people a day since February 15. Our cumulative virus death toll is more than 93,000 people, as of May 21.

What’s the difference between the two countries?

Masks, Justice explained.

“In the nation of Japan… they’ve all got masks on when they’re outside,” he said. “They’re just trying to look out for themselves.”

Justice urged West Virginia to bring this lesson home to the Mountain State.

“West Virginia, please: wear your mask if you’re going to be out in a group of people,” he said. “Protect yourself and protect others. That’s all there is to it.”

A recent study found that, if 80 percent of people would wear masks, there would be almost no need for continued shutdowns: https://www.foxnews.com/science/coronavirus-infections-plunge-80-percent-wore-masks. (This study has not yet been peer reviewed.)

Note on comparing the U.S. and Japan: Japan’s population is 38 percent of the United State’s population. To make an apples to apples comparison, multiply Japan’s deaths by about 2.6. Correcting for population difference this way, Japan’s cumulative coronavirus death toll is the equivalent of about 2,500 deaths in the United States—still considerably less than the United States’s cumulative death toll of more than 93,000.

Governor’s Guidance for Week 4 Reopenings

The official “Week 4” phase of West Virginia’s statewide reopening plan starts Thursday, May 21 (with some categories of businesses allowed to open Monday, May 18).

Below is an excerpt from the governor’s West Virginia Strong: The Comeback web page showing the business categories that may reopen this week (with links to guidance documents showing safety precautions they should, and in some cases must, take):

Note for lodging facilities: The executive order requiring out-of-state travelers to self-quarantine will be lifted in Week 4. In accordance with this change, additional guidance documents are available for hotels, motels, condo hotels, rental properties, and cabins.

Reopening Guidance for Small Businesses, Restaurants, and Churches and Funeral Homes

April 29, 2020

As you have probably heard, this week Governor Justice released a plan for the phased reopening of certain West Virginia businesses. You can read that plan here.

Per the governor, if the statewide cumulative percent of positive test results (available at Coronavirus.wv.gov) remains below 3 percent through the evening of Wednesday, April 29, “Week 2” of the governor’s reopening plan will commence Monday, May 4. The commencement of Week 2 (and, presumably, each subsequent phase of the reopening plan) will be announced by executive order from the governor’s office. (more…)

Elkins Mayor Proclaims April Donate Life Month in City

Elkins, W. Va., April 14, 2020: This week, Elkins Mayor Van Broughton proclaimed April as National Donate Life Month in Elkins. National Donate Life Month honors registered organ donors, donor families, and living donors, as well the researchers, innovators, champions, national partners, and medical professionals who work tirelessly to save and heal lives through transplantation. (more…)

City Hall News: April 6-10, 2020

Elkins, W. Va., April 4, 2020: Council’s Finance Committee kicks off the week with a meeting Monday at 10 a.m. Items on the agenda include consideration of next year’s police cruiser fleet contract; a presentation by Woodlands Development Group & Community Lenders on a proposed bridge-loan program for small businesses impacted by coronavirus closures; and the PEIA plan premium. The committee will also discuss proposed FY 2020 budget adjustments. (more…)

Elkins Annual Audit Returns Eighth Unmodified Opinion in a Row

City Has Received “Clean” Audit Opinions Every Year Since 2012

Elkins W. Va., March 26, 2020: At tonight’s council meeting, Elkins Treasurer Tracy Judy reported that the city’s annual audit resulted in an unmodified opinion. State law requires West Virginia cities to undergo annual audits and publish the results. This audit, of the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2019, was performed by accountants working for BHM CPA Group, an Ohio-based public accounting firm with offices in Huntington, West Virginia.

The purpose of a municipal audit is to systematically examine the sources and uses of public funds. Auditors evaluate the accuracy of financial records, the effectiveness of systems protecting against fraud and theft, the nature of accounting methods and processes in use at the city, and other aspects of compliance with state law and government accounting standards.

“An audit examines our financial records to confirm they are accurate,” said Judy. “The auditors review our transactions, financial statements, grants, bank statements, and other records for all city funds for the given fiscal year. “

The unmodified opinion the city received is the best result an audit can return. Sometimes also referred to as an “unqualified” or “clean” opinion, an unmodified opinion indicates that auditors have found no misrepresentations of fact or failures to follow appropriate accounting standards. Elkins has received unmodified opinions in each of its annual audits since the fiscal year ending in 2012.

The audit process begins each summer with a letter from the state auditor authorizing cities to begin the process of procuring an audit firm. The city’s Audit Committee then solicits and evaluates proposals from CPA firms interested in providing this service. The evaluation process uses a score sheet published by the state auditor to assign points to the firms that submit proposals. The firm with the highest score is then selected to perform the city’s audit.

“Receiving an unmodified opinion is a good confirmation of our daily practices and confirms to the city and its citizens that those practices are valid,” says Judy. “A good audit opinion is also important when the city is seeking loans or other financing, because lenders use our annual audits to assess risk and calculate interest rates.”

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City Hall News: March 16-20, 2020

Elkins W. Va., March 14, 2020: Monday sees the regular meeting of the Elkins Sanitary Board at 3:15 p.m. The sanitary board oversees the city’s wastewater (i.e., sewage) collection system and treatment plant. At this week’s meeting, the board will hear an update on the upcoming Phase II Sewer Project and review invoices and financial statements. The Phase II Sewer Project is the final component of a 2012 consent decree between Elkins and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, requiring the city to install separate stormwater lines in certain parts of the city to reduce sewage overflows to the river during heavy rain events.

Administrative officers and council’s Finance Committee continue work on the budget for fiscal year 2021 this week. After administrative officers finetune their requests and recommendations Monday, the committee meets in special session on Tuesday at 9 a.m. for further budget discussions.

The Elkins Historic Landmarks Commission meets at 4 p.m. Tuesday in the Darden House (next door to city hall). Council’s Municipal Properties Committee meets at 9 a.m. Wednesday. Later that same day, at 5 p.m., the Elkins Parks and Recreation Commission meets at the Phil Gainer Community Center.

The agenda for Thursday’s council meeting will not be finalized until Tuesday, when—in addition to being posted in the city hall lobby and in the kiosk on Davis Avenue—it will also be uploaded to the city website. Agenda items submitted so far include a request from the fire department for permission to apply for a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant from FEMA (to fund new firefighter positions) and the proposed reappointment of the city attorney.

All council and committee meetings are open to the public and, unless otherwise stated, held at city hall (401 Davis Avenue). More information: www.cityofelkinswv.com.

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