City Hall News: Week of Nov. 21, 2022

During Thanksgiving week, no meetings are scheduled. City hall will be closed Thursday and Friday.

Customers whose trash is usually picked up on Mondays or Thursdays will have a different schedule this week. Trash normally picked up Mondays will be picked up Sunday (11/20), starting at 6 a.m. Trash normally picked up Thursdays will be picked up Wednesday (11/23), starting at 6 a.m. There are no changes for customers whose trash is picked up Tuesdays, Wednesdays, or Fridays.

Utility bills are due Monday.

Leaf Collection Ends 11/23

The final day of leaf collection will be Wednesday, November 23.

Please have all leaves to the curb by Monday morning to ensure your leaves will be picked up.

More information: https://cityofelkinswv.com/2022-leaf-pickups-begin-oct-17/

Thanksgiving Week 2022: Schedule Changes

If your trash is usually picked up on MONDAYS or THURSDAYS, this schedule will change during Thanksgiving week.
 
Trash normally picked up MONDAYS will be picked up Sunday (11/20), starting at 6 a.m.
 
Trash normally picked up THURSDAYS will be picked up Wednesday (11/23), starting at 6 a.m.
 
There are no changes for customers whose trash is picked up Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
 
City hall will be closed Thursday and Friday (11/24-25).

City Hall News: Week of November 11, 2022

Meeting this week are council’s Public Safety Committee, ad hoc Organizational Audit Committee, and Municipal Properties Committee. Also meeting are the Elkins Historic Landmarks Commission and the Elkins Parks & Recreation Commission. Council meets Thursday.

The Public Safety Committee meets Monday at 10 a.m. to prioritize properties for demolition using the recently awarded $300,000 in West Virginia DEP RADPP funding and to discuss a housing study recently completed by Woodlands Development & Lending.

On Tuesday at 1 p.m., the Organizational Audit Committee continues its consideration of the building inspector, operations assistant, and operations administrative assistant positions.

Meeting later Tuesday, at 4 p.m., the Historic Landmarks Commission continues work on historic plaques, SHIPO grants for Davis & Elkins College and Maplewood Cemetery, and its lease with the city.

On Tuesday, at 5:30 p.m., there will be a public forum to provide input for the development of a master streetscape plan for downtown. The public is welcome to attend the event, which will be held at the Randolph County Community Arts Center.

On Wednesday at  9 a.m., the Municipal Properties Committee will continue work on next steps regarding leases for Darden House office-space tenants.

Meeting Wednesday at 4:15 p.m., the Elkins Water Board will work on fees for taps for new water service and review job descriptions for new water plant positions.

Also on Wednesday, at 5 p.m., the Parks & Recreation Commission meets at the Phil Gainer Community Center to discuss Canada-goose control and memorial benches.

Council meets Thursday at 7 p.m. The agenda, which may be adjusted through Tuesday, currently includes the contract for next year’s downtown flowers program, the contract for next year’s maintenance of landscaping in the city hall parking lot, promotions and changes to rank structure in the Elkins Fire Department, appointments to the Elkins Tree Board and Elkins Planning Commission, and approval to proceed with development of an application for tax increment financing in downtown Elkins.

All meetings are open to the public and, unless otherwise stated, held at Elkins City Call (401 Davis Avenue). Find agendas and other meeting information here: www.cityofelkinswv.com/council-and-committee-meetings.

Elkins tree board receives gold leaf award

ELKINS–The City of Elkins Tree Board (ETB) was recently awarded the prestigious Gold Leaf Award by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA), which recognizes excellence in Arbor Day or Landscape Beautification projects in the Mid-Atlantic region. The award is for outstanding Arbor Day activities which will significantly impact the community.

This international distinction for the tree board resulted from a nomination by the WVU School of Natural Resources Chapter of the ISA.

In making the nomination, Dr. David McGill, Professor and Extension Service Specialist with the WVU Forest Resources Management department, said he immediately thought of Elkins. “It is in the heart of the Highlands, has the Forest Festival in its beautiful city park, and a Pollinator Alley in Glendale Park. When I asked someone who did all that work, I heard about the Elkins Tree Board. Having seen the nice landscaping downtown and other areas, which show how hard the Tree Board and community members have worked–the Elkins Tree Board was a natural choice.”

In 2022, the Elkins Tree Board planted over 30 trees for Arbor Day at Elkins City Park and Bluegrass Park. The combined tree planting events attracted over 50 volunteers associated with the Elkins Friends of Trees, Emma Scott Garden Club, Elkins Park and Recreation, the Children’s Home, and individual families. The ETB also co-sponsored the Earth Day celebration, participated in the downtown Sprout into Spring event, and hosted hands-on workshops.

The Gold Leaf award from the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the ISA was presented to the ETB board by Sam Adams, an urban forester with the WV Division of Forestry, at the recent Adopt-A-Tree event held at the Elkins Tree Nursery on the Gov. Kump House grounds.

Since its creation, the ETB has successfully garnered grants for urban trees downtown, enhanced the Pollinator Alley at Glendale Park, and maintains a tree nursery and heirloom apple orchard at the Kump Education Center. The board meets at the Darden House on the first Tuesday of the month. Follow the Elkins Friends of Trees on Facebook for more information on upcoming events.

Contact: Nanci Bross-Fregonara, Elkins Tree Board, nbross-fregonara@cityofelkinswv.com  

CUTLINE:

Elkins Tree Board members were on hand to receive the prestigious ISA Gold Leaf award for excellence in Arbor Day activities from WV Division of Forestry urban forester Sam Adams. From left, Linda Silva, Nanci Bross-Fregonara, Adams, Katy McClane (Friends of Trees), Marilynn Cuonzo, Angela Davis, Linda Burke and Aira Burkhart. Not pictured is board member Sam Golston.

Council Revises Law on Nuisance Animal Noise

Clarifies that animal noise complaints are handled by city police

The Elkins council has revised city law concerning nuisance noise caused by animals. The new law, which is enforced by the Elkins Police Department (EPD), is effective immediately.

Ordinance 307, approved on final reading November 3, amends Elkins City Code §90.30. (The language in the city’s online code will be updated soon.) The previous language focused only on dogs and prohibited allowing them “to bark or howl continuously for more than 15 consecutive minutes.” After internal and external feedback concerning the difficulty of enforcing this, as well as the need for this section to address the nuisance noise of other kinds of animals, new language was drafted by the city attorney at the request of council’s Rules & Ordinances Committee.

As revised, Elkins City Code §90.30 now states that “no person shall keep or harbor any dog, cat or other animal within the  City which, by frequent and habitual barking, howling, yelping, crying or squalling creates unreasonably loud and disturbing noises of such character, intensity and duration as to disturb the peace, quiet and good order of the City.”

Those cited under the new law are subject to fines established from time to time by council via resolution and, as such, not listed in the online code, as authorized in §90.99. The maximum fine established by council for an offense under this section is currently $100.

EPD Chief Travis Bennett explains that, although enforcement actions under the new language will depend on officer judgement and discretion, this is no different from many other provisions of city and state law.

“This new language is similar to the language in city code about breach of peace,” says Bennett. “One of the offenses in that section is when a person is making unreasonably loud noise, and that’s a judgement call, too. I have faith that my officers will be able to make good decisions about when to issue citations and when to try to address the situation through education and warnings instead.”

Officials also want to clear up confusion about where to direct reports of nuisance animal noise. It should be considered a police matter, according to Bennett.

“This ordinance is enforced by city police,” says Chief Bennett. “Loud barking is really no different from a loud party that is keeping neighbors from enjoying their property and should be reported to my department so an officer can go out and evaluate the situation.”

Those wishing to report nuisance animal noise can call EPD directly during business hours or 911 after hours. EPD can be reached at 304-636-0678 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Access Elkins City Code directly: www.codelibrary.amlegal.com/codes/elkinswv/latest/overview

Learn more about local and state laws and codes governing Elkins: www.cityofelkinswv.com/government/elkins-city-code

City Hall News: Week of Nov. 7, 2022

Meeting next week are council’s Finance Committee, Rules & Ordinances Committee, and Personnel Committee. City hall will be closed Tuesday (for Election Day) and Friday (for Veterans Day). Trash will be picked up as usual.

On Monday, at 10 a.m., the Finance Committee will hold a public hearing concerning renewal of the Optimum (formerly Suddenlink) cable franchise agreement. Immediately following, the committee will meet to discuss said renewal, devise a compensation level for a new human resources position, consider a compensation level for the city clerk on reappointment, discuss renewal of the contract with Terra Flora for maintaining landscaping in the city hall parking lot, take up a request for funds to purchase a new Street Department vehicle, and consider next steps for the property at 5 River Street.

To avoid shutoff, overdue utility accounts must be brought up to date no later than Tuesday. Payments may be submitted online here: www.cityofelkinswv.com/online-payments.

Meeting Wednesday at 9 a.m., the Rules & Ordinances Committee will continue reviewing regulation of animals in Elkins.

The Personnel Committee meets Thursday at 12 p.m. to continue discussion of projected FY 2024 health insurance premiums and to consider reappointment of the city clerk.

At 1 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 12, there will be a Veterans Day parade up Davis Avenue and down Railroad Avenue, starting at First and Davis.

All meetings are open to the public and, unless otherwise stated, held at Elkins City Call (401 Davis Avenue). Find agendas and other meeting information here: www.cityofelkinswv.com/council-and-committee-meetings.

Election Changes Due to Charter Adoption

You’re not imagining things. In the past, by this point in November, we would have been gearing up for the municipal election season. As a result of the new city charter adopted in 2020-2021, however, Elkins elections–which were previously held on the first Tuesday in March of odd-numbered years–are now held on the second Tuesday in June, also in odd-numbered years.

As a result, candidate filing and related activities won’t start until February. We are fine-tuning city law to comport with the new charter and will provide precise timetables as soon as that process is complete.

Read more about city elections here.

Retaining Local Property Taxes for Local Projects

Tax increment financing funds new projects without spending cuts, tax increases

There are many opportunities for public improvements in Elkins, but they all involve significant costs. What if there were a source of funds for city projects that didn’t require raising taxes or cutting spending on other services and projects?

On Thursday, the Elkins council will hear a presentation about just such a funding source: tax increment financing (TIF). TIF is a mechanism created in state law to help cities and counties pay for needed projects when other financing is not available. At the heart of TIF is the concept of reserving future increases in property tax revenues for local use, while avoiding the need to increase property-tax rates.

To use this tool, a city or county government first defines a specific geographic area as a TIF district. These districts must be carefully designed to encompass properties that are likely to see significant increases in assessed value—where large redevelopment or renovation projects are planned, for example—and to exclude properties expected to decrease in value, such as dilapidated houses or abandoned commercial buildings.

Next, as a baseline, the current assessed value of all real and certain personal property in the TIF district is recorded. In a well-designed TIF district, the overall value of property it contains will increase with each annual reassessment by the county assessor. The city or county that has created the TIF district then retains the difference between the property taxes owed on the original baseline assessed property values and the higher property taxes owed as a result of the reassessed property values.

In other words, the amount of property tax revenue that flows into the countywide pot from properties in the TIF district remains flat from the baseline year, while the city or county implementing TIF can use the incremental increases in property tax revenues for local projects. Any shortfall in funds available for county schools is made whole by the state’s school aid formula.

“It’s important to understand that no one pays higher property taxes as a result of TIF,” says Jessica Sutton, the Elkins city clerk, who has been researching the viability of this funding mechanism for Elkins. “These property owners would be paying higher taxes as a result of increased assessed property value either way. But with TIF, Elkins gets to direct the spending of those incremental increases toward public improvement projects that reinforce the investments being made by those property owners and encourage additional investment in the surrounding area.”

Cities or counties interested in using TIF have to apply to the West Virginia Development Authority. Applications must include a written description and map of the TIF district and a description of projects that TIF-derived funds will be used for. The description of projects must include job creation estimates, feasibility studies, and other planning documents.

TIF revenues are deposited in a standalone bank account and must be used for the approved projects, although it is possible to apply to add new projects or amend existing project plans. By default, the TIF district will remain in existence and continue to generate revenue for 30 years. This time limit may be extended upon approval by the state development authority.

Thursday’s presentation marks only the beginning of council’s consideration of TIF as a tool for financing public improvements in Elkins; there is not yet a formal proposal and no decisions are anticipated at Thursday’s meeting.

A good candidate for a TIF district in Elkins, where assessed property values are likely to rise considerably in the near future, would include the Tygart Hotel (currently under renovation and scheduled to open in 2023 as a boutique hotel), the Elkins Railyard (the planned site of an event center), and the piece of land purchased by the Randolph County Development Authority from the former Odd Fellows property (which will be used to expand the Elkins Industrial Park).

Candidate projects for TIF funding in Elkins include:

  • The Riverfront Development Project, a $2.4-$3.3 million plan for beautification, restoration, safe alternative transportation routes, and expanded recreational opportunities along the Elkins riverfront.
  • The EAST Recreational Trails Project, a $1-$3 million initiative to build world-class mixed-use trails in and around Elkins.
  • The Streetscape Improvement Project, a plan for improving visual appeal, infrastructure, amenities, wayfinding, and sidewalks in the downtown ($200,000 to $300,000 per block).
  • Railyard Improvements Project, a $3.6 million project for roadways, infrastructure, plaza development, and other improvements both supporting the RCDA’s planned event center and increasing the site’s appeal for new businesses.
  • Industrial Park Improvements Project, a $2-$3 million project to make the RCDA’s newly acquired former Odd Fellows property “move-in ready” for new businesses with roadways, sidewalks, lighting, and other infrastructure.

Presenting this information at Thursday’s 7 p.m. council meeting will be Dave Clark, executive director of Woodlands Development & Lending; Robbie Morris, executive director of the Randolph County Development Authority; Joe Nassif, managing director of Piper Sandler and a specialist in public finance tools such as TIF; and Sutton.

“With all of the exciting opportunities Elkins has right now, it’s been invigorating learning about how some of it might actually be accomplished without needing to raise anyone’s taxes, shift funds away from current services and projects, or rely on grant funding,” says Sutton. “Tax increment financing looks like a great way to hold onto local tax dollars for the betterment of our own community.”

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City Hall News: Week of Oct. 31, 2022

Meeting this week are the Elkins council, council’s ad hoc Special Hiring Committee, and the Elkins Tree Board. Street-sweeper season is over, and leaf collection has begun.

By longstanding council resolution, Halloween trick-or-treating in Elkins will be observed on Halloween (Monday), 6:30-8:00 p.m.

Third quarter business and occupation (B&O) tax returns are due to the Treasurer’s Department no later than Monday.

The Tree Board meets at the Darden House (next door to city hall) on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. In addition to planning its December meeting, the board will continue work on the Adopt-a-Tree program, planning of seasonal activities, and its grant from the West Virginia Division of Forestry.

On Wednesday at 3 p.m., the Special Hiring Committee continues work on identifying and recruiting a new operations manager. Learn more about this position and apply: www.cityofelkinswv.com/employment-opportunities.

Council meets Thursday at 7 p.m. The agenda, which may be adjusted through Tuesday, includes three presentations (Kump Education Center; an orientation to a tax increment financing proposal for the downtown; and recognition of the Mountain Region Special Response Team from the Parsons police chief); another memorandum of understanding concerning settlement of a state-led lawsuit related to opioids; and contracts for design of a replacement Davis Avenue bridge and installation of an HVAC system at city hall.

The street-sweeper season is over, and no tickets will be issued until after the start of the next season, to be announced in spring 2023. Leaf collection is underway and will continue until either all leaves have been collected or the arrival of winter weather. More information: www.cityofelkinswv.com/2022-leaf-pickups-begin-oct-17.

All meetings are open to the public and, unless otherwise stated, held at Elkins City Call (401 Davis Avenue). Find agendas and other meeting information here: www.cityofelkinswv.com/council-and-committee-meetings.

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