City Hall News: Week of Jan. 23, 2023

Meeting next week are the Elkins Sanitary Board, which manages the city’s sewer system, and the Elkins Water Board, which manages the city’s water system.

The Sanitary Board meets Monday at 10 a.m. The meeting will begin with a public presentation concerning the Long Term Control Plan, which concerns the reduction of stormwater volume in the wastewater system to avoid sewage overflows to the Tygart River during heavy rain events. Also on the agenda are stormwater access to the Tygart Hotel, compensation for the chief wastewater operator, and discussion of the position of Sanitary Board secretary.

On Tuesday at 4 p.m., the Water Board meets on an agenda that includes discussion of the position of Sanitary Board secretary and salary classification and compensation plan for water system employees.

B&O annual and quarterly tax returns are due January 31.

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.

Update on Tax Increment Financing Process

Last modified on January 23rd, 2023 at 01:28 pm

Earlier this month, council voted to make application to the West Virginia  Department of Economic Development for authority to form a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district in Elkins. (See map at bottom of post.)

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. (Read more about TIF here.)

Applying for creation of the TIF district is the only step taken by council to date. Although the application requires enumerating possible projects that may be undertaken, the list of possible projects is amendable. The only projects that may be funded by TIF are those for which no other source of funding can be identified. (Click here for information about potential projects for redeveloping downtown Elkins.)

TIF funds may be accessed by issuing municipal bonds or through a process called pay-as-you-go. Issuing bonds would require separate council approval, along with justification of financial need and anticipated revenue collection.

Next steps in the TIF process:

  • The city’s application is being reviewed by WVDED. The city should hear a response by sometime in March.
  • If the application proposing to create a TIF district is approved, the city must then approve an ordinance doing so. It is currently estimated that such an ordinance could be finally approved by early April.
  • Yet to come: decision about whether to issue bonds or use pay-as-you-go method, and how to most effectively apply revenues to the identified projects.

City Hall News: Week of Jan. 16, 2023

Meeting this week are council’s ad hoc Organizational Audit Committee and Municipal Properties Committee. Also meeting are the Elkins Historic Landmarks Commission (EHLC), Elkins Parks & Recreation Commission (EPRC), and the Elkins Planning Commission.

City hall will be closed Monday in observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Garbage service will run on regular schedule.

The Organizational Audit Committee meets Tuesday at 1 p.m. to discuss the structure of the Building Inspector/Code Enforcement/Zoning Officer position, the Operations Assistant and Administrative Assistant position descriptions, and Safety Officer role and responsibilities.

EHLC meets Tuesday at 4 p.m. Agenda items include election of officers, plans for 2023, council report, and potential opportunities for EHLC to tie in with the SGA report.

Meeting Wednesday at 9 a.m., the Municipal Properties Committee takes up the National Fitness Campaign.

EPRC meets Wednesday at 5 p.m., at the Phil Gainer Community Center. Agenda items include next steps for the horseshoe pit at City Park.

Also meeting Wednesday at 5 p.m., the Planning Commission will take up matters related to the All Creatures Great and Small Veterinary Practice and the Hayes parcel on Spruce Street.

Utility bill and in-city Fire & Rescue Service Fee payments are due Thursday. Annual and fourth quarter Business and Occupation Tax returns are due by the end of the month.

Council meets Thursday at 7 p.m. The agenda may be adjusted through Tuesday. Current items include final readings of an ordinance to renew the cable television franchise agreement with Optimum (formerly Suddenlink) and one that updates city election code in light of the new city charter adopted in 2021.

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.

City Recycling Site Moving Friday

The drop-off location for recycling yard waste and glass is moving from Jones Drive to the grounds of the City of Elkins Street Department, at 1 Baxter Street. The new location will open to receive recyclables on Friday, January 13.

The new location for the containers is behind the Street Department garage. To reach the containers, drive past the garage, turn right on Chestnut Street, and turn right into the gravel lot behind the Street Department garage. Here is a dropped pin showing the precise location of the containers on Google Maps.

Melody Himes, the operations assistant, says the move is the result of a collaboration between the Wastewater Collection Department, which formerly hosted the drop-off site, and the Street Department.

“Over the years, we realized that the Wastewater Collection Department wasn’t the best location for the drop-off site, because it’s a tight spot for both customers and for the trucks that periodically need to empty the containers,” Himes says. “The guys at the Street Department did a phenomenal job setting up the new site, and we think it’s really going to work a lot better for everyone.”

The new site at Baxter Street includes raised wooden platforms to make it easier to dump both yard waste and glass into the containers.

“We think the new location will be even easier for everyone to access and use,” says Himes. “We’re really proud to offer this program and just want to make recycling as simple as possible for the Elkins community.”

EAST Marks Trails Progress in First Year

Beautiful natural settings and outdoor recreation opportunities abound in the Elkins area, but residents and visitors alike have long wished for even more robust trail systems suitable for mountain biking, hiking, and running. Efforts to expand shared-use, bike-optimized trails are now taking off thanks to the work of the Elkins Area Shared Trails (EAST) working group.

The group, which comprises more than 30 member organizations, has a steering committee that includes City of Elkins, Woodlands Development & Lending, Mon Forest Towns, Davis & Elkins College, the Highlands Composite Mountain Bike Team, and the Brad & Alys Smith Outdoor Economic Development Collaborative (OEDC) at WVU.

Although EAST members met for the first time only about one year ago, the group has already been awarded $80,000 in grants from the Appalachian Regional Commission and the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) to fund planning for trails in and around Elkins. The organization is now in the process of becoming a 501(c)3 organization with help from Woodlands Development & Lending.

Jessica Sutton, the Elkins city clerk, and a founding organizer of the EAST group, says that the group’s membership was inspired to take action in response to growing frustration at the limited recreation opportunities in the area.

“Aside from the Allegheny Highlands Trail, which is a fantastic resource for certain kinds of users, Elkins is really a trail desert,” says Sutton. “We sit at a major regional crossroads and are the largest gateway community to the Mon Forest, but regional trails are surprisingly hard to access from town. That means both residents and visitors must travel elsewhere for recreation opportunities that they really should be able to access right from downtown.”

EAST is currently reviewing bids  from design firms to plan bike-optimized shared-use trail systems on three properties (236 acres total) and to design and flag up to 10 miles of bike-optimized trails as a shovel-ready demonstration project, with a construction start date planned for 2023.

Progress on trails isn’t coming a moment too soon for Randolph County members of the West Virginia Interscholastic Cycling League (WVICL), which formed several years ago to facilitate competitive middle and high-school mountain biking.

“There was a lot of interest from area families in participating in this league, but there again, participants from the Elkins area were at a disadvantage,” says Sutton. “There just aren’t that many suitable public trails in the area for mountain bike training. The few trails we did have were too challenging for new riders to learn on, so parents were having to drive their kids to other counties for practice.”

The prospect of new trails is also good news to EAST member Davis & Elkins College, which in 2021 announced that it was planning to form the state’s first collegiate USA Cycling mountain-biking team.

Expanded trail systems don’t just benefit the people who ride, hike, and run on them. They are increasingly recognized as powerful drivers of local economic growth. After the Snowshoe Highlands was designated as a in 2019, thousands of riders and fans visited the area for the Mercedes-Benz UCI Mountain Bike World Cup Final later that year. Now designated a Silver-Level Center, the Snowshoe Highlands attracted similar numbers of participants and attendees to the 2022 Bike World Cup. These events, which are only first steps in leveraging the growing popularity of this sport, have already generated considerable economic activity to the benefit of communities in this area.

Outdoor recreation opportunities are also a prime factor in helping people with disposable income decide where to live. Among other programs, OEDC oversees Ascend WV, a talent attraction and retention program designed to support remote professionals and their families as they relocate to West Virginia in pursuit of high quality of life and an outdoor-driven lifestyle. Elkins was the fourth West Virginia city accepted into the Ascend program, in late 2022, and Sutton says that the fact that the area is moving rapidly toward expanded shared-use trail systems was key.

“OEDC and Ascend see trails as a big driver for the economies of cities like Elkins, with the potential to make our community even more attractive to new residents,” says Sutton. “Our acceptance into that program represents a solid vote of confidence from experts in this field that they recognize our region’s commitment to economic development through outdoor recreation.”

Sutton says that she is now confident that EAST’s efforts will be successful.

“All of the EAST partners are excited to see the results of this planning process,” says Sutton. “With support from the community and various organizations, the future of trail development in the Elkins area looks bright.”

City Hall News: Week of January 9, 2023

Meeting this week are council’s Public Safety Committee, Rules & Ordinances Committee, Finance Committee, and Personnel Committee.

The Public Safety Committee will hear reports from the city’s public safety officials at 10 a.m. on Monday.

Meeting Wednesday at 9 a.m., the Rules & Ordinances Committee continues work on an ordinance regulating various kinds of animals inside city limits.

Closed interviews for applicants to fill the Third Ward councilor vacancy will occur Wednesday afternoon.

On Thursday at 12 p.m., the Finance Committee and the Personnel Committee will meet in joint session to consider various matters concerning employee health insurance premiums and related matters.

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.

Notice: Public Meeting on Sewer Overflows

In 2011, the City of Elkins negotiated a Long-Term Control Plan (LTCP) for Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs), which identified two sewer separation projects.

With the completion of the two phases of improvements, the City is required to update Agencies on the progress of the program and to update the LTCP, which includes receiving input from the public.

As such, a Public Meeting will be held at 10:00 a.m. on January 23, 2023 to discuss continued conformance with USEPA requirements and finalizing an Implementation Schedule for future improvements in the wastewater collection system.

This meeting will be held in the council chamber at Elkins City Hall.

Council Committee Diary: December 2022

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.

Following is an overview of council committee work from December:

  • Finance: Discussed use of Coal Severance Fund money for elevator repair at city hall; recommended council enact a salary of $70,000 for the new operations manager; considered online payments software.
  • Municipal Properties: Recommended a Rental Uses and Procedures policy for the Darden Complex to council.
  • Organizational Audit Committee (ad hoc): Continued work on the job descriptions of the operations assistant and operations administrative assistant, as well as on the structure and duties of the new Building Inspector/Code Enforcement Officer/Zoning Officer position.
  • Personnel Committee: x
  • Public Safety Committee: Discussed next steps regarding condemned properties to be demolished using DEP RADPP funds and recommended that the Personnel Committee consider a policy for regular performance and salary review for administrative officers not appointed to terms (i.e., fire chief, operations manager, and police chief).
  • Rules & Ordinances Committee: Continued analysis of city laws concerning animals and recommended updates to city election law required by the new city charter adopted in 2021.

Next Steps for Elkins Redevelopment

A report from a national organization that assists cities in planning for effective economic development says that Elkins is on the right track and offers suggestions for maximizing the city’s already strong potential. Council is already taking steps that may help fund these and other projects.

Smart Growth America (SGA) visited Elkins in October to gather data, hold stakeholder workshops, and collect community input. In addition to city officials, SGA staff met with downtown business leaders, community service organizations, youth service organizations, and community and economic development organizations.

The SGA report (available for download here) finds that “there is strong community support for the redevelopment and adaptive reuse of downtown Elkins.” SGA staff reported hearing that “residents want to see a vibrant, lively downtown that hosts a variety of businesses and people.” The team’s “overarching recommendation” is for Elkins to “develop and implement a strategy to leverage the most important unique asset that Elkins possesses: its historic railyard.” According to SGA, any plans for further development of the railyard “should focus on mixed-use, walkable real estate.”

The report offered other short-term, medium-term, and long-term recommendations. Although many of these projects would be costly, the Elkins council recently began the process of applying to establish a Tax Increment Financing district in the city’s downtown. Such a move would provide a means of funding many development projects in Elkins without raising taxes or cutting spending on other services and projects. (A hearing will be held concerning TIF at 7 p.m. on January 5.)

Short-term recommendations include:

  • Improve the downtown streetscape (City of Elkins recently contracted with GAI Consultants to prepare a formal downtown streetscape plan)
  • Improve wayfinding and signage leading into Elkins (in 2023, the city will be installing attractive new signs at the city’s main ingress routes; improved signage will be included in the above streetscape plan and is also contemplated in the recently completed Elkins Riverfront Plan, also created by GAI Consultants)

Medium-term recommendations include:

  • Conduct a downtown parking demand study (from the report: “There are 1,400 off-street parking spots downtown, and yet many people believe there isn’t enough parking.”)
  • Engage the community continually and exclusively (the city recently deployed an online agenda center to raise public awareness of council and committee meetings and is actively exploring other software options to make it easier for citizens to interact with the city government)
  • Facilitate Augusta Heritage takeover of Wilt Building (the city is currently working with Augusta Heritage and Woodlands Development & Lending to see how this project can be made possible)

Long-term recommendations include:

  • Redesign of U.S. Highway 250/Seneca Trail
  • Riverfront study area development (again, see the recently completed Elkins Riverfront Plan)
  • Encourage additional residential development (the Randolph County Housing Authority and Woodlands Development & Lending recently completed a study of local housing needs in conjunction with WVU and Virginia Tech)

The SGA report, which contains additional information and recommendations, may be downloaded here: https://cityofelkinswv.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/Next-Steps-Memo-for-Elkins-with-SGA-recommendations.pdf

For information about current projects and initiatives in Elkins: https://cityofelkinswv.com/government/current-projects-initiatives.

For information about Tax Increment Financing in Elkins: https://cityofelkinswv.com/retaining-local-property-taxes-for-local-projects.

UPDATE: Boil Water Near Ward and Lavalette LIFTED

Last modified on December 29th, 2022 at 10:37 am

Update as of 10:36 a.m., Dec. 29: This Boil Water Notice has been lifted after testing found no contamination.

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Water system personnel have repaired a leak in a water line near the intersection of Ward Avenue and Lavalette Avenue. A Boil Water Notice is now in effect for customers on Ward Avenue, between South Davis and Livingston. Also under the Boil Water Notice are customers south of Ward Avenue on Lavalette Avenue, Green Lane, Taylor Avenue, and Bond Lane. (The Boil Water Notice does not include any customers on South Davis Avenue or Livingston Avenue.)

The approximate area of the Boil Water Notice is marked in red on the map below.

The earliest that laboratory testing can be completed and the notice lifted is Thursday, December 29.

Boil Water Notices are issued out of an abundance of caution because positive pressure has been lost and the possibility of contamination exists, not because contamination has been detected. The presence or absence of contamination must be confirmed by an independent lab through a testing process that requires at least 24 hours after delivery of a sample. Samples cannot be taken until the leak has been repaired and service has been restored. Samples can only be submitted during business hours. For more information about what to do under a Boil Water Notice, click here.

Notification will be sent out when the Boil Water Notice is lifted. We regret any inconvenience this may have caused and appreciate your patience during this time.

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