City Hall News: Week of Jan. 25, 2021

Elkins, W. Va., January 23, 2021: City hall, which had been closed to reduce transmission of the COVID-19 virus, reopens for normal business hours Monday at 8 a.m.

On Wednesday at 9 a.m., the mayor’s ad hoc Committee on Boards and Commissions meets to evaluate an applicant for the Board of Zoning Appeals and to analyze the authorizing statutes and operating procedures of the Police Civil Service Commission, the Firefighters Civil Service Commission, and the Fire Service Fee Appeal Board.

The Treasurer’s Department is preparing for its annual audit by an independent accounting firm. The purpose of a municipal audit is to systematically examine the sources and uses of public funds by evaluating financial records, theft and fraud prevention systems, and compliance with state law and government accounting standards. Elkins has received an “unmodified” opinion—the best result an audit can return—every fiscal year since 2012.

Annual and fourth quarter B&O tax returns are due by January 31.

Preparations continue for the Elkins Municipal Election, which will be held March 2. The last day to register to vote in or update your voter registration for this election is February 9.

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EPD Releases Information About South Elkins Barricade Incident

Elkins, W. Va., January 22, 2021: Last night’s hours-long standoff at a residence on Evans Drive in South Elkins developed after an Elkins Police Department (EPD) SWAT team attempted to serve a felony warrant on an individual suspected of making terroristic threats, said Elkins Police Department Chief Travis Bennett. After hours of negotiation attempts proved fruitless, SWAT officers made entry and discovered the building’s lone occupant dead of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound. EPD is not confirming the decedent’s name at this point in the investigation.

“Based on intelligence and prior communications with this individual, the decision was made to follow our high-risk warrant service protocol,” said Bennett. “That includes use of our SWAT officers and the department’s MRAP vehicle, as well as a public notice to shelter in place and the evacuation of nearby residences as a precaution.”

When the operation commenced at around 6:30 p.m., EPD had ample grounds for believing that the individual named in the warrant was in possession of numerous firearms and that any arrest attempt might turn violent.

“The suspect had made it known that he was armed and ready to confront law enforcement officers with deadly force and had prepared his residence for a standoff,” said Bennett. “Once we were on scene and had evacuated the neighboring residences, we found that the suspect had indeed barricaded himself inside the house and was refusing to come out.”

Over the next several hours, officers made numerous attempts to negotiate with the individual barricaded inside the residence. Officers also attempted to force the suspect outside through the use of non-lethal chemical irritants. These attempts were met with further threats by the suspect to come outside shooting at officers and to shoot any officers who tried to come inside.

Finally, around 10:30 p.m., SWAT officers deployed flash-bang grenades and additional chemical-irritant rounds, then entered the residence.

“Upon entering, my officers observed that the suspect had installed heavy barricades and other fortifications in the house,” said Bennett. “They found the suspect deceased with a self-inflicted gunshot wound.”

Bennett confirmed that this was the only shot fired in the course of this incident; no shots were fired by or at law enforcement officers.

“I’m really proud of the skill and professionalism shown by all of the officers and other personnel who helped out,” he said. “I’m grateful for the assistance of the Randolph County Sheriff’s Office, the West Virginia State Police, the Elkins Fire Department, and Randolph County EMS.”

This is an ongoing investigation, so EPD is not able to release more information at this time.

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Shelter-in-Place Advisory Lifted

The Elkins Police Department released the following on 1/21 at 10:51 p.m.

The shelter-in-place advisory for South Elkins has been lifted. There is no further threat to public safety related to this incident.

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The Elkins Police Department has released the following advisory on 1/21 at 6:25 p.m.

Advisory

Residents of the First Ward neighborhood in Elkins are advised to immediately shelter in place because of a police SWAT operation. We will announce when this order is lifted.

Affected Area

Elkins First Ward, AKA South Elkins.

The shelter-in-place order is for the area bounded to the west by Georgetown Road/Livingston Avenue; to the north by Twelfth Street; and to the east and south by the Tygart River. The advisory also applies to the Bridgewater neighborhood.

Instructions

Until the all-clear is given, remain in your homes. Do not go outside. Stay away from windows. Do not answer your door.

Duration

We will announce when the operation concludes and the area is secure.

T.C. Bennett

Chief of Police

City Hall News: Week of Jan. 18, 2021

Elkins, W. Va., January 16, 2021: In observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, city hall will be closed on Monday, January 18. There is no change to the garbage pickup schedule.

To reduce the risk of transmitting the COVID-19 virus during the current surge in Randolph County infections, city hall will remain closed to the public for the rest of the week, but all city offices and departments will otherwise operate as usual. To reach city employees via phone or email, please consult the contact information available on this page: www.bit.ly/ElkinsDepts.

On Thursday morning, Elkins City Clerk Jessica Sutton will attend a webinar hosted by the W. Va. Secretary of State concerning municipal elections. Municipal clerks and recorders are required to attend these biannual trainings to review election laws, rules, and regulations.

Council meets Thursday at 7 p.m. to consider approval of the proposed board of election officials for the 2021 Elkins Municipal Election, hear the presentation of an annual report by the City of Elkins Office of External Affairs, and review progress on council’s 2018-2023 Strategic Plan. The council agenda will not be finalized until Tuesday, so additional items may be added.

This week’s regularly scheduled meeting of council’s Municipal Properties Committee has been cancelled. The committee plans to meet in February, date to be announced.

Utility bills and in-city fire protection service fees are due Tuesday. Utility bills and municipal court fines and fees may be paid by phone, by mail, or via the drop box behind city hall. Payments may also be made online. Both the utility bill and municipal court payment portals may be accessed at this link: www.cityofelkinswv.com/online-payments.


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City Hall Closed to Public in Response to Infection Upsurge

This payment dropbox, located behind city hall, may be used for both utility and court-related payments.

Elkins, W. Va., January 11, 2021: In response to the current upsurge in coronavirus infections, Elkins City Hall will be closed to the public until further notice starting Tuesday, Mayor Van Broughton ordered today. All city staff are to report for duty as usual and most city operations will continue as usual. One exception is that the Elkins Municipal Court judge has postponed all pending court hearings, including virtual hearings, until January 19.

“I have grave concerns about the current surge in positive COVID-19 cases in Randolph County and across the nation,” said the mayor in his order.

Randolph County’s infection rate has nearly doubled in the last week, from 81.65 to 160.8 per 100,000, according to the W. Va. Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR). The percentage of positive tests for the COVID-19 virus has risen from 7.87 last Monday to 12.38 today. Both figures place Randolph County in DHHR’s “red” category, like most other W. Va. counties.

Utility customers and persons needing to pay municipal court fines and fees may do so by phone, by mail, or via the drop box behind city hall. Payments may also be made online. Both the utility bill and municipal court payment portal may be accessed at this link: www.cityofelkinswv.com/online-payments. Contact information for all city departments may be found here: www.cityofelkinswv.com/government/departments-divisions

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Update: Elkins Sanitation Department Quarantines

Left: City Councilor Chris Lowther. Right: Sanitation Department Loader Charles Westfall.

Last Monday, City of Elkins announced that “garbage pickup in Elkins may be delayed or disrupted over the next few weeks due to personnel shortages resulting in part from exposures to the COVID-19 virus.”

Today, Operations Manager Bob Pingley provides the following update:

“We seem to have weathered the storm with regards to the Sanitation Department, at least for now. We have enough employees back that the department can operate on its own, with only one  employee still out on quarantine.

“We couldn’t have done it without numerous people stepping up and lending a hand to make sure the job got done. Donnie Hedrick, Water Distribution Department supervisor, and Brad Curtis, Building Maintenance supervisor, got the opportunity to brush up on their garbage truck driving skills. Paul Youtzy and Danny Harris from the Central Garage pitched in, as did the entire Street Department. Ron Corcoran from the Fire Department hauled roll-offs for us. We also appreciated the assistance of Elkins City Councilor Chris Lowther.

“It’s teamwork like this that allows us to continue to provide the critical services that our residents depend on. And it’s the opportunity to work with people like these that is the best part of my job here with the city.”

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City Hall News: January 9, 2021

Elkins, W. Va., January 9, 2021: Meeting next week are council’s Public Safety Committee and Personnel Committee. The Elkins Sanitary Board and Elkins Tree Board will also meet. Christmas trees will be collected through Friday.

The Public Safety Committee meets virtually Monday at 10 a.m. Agenda items include demolition of a structure on First Street and continued discussion of enforcement options in response to public complaints about nuisance conditions on the Ambassador Church property at the former location of the Ink Spot, also on First Street. The committee also hears reports from public safety officials.

At its Monday 1 p.m. virtual meeting, the Personnel Committee discusses the code enforcement officer’s job description and considers changes to the city’s personnel manual. Later on Monday, at 3:15 p.m., the Sanitary Board, which oversees the city’s sewer system, meets virtually to review invoices and financial statements.

On Tuesday, at 5:30 p.m., the Elkins Tree Board takes up agenda items that include Arbor Day plans, early spring pruning, and an urban canopy project.

This week’s regular meeting of the Rules & Ordinances Committee has been cancelled. The committee’s next regularly scheduled meeting is February 11 at 12 p.m.

Christmas trees will be collected curbside on weekdays through Friday, January 15. Please remove all decorations, lights, and tinsel.

Meeting agendas and login information may be found here: www.cityofelkinswv.com/council-and-committee-meetings

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Elkins Garbage Collection Disrupted Due to Quarantined Employees

Elkins, W. Va., January 4, 2021: Garbage pickup in Elkins may be delayed or disrupted over the next few weeks due to personnel shortages resulting in part from exposures to the COVID-19 virus, City of Elkins Operations Manager Bob Pingley announced today. Four of the department’s five drivers are in quarantine, and the department is three short of its normal complement of loaders.

“To maintain our regular level of service, I’ve pulled employees from three other departments to work as drivers and loaders,” said Pingley. “These are some of our best employees and will do all that they can, but unfortunately they just do not know these routes like our regular drivers do.”

As a result, Pingley says, not all garbage may be collected on time or as usual.

“We’ll do our best to get all garbage picked up on schedule, but there are inevitably going to be some hiccups as we go along. We ask for everyone’s patience and understanding as we work through this unprecedented situation.”

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City Hall News: January 2, 2021

Elkins, W. Va., January 2, 2021: Council meets Thursday at 7 p.m. Next week’s regularly scheduled meetings of council’s Finance Committee and Economic Growth and Development (EGAD) Committee are canceled, as is the regularly scheduled meeting of the Elkins Tree Board.

Christmas trees will be collected Monday, January 4 through Friday, January 15. Please remove all tinsel, lights, and decorations. Trees are collected by the City of Elkins Street Department, not the Sanitation Department, so please place trees by the curb in front of your house, no matter where you normally place trash for collection. Artificial trees are not accepted.

The Elkins Parks and Recreation Commission will begin taking pavilion reservations for the 2021 season on Monday, January 4th. Reservations can be made by calling the parks office at 304-636-3960.

The agenda for council’s Thursday 7 p.m. meeting has not yet been finalized. One agenda item is review and approval of poll workers for the March 2 city elections.

Best wishes for a healthy, happy new year from City of Elkins!

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Elkins to Recognize Sanitation Department Employees for Bravery

Intervention Prevented Child’s Serious Injury or Death

Elkins, W. Va., December 21, 2020: Elkins Mayor Van Broughton will recognize three City of Elkins Sanitation Department employees for intervening to end an assault on a child in an alley near the city’s Sanitation Department building last week. The recognition ceremony, which will honor COE employees Brandon Harris, Brian Jenkins, and Zachary Ketterman, will be held in the Elkins City Hall council chamber at 2 p.m. on Tuesday.

Last Friday, Harris, Jenkins, and Ketterman were working in the Sanitation Department building when they heard sounds of distress outside. Exiting the building to investigate, they saw a woman struggling with a small boy. A call to 911 around this time reported that a woman was attempting to “drown a child in a puddle.” Elkins Police Department officers raced to the scene.

Before police arrived, Harris, Jenkins, and Ketterman had separated the child from the woman, brought him inside the Sanitation Department building, and locked the doors. The child was wet and shivering, the men later told police, and his lips were blue. They dried him off and began wrapping him in articles of their own clothing to try to warm him up.

“I instructed Mr. Harris to take the child inside of my patrol car where the heat was running,” said EPD Senior Patrolman Kevin Shiflett, who was now on scene along with EPD Patrolman First Class William Butcher. “While Mr. Harris and the child got inside of the vehicle we were alerted by Mr. Ketterman and Mr. Jenkins that the female subject was back outside.”

When Butcher and Shiflett contacted the suspect, who was later identified as Catherine Briggs, she charged them and was tased before being restrained and placed under arrest. Officer Butcher took custody of Briggs while Shiflett ran back to his vehicle.

“I drove Mr. Harris and the child to the Davis Medical Center emergency department,” said Shiflett. “The child was later released. I did go and see the child on Saturday, and he appeared to be doing well, all things considered.”

Shiflett was impressed by the three Sanitation Department employees’ quick thinking and selfless actions.

“Brandon Harris showed great courage and compassion in a risky situation,” says Shiflett. “Seeing a child in danger, he didn’t hesitate to jump in and take that child to safety. I also commend Zack Ketterman and Brian Jenkins for backing him up, securing the building, and providing the child with warmth from their own coats.”

Shiflett says his investigation was further aided by Donald Huffman, an employee of a property management company that operates a nearby apartment building.

“Mr. Huffman contacted me to advise that their cameras had captured footage of the incident,” says Shiflett. “Mr. Huffman provided me with a clear video that’s really going to help make our case in court.”

The terrible incident could have turned out much worse if it hadn’t been for the intervention by Harris, Jenkins, and Ketterman.

“In a perfect world something like this would never happen at all but thank goodness it happened near three people who were so ready to help,” says Shiflett. “On behalf of myself, EPD, and the Elkins community, I want to thank all three of these men for stepping up like they did.”

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