EFD: Install Carbon Monoxide Alarms, Test Monthly

Colorless, Odorless Gas is an Invisible Killer

Elkins, W. Va., February 12, 2021: The Elkins Fire Department is reminding area residents of the importance of installing carbon monoxide (CO) alarms in the home and testing them once a month. CO alarms provide an early warning of the presence of deadly CO gas, and monthly tests are vital to ensure they are working properly.

“Carbon monoxide is the invisible killer,” says Elkins Fire Department Chief Tom Meader. “It’s an odorless, colorless gas created when fuels burn incompletely. Inside the home, heating and cooking equipment that burn fuel can be sources of carbon monoxide. Vehicles running in an attached garage or a generator running inside a home or attached garage can also produce dangerous levels. The only way to detect CO is with a working CO alarm.”

According to the nonprofit National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), in 2016, fire departments responded to about 80,000 non-fire CO calls per year, almost all in the home. More than 400 people die each year, on average, from unintentional CO poisoning from consumer appliances, motor vehicles, and other sources, according to the CDC.

“CO monitors can cost as little as $5,” says Meader. “That’s well worth it when you consider you might be saving a life.”

The Elkins Fire Department, NFPA, and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) advise residents to take certain steps to ensure that their household is safe from CO.

“First, never ignore an alarming CO alarm,” says Meader. “It is warning you of a potentially deadly hazard.  If the alarm signal sounds, do not try to find the source of the CO. Immediately move outside to fresh air and then call 911.”

Next, ensure your CO alarm is working properly by following the steps below:

  • Test CO alarms once a month using the test button, and replace CO alarms if they fail to respond correctly when tested.
  • Make sure you have CO alarms in your home outside each separate sleeping area, on every level and in other locations as required by laws, codes or standards.
  • Replace the CO alarm according to manufacturer’s instructions or when the end-of-life signal sounds.
  • Know the difference between the sound of the CO alarm and the smoke alarm and their low-battery signals. If the audible low-battery signal sounds, replace the batteries, or replace the device.
  • Follow manufacturer’s installation instructions.
  • For the best protection, interconnect all CO alarms throughout the home. When one CO alarm sounds, they all sound.

Area residents with questions or concerns about CO alarm testing and alarm requirements may contact the Elkins Fire Department at (304) 636-3433. Information is also available here: www.cdc.gov/co.

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City Election Update

On March 2, city voters will elect a council member from all five wards and a new mayor.

Voters will also decide whether the city should:

  • Shift from its current Mayor-Council form of government to the Mayor-Manager form
  • Amend the charter to affirm the city’s commitment to complying with state open government rules
  • Extend the mayor’s term from two to four years (effective starting with mayor elected in 2023)

Registration for the March 2 election is now closed.

Early in-person voting for all wards will be at Elkins City Hall, February 17-27. Early voting is available Monday-Friday and Saturdays during the following hours:

  • Weekdays: 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
  • Saturdays: 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

For more election-related information, please see this webpage.

To review the candidates and ballot questions, click here.

Please contact the city clerk’s office with any questions.

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City Hall News: Week of Feb. 8, 2021

Elkins, W. Va., February 7, 2021: This week will see meetings of council’s Personnel, Finance, and Rules & Ordinances Committees. This month’s meeting of the Public Safety Committee, which normally meets second Mondays at 10 a.m., is cancelled.

The Elkins city attorney, per city code, serves one-year terms commencing each April 1. At its Monday 1 p.m. meeting, the Personnel Committee will consider the proposed reappointment of the current city attorney as well as personnel matters in the Code Enforcement Department and the Police Department.

The agenda for the Finance Committee’s Wednesday 9 a.m. meeting includes consideration of an additional code enforcement position, review of the engineer’s estimate for the city hall parking lot project, and evaluation of funding requests for both a riverfront study and social-media archiving software needed to comply with state public records laws.

Last year, the Rules & Ordinances Committee recommended to council a change to city laws that would have allowed the operation of street-legal special purpose vehicles on city streets, but the ordinance (277) was sent back to the committee for further work. Thursday at noon, the Rules & Ordinances Committee will take this matter up again. The committee will also consider updates to the city’s fire-fee and flood-plain ordinances and hear a proposal for the establishment of a water board for Elkins.

Preparations continue for the March 2 city elections, when voters will elect a council member in each ward, choose a new mayor, and decide whether to adopt a manager-based government structure. Tuesday is the deadline to register or update your registration for this election at the county—not city—clerk’s office. The sample ballot is printed in today’s paper.

All of the above meetings are virtual. You can find agendas and login information here: www.cityofelkinswv.com/council-and-committee-meetings.

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City Hall News: Week of Feb. 1, 2021

Elkins, W. Va., January 30, 2021: Next week will see meetings of the Elkins Tree Board, Elkins Common Council, and council’s Economic Growth and Development (EGAD) Committee, all virtual. Two major infrastructure projects also kick off.

On Monday, excavations begin on Railroad Avenue as part of Phase II of the city’s sewer/stormwater separation project, with the goal of reducing sewage overflows to the Tygart River during heavy storm events. Also starting Monday is the replacement of remote-read meters for all city water customers. More about the sewer project: www.bit.ly/Phase2Sewer. More about water meter replacement: www.bit.ly/ElkinsWaterMeters.

At its Tuesday 5:30 p.m. virtual meeting, the Elkins Tree Board will consider a proposed new member and the purchase of new trees.

The agenda for the EGAD Committee’s virtual meeting at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday includes a review of the city’s strategic plan and ongoing discussions of annexation options.

Council meets virtually on Thursday at 7 p.m. The only agenda item so far is consideration of the nomination of a new member to the Elkins Board of Zoning Appeals. Additional items may be added to this agenda through Tuesday.

Next week’s meetings are all virtual. Login information may be found here two days in advance of each meeting: www.cityofelkinswv.com/council-and-committee-meetings.

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Elkins Launching Two Infrastructure Projects Monday

Elkins, W. Va., January 28, 2021: On Monday, City of Elkins contractors will kick off two major infrastructure projects. Bear Contracting will begin Phase II of the city’s sewer/stormwater separation project, and Newman Plumbing will begin replacing remote-read water meters for all city water utility customers.

The sewer/stormwater separation project is the second phase of sewer-system improvements Elkins is required to implement under a 2011 consent decree with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The goal of this project is to reduce the number of combined sewer/stormwater pipes in Elkins, so that sudden downpours are less likely to overwhelm the sewer system’s capacity and cause overflows of untreated sewage to the Tygart Valley River.

In the phase of the sewer/stormwater project commencing Monday, crews will eventually excavate sections of 15 city streets and alleys in the neighborhood west of Wimer Field to install new, dedicated stormwater lines and related infrastructure components, such as manholes and catch basins.

The first street that will be excavated is Railroad Avenue, starting where it dead ends against the south bank of the Tygart Valley River, near Kelly Foundry.

This project, which is funded by a $4.9 million bond issue, will not result in any additional increase in sewer rates. More information about this project, including a list and map of the affected streets, can be found here: www.bit.ly/Phase2Sewer.

The water-meter project will replace the remote-read meters currently in use by the city’s approximately 4,200 water customers. These water meters are five years past warranty coverage, and about 1,300 have already failed. The opportunity to replace these water meters arose when aggressive costsaving measures during the 2016 water plant construction project spared the necessary $1.5 million. As a result, this project will not result in any increase in water rates. More information about this project can be found here: www.bit.ly/ElkinsWaterMeters

The impact of the water-meter replacement project, which must be completed by September, is projected by the contractor to be minor for most customers, involving only about 15 minutes’ disruption of water service per meter. The impacts of the sewer/stormwater separation project will vary by street but can be expected to include changes to traffic and parking patterns and the presence of heavy equipment; this project is not projected to disrupt any customer’s sewer service, however.

To stay current on information about these and other projects, as well as city news and safety alerts, please follow City of Elkins on one or more of the following communication channels:

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City Hall Flag at Half Mast for Donald Pritt

The U.S. flag at Elkins City Hall is at half mast today in honor of Donald R. “Donnie” Pritt, 73, who died Saturday.

Mr. Pritt devoted his life to public service here in Elkins, across the state of West Virginia, and–during his 42 years as a member of the West Virginia Army National Guard–overseas while deployed for Operation Desert Storm. Here in West Virginia, he participated in operations mounted in response to aircraft crashes, floods, and civil disturbances.

After retiring from uniformed service, he worked eight more years as a civilian National Guard employee. Many current and past National Guard members considered him a mentor and expressed great sadness to hear of his passing.

Mr. Pritt was also a familiar face at Elkins City Hall, where he served for many years on the Elkins Police Civil Service Commission, an unpaid position with responsibilities related to hiring, promotions, and policy development for the Elkins Police Department. In this capacity, he was integral to the hiring of numerous EPD officers, including nearly every officer serving currently.

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EPD Update About 1/21 South Elkins SWAT Operation

 
Statement of EPD Chief Travis C. Bennett, providing additional details about last week’s SWAT team operation at a home on Evans Drive in South Elkins:
 
“The individual found deceased at the location of the January 21 EPD SWAT team operation was Ty Garrett Hilderbrand, age 35.
“Mr. Hilderbrand had recently moved from Missouri to Elkins and lived at the home that was the scene of last week’s standoff. He was not the only resident of this house, but he was alone in the house at the time of this incident.
 
“Prior to the January 21 incident, EPD had contact with Mr. Hilderbrand in relation to a domestic violence call. In the course of this contact and during subsequent communications with law enforcement and community members, Mr. Hilderbrand stated that he was armed and that he intended to resist our investigation. He also threatened to burn down his house, which is located in close proximity to other houses and an elementary school.
 
“When Mr. Hilderbrand was found deceased, he was in possession of a handgun and a rifle. The house had been heavily barricaded.”
 
T.C. Bennett
Chief of Police

EPD Statement on 1/28 Welfare Check Incident

Statement of EPD Chief Travis C. Bennett:

At approximately 2:30 p.m. today, EPD officers attempted to perform a welfare check on a male subject in the vicinity of Livingston Avenue.

A BOLO alert issued by Upshur County law enforcement had advised that someone matching this man’s description had threatened suicide in the Buckhannon area and that his current whereabouts were unknown.

Upon being approached by officers, the subject attempted to flee in a motor vehicle, driving in a reckless manner and damaging two EPD cruisers before being stopped near T-Mart, on Davis Avenue. As officers attempted to extract the subject from his vehicle, he produced a handgun, which he pointed at one officer. Officers used a TASER and baton strikes to subdue the subject. After being restrained, the subject was transported by Randolph County EMS to Davis Medical Center for evaluation.

One EPD officer received minor injuries to his hand.

T.C. Bennett

Chief of Police

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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