Utility bill higher than usual?

If you’ve noticed a higher total on your utility bill this month, it’s because of a sewer-rate increase that just went into effect. The amount raised by this increase is paying for a $4.3 million sewer project scheduled for this year. (In case you didn’t know, your sewer usage is charged based on your water usage.)

The purpose of this project, known as the Phase II Sewer Project, is to reduce sewage discharges into the river during heavy rain events. These discharges happen because Elkins stormwater and sewage have traditionally been carried in the same system of pipes, which can overflow during heavy rains. The Phase II Sewer Project will install several new dedicated stormwater lines to reduce the occurrence of such overflows. This project is proceeding under a federal consent decree between Elkins and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

There is no other source for this money. Under state law, sewer and other utilities must be run as standalone businesses. Their only source of funding comes from the rates paid by their customers. In other words, sewer projects like this one can only be paid for by raising sewer rates (and especially not with sales tax proceeds).

What’s with the “E” on my water bill?

If you see an “E” next to the number in the “present” column of your water bill, you are looking at an “estimated reading.”

The water meters in use here in Elkins have built-in transmitters that are supposed to automatically send water usage information to our water utility’s billing department. However, as you may have heard, our remote-read water meters are getting old. About 600 of them no longer have working transmitters, and we are working on a project to replace them later this year. (More on that below.)

Again, all that is broken are the transmitters–these meters still record usage information accurately. However, we don’t have the workforce to read that many meters manually every month. Instead, several readings in a row may have to be estimated, based on the average of the most recent 12 remote-read months. (In that case, you’ll see an “E” on your bill.) Then, when a manual reading is taken, the actual cumulative total usage is recorded and billed (which corrects for any under- or over-estimation).

The city plans to replace our current remote-read water meters but cannot yet announce a date when this project will be complete. Several steps are still pending, including project approval from the USDA (the source of the money, which comes from unexpended water-plant construction funds), open bidding for a contractor to complete the project, and custom coding of a module in our billing software for importing usage data from the new meters. This project is estimated to cost $1.2 million.

We’ll update you as soon as this project gets rolling and we can firm up the projected completion date.

Disclaimers and fine print: We can only pay for new water meters with funds from the water utility—in this case, those funds left over after completion of the water-plant construction project. Those leftover funds, in turn, can’t be used for anything but water system projects. If we returned that leftover money to the lender, it wouldn’t lower water rates, and then we’d need a new loan (and a new water-rate increase) to fund replacing the water meters. Replacing the water meters this way will not require a rate increase (but remember, we are still awaiting USDA approval to use the money this way).

Did the city really spend $45,000 on downtown flowers?

Did the city really spend $45,000 on downtown flowers? (more…)

Open Letter About the Swinging Bridge: Context, History, and Options

Friday afternoon, Mayor Broughton delivered the following letter to residents of Chestnut and Dowell streets who requested information about the city’s plans for the swinging bridge. It is published here to provide more information about the history and realistic options for replacing the bridge.

Thank you for your letters of 31 December and 27 January raising questions about the swinging bridge that formerly spanned the Tygart Valley River between the Elkins Railyard and your neighborhood.

Your questions relate to the bridge’s history; responsibility for maintenance of the bridge; reasons for its closure; the current status of grant awards for bridge repair or replacement; and reasons why other expenditures have been prioritized over a project to replace this bridge.

Below, we have provided the best answers we have to your questions, along with some additional context and history that we hope will be helpful to the ongoing public conversation about the bridge.  (more…)

Swinging Bridge Q&A with Mayor Broughton

Q: Does the city have $2 million it “doesn’t know what to do with?”

A: I wish! Because of careful spending, we do have $2 million left from the $37 million in loans for the water plant project. That $2 million would increase our General Fund budget by about a third—if we were allowed to use it that way. But state law says we’re only allowed to use it for the water system. One thing we for sure can’t use it for is the swinging bridge.  (more…)

Update on Dent Street Shooting

Statement from EPD Chief T.C. Bennett
Date: February 21, 2020
Date: 1046

On February 20, 2020, at approximately 6:24 pm, officers of the Elkins Police Department responded to a house located at 11 Dent Street in Elkins in reference to a shooting.

The location of the incident was in close proximity to the Davis Medical Center, which prompted a lockdown of that facility. Upon arrival, officers secured the scene and learned that one male subject had suffered a non-life-threatening gunshot wound. The victim was treated at Davis Medical Center and subsequently transferred to Ruby Memorial Hospital for further treatment. Officers obtained a search warrant for the crime scene in order to collect evidence pertaining to the incident.

Investigators have been conducting interviews of witnesses and are currently attempting to locate others believed to have knowledge of the incident. A vehicle believed to be involved with this incident was recovered by the West Virginia State Police in Pocahontas County. This is an ongoing investigation. Anyone with information about this incident is urged to contact the Elkins Police Department at (304) 636-0678 or by dialing 911.

I would like to thank the Randolph County Sheriff’s Department, the Pocahontas County Sheriff’s Department, and the Elkins, Marlinton, and Morgantown detachments of the West Virginia State Police for their assistance with this investigation.

T.C. Bennett
Chief of Police

How Are Elkins Sales Tax Revenues Being Spent?

Ever wonder how the city’s sales tax revenues are being spent? It’s an important question. Since the imposition of the tax in 2018, the city has collected about $1.6 million. Although we are only partway through the second year of the tax’s existence, it seems as though we can count on annual revenues of about $1 million. That’s a lot of money, with the potential to accomplish a great deal for Elkins.  (more…)

City Hall News: January 3, 2021

Elkins, W. Va., January 3, 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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Street Vendor Ordinance now in place

Elkins City Council unanimously passed an ordinance during Thursday’s Elkins City Council meeting that will allow for street vendors within city limits.

According to City of Elkins Ordinance 264, street vendors – any person except itinerant vendors, who engages in or conducts, either as principal or agent, a business selling goods, wares, merchandise, food, confectionary or drink upon any street, sidewalk, or public park, including food trucks, will be permitted.

However, there are exceptions: vendors may only conduct business between six a.m. and 11 p.m.; no vendors may block pedestrian passageways; vendors must remove merchandise at the end of the sales day; no vendor set-up may consume more than three feet in width and eight feet in depth or more than two parking spaces; and no street vending is permitted on Davis Avenue between Second and Fifth Streets.

There are three classifications of vendors: Class A includes all non-food items, such as clothing, arts, crafts, flowers and miscellaneous items that are not food products; Class B covers all food products that do not require cooking, such as whole fruits, vegetables, and non-perishable food items that are pre-packaged by the manufacturer; and Class C is all food products that require cooking, heating, or a health permit. Vendors may also be required to meet additional requirements, depending upon their classification and location.

“It became apparent over the past few years that the food truck and street vendor industry had reached Elkins. I was receiving an increasing amount of inquiries about how and where vendors could operate, and in reviewing our City Code found it didn’t effectively address these questions,” Elkins City Clerk Jessica Sutton said.  “The Rules and Ordinances Committee, with the help of the City Attorney, Administrative Officers and local vendors, developed an ordinance they feel will both protect and encourage this growing entrepreneurial enterprise.”

Applications, as well as all the rules and regulations, are available at Elkins City Hall, 401 Davis Ave., and on the City’s website.

Adopt-A-Tree

CITY OF ELKINS TREE BOARD ANNOUNCES ADOPT-A-TREE PROGRAM

Date: August 22, 2019

Contact: Marilynn Cuonzo, Chair, Elkins Tree Board mcuonzo@cityofelkinswv.com

ELKINS-A new program that promotes planting trees throughout the city is being initiated by the Elkins Tree Board this fall. An Adopt-A-Tree program will provide a free tree to two selected homeowners in each of the city’s five wards. Application deadline for residents is Friday, September 13.

Members of the Elkins Tree Board are excited about the program and are inviting residents in the five wards interested in adopting a tree to fill out the application.. The selected tree owner commits to taking care of the tree for a minimum of three years, but board members will provide assistance and advice throughout the three-year period.

The trees must be planted in the front of the home and the type of tree will vary according to the site location. Preferred locations would be in a designated tree lawn, the grassy area located between the street and the sidewalk. The homeowner will be responsible for planting the tree within two weeks of receiving it.

The goal of the program is to continue to cool the streetscape, provide shade for those walking on city sidewalks and encourage everyone to plant more trees in town. The benefits of planting trees are numerous. Not only do trees improve the aesthetics of a neighborhood, but they also assist with the lowering water run-off, reducing air-conditioning costs and noise pollution. Most importantly, trees remove significant amounts of carbon dioxide from the air, which reduces the impact on climate change.

If the initial year is successful, the tree board will continue the Adopt-A-Tree program every year to reestablish trees lost due to age, storms and removal.

Applications are available online on the Elkins Friends of Trees Facebook page and the City of Elkins website, and at City Hall, 401 Davis Ave., Elkins. Deadline for submission is September 13, 2019, and the trees will be distributed no later than October 14. For further information, contact Marilynn Cuonzo, Chair, Elkins Tree Board, 304.636.5900 or mcuonzo@cityofelkinswv.com.

The Elkins Tree Board meets the first Wednesday of the month at 7 p.m. in the Darden House adjacent to City Hall. The public is welcome to attend. The board offers various workshops and volunteer opportunities throughout the year and, those interested are encouraged to visit the Elkins Friends of Trees Facebook page.

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