EPD Grows to 15 Officers

A federal grant funds one position for three years

Elkins, W. Va., June 1, 2021: After the swearing in of three new probationary patrolmen last month, Elkins Police Department Chief Travis Bennett now directs a force of 15 officers.

Prior to council action in 2020, the EPD organizational chart included only 12 officer positions, in addition to the chief. To further expand the department’s capabilities and to reduce overtime costs, Chief Bennett proposed funding two additional officer positions, and this was approved by council last year.

A third position was created after EPD’s successful application for a 2020 U.S. Department of Justice Community Oriented Policing (COPS) Hiring Program grant. The COPS Hiring Program (CHP) is a competitive award program intended to reduce crime and advance public safety through community policing by providing direct funding for the hiring of career law enforcement officers.

“Our COPS grant award funds 75 percent of the cost of one entry-level officer position for three years,” Bennett says. “EPD had a COPS-funded officer in the past and it’s something I really wanted to get back to. It’s a great opportunity to increase our footprint, reduce overtime shifts for other officers, and get some flexibility to try new things.”

To qualify for an award, CHP applicants must identify a specific crime and disorder problem focus area and explain how CHP funding will be used to implement community policing approaches to that problem focus area. According to the COPS office, the Elkins application was one of nearly 1,100 applications requesting more than 4,000 law enforcement positions.

Until the three new officers leave for 16 weeks of training at the West Virginia State Police Academy, they will shadow current EPD officers to begin learning police procedures and tactics as well as familiarizing themselves with the community they have sworn to protect. After graduating from the academy, they will spend one year working side-by-side with an EPD field training officer (FTO) before being issued their own vehicles and beginning to patrol independently.


City Hall News: Week of May 31, 2021

Elkins, W. Va., May 29, 2021: Elkins City Hall will be closed on Monday, May 31, in observance of Memorial Day. Garbage normally picked up on Mondays will be picked up on Tuesday. Please have cans out no later than 6:00 a.m. on Tuesday.

The only meeting next week is that of the Elkins Tree Board. Meeting Tuesday at 5:30 p.m., in the Darden House (next to city hall), the board will work through an agenda that includes an update on the ongoing Glendale Park improvements, protocols for Memorial Trees, and discussion of the board’s Adopt-A-Tree program. The board will also plan a Pollinator Project at Glendale Park, in collaboration with the Appalachian Forest National Heritage Area.

If you would like to receive emergency text message notifications from the city, please register here: www.cityofelkinswv.com/emergency-text-notifications.

You can also sign up for our email alerts and newsletter here: www.cityofelkinswv.com/newsletter-signup.

Elkins Launches Online Dilapidated Structures Dashboard

Elkins, W. Va., May 25, 2021: The City of Elkins Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Department has launched a public online tool for exploring data about dilapidated structures in Elkins.

The new Dilapidated Structures Dashboard presents the address and map location, condition, and status of properties that have been evaluated by the city building inspector for violations of the property maintenance code.

“The building inspector uses a structure evaluation survey to determine the severity of a structure’s condition,” says Ben Martin, the city’s GIS technician. The survey is based on a tool created by West Virginia University’s BAD Buildings Program. “These evaluations basically help to determine whether the city should seek repair or demolition of the structure.”

On the dashboard map’s Structure Status tab, users can click on a property on the map and see a range of information, including the structure’s address, survey date, evaluated condition, and—if demolished—the date of the demolition and any cost to city taxpayers.

“The Structure Status tab is meant to communicate progress, whether toward demolition or toward convincing the property owner to address the building inspector’s concerns,” says Martin. “The Structure Status tab shows what a lengthy and costly process it can be to get a structure demolished, whether by acquiring the property or seeking a court order forcing action by the owner.”

In addition to providing the cost of each individual demolition, the dashboard presents a running total of demolition expenses incurred by the city and the average cost of demolishing a property, currently $134,653and $17,873, respectively.

“When spending public funds, it’s important to look at how much it costs to achieve policy objectives, like dealing with unsafe buildings,” says Martin. “We wanted the demolition costs front and center so users can easily see how much this kind of neglect is costing all of us.”

Another feature charts the location of the owners of dilapidated structures. According to this feature, only 55 percent of listed structures are owned by Elkins residents, with 32 percent owned by a single resident of Lake City, Florida.

“Ownership location data is also important to display because the farther away property owners live, the harder it can be to motivate them to address the issues with their buildings,” Martin explains. “This is good information for users to have so they can understand why the process of dealing with one structure might take a long time compared to others.”

The dashboard began as a grant-funded project managed by the West Virginia Region VII Planning & Development Council, which shifted the project to Martin after his hire by City of Elkins earlier this year. Optimized for use on desktop computers, the dashboard does not currently support use on mobile devices, although this capability is planned for a future update.

The Dilapidated Structures Dashboard may be accessed here: www.bit.ly/Elkins-Dilap-Dashboard.


City Hall News: Week of May 24, 2021

Elkins, W. Va., May 22, 2021: The only meeting next week is that of the Elkins Water Board. Work continues on water-meter replacement and sewer/stormwater separation, and a bid has been accepted by council for the city hall parking lot project.

Meeting Tuesday at 4 p.m. in city hall, the Elkins Water Board, which oversees the city’s water system, will hear an update on the water-meter replacement project and review financial information.

The project to replace the city’s water meters is around fifty percent complete. The water meters are being replaced because they are out of warranty and their data transmitters, which send water-usage data to Utility Billing, were beginning to fail. You can learn more about the project and read answers to frequently asked questions here: www.bit.ly/ElkinsWaterMeters

Work on the project to separate sewer and stormwater lines in south Elkins continues. The purpose of this project is to reduce the frequency of sewage overflows to the Tygart Valley River by reducing the number of combined sewer/stormwater lines, which can be overwhelmed by large stormwater events. You can learn more about this project and access a GIS app showing progress toward completion on this page: www.bit.ly/Phase2Sewer

On Thursday, council accepted a bid from Polino Contracting for the city hall parking lot project. The goal of this project is to provide both city employees and the public with a modern, paved, well-lit, aesthetically pleasing parking lot. You can learn more about this project here: www.bit.ly/ElkinsCityHallParkingLot


Some Elkins Water Customers May See Higher Bills

Accounts with past estimated usage are most likely to see increases

Elkins, W. Va., May 21, 2021: Water meters are being replaced throughout Elkins, and some customers may see higher bills as a result. This is not because of a rate increase or inaccurate meters but because certain customers’ bills were being estimated, and their actual water usage has increased in the meantime.

City of Elkins uses remote-read water meters. Instead of needing to be read manually by city personnel, these meters transmit reading data (i.e., how much water has been used) to be collected by a roving vehicle as it passes each of the city’s approximately 4,400 water-customer locations.

Water meters are being replaced for all 4,400 City of Elkins water customers because they are out of warranty, and their data transmitters were beginning to fail. Approximately half have been replaced already.

When meters stop transmitting, City of Elkins water bills are based on estimated readings. Estimated readings are the average of the most recent 12 months’ bills.

Customers who were receiving estimated bills might see increases once their meter has been replaced and their actual usage is once again being received by the city’s Utility Billing department.

When water bills increase after meter replacement, the usual reason is that water usage was previously being estimated, and it rose during the period of estimation. Such increases could result from the household adding new members or appliances. It could also result from undetected leaks that developed during the period of estimation.

These increased charges do not result from recapturing the entire under-billed amount, which the city does not do. Instead, with the new meters in place, accounts that were being estimated are now being billed based on actual usage data each period. Accounts whose usage increased during the period of estimation will therefore see higher bills going forward.

Paper bills for accounts being estimated indicate this by showing an “e” next to the usage amount. Electronic bills do not indicate whether an account’s charges are being estimated, but customers can call Utility Billing to find out. The W. Va. Public Service Commission (PSC), which regulates water and other utilities in this state, does not specify how long utilities may use estimated readings.

City of Elkins water customers with questions about their bills or who wish to inquire about setting up a payment plan are encouraged to contact Utility Billing.

Additional information and answers to frequently asked questions about the water meter replacement project may be found here: www.bit.ly/ElkinsWaterMeters


City Hall News: Week of May 17, 2021

Elkins, W. Va., May 15, 2021: The bid opening for the city hall parking lot project is on Monday. The Elkins Sanitary Board meets Monday, the Municipal Properties Committee meets Wednesday, and council meets Thursday.

Bids for the city hall parking lot project will be opened at a public meeting at 1 p.m. Monday, at city hall. An earlier scheduled bid opening was postponed to provide time for contractors to adjust their bids in light of a project addendum. The goal of this project is to provide both city employees and the public with a modern, paved, well-lit, aesthetically pleasing parking lot.

Later Monday, at 3:15 p.m., the Elkins Sanitary Board, which manages the city’s sewer system, meets to review invoices and financial statements.

On Wednesday at 9 a.m., the Municipal Properties Committee meets to discuss downtown residential parking, consider a request for the abandonment of an alley by the city, and hear a proposal for expanded parking for the Tygart Hotel, which is being renovated as a boutique hotel by Woodlands Development Group.

Council meets Thursday at 7 p.m. Current agenda items include the amendment of city code to eliminate the city’s enforcement agency, a committee that has not met in years and which has been supplanted by council’s Public Safety Committee and various full-time public safety officials. Also on the agenda are bid acceptance for the city hall parking lot project and appointments to the Elkins-Randolph County Regional Airport Authority and the Elkins Police Civil Service Commission.


EPD Activity at EMS

From Elkins Police Department Chief Travis Bennett:

This morning, EPD was made aware of a possible threat on social media against Elkins Middle School. EPD officers contacted the students mentioned in the posts as they arrived at school this morning. There is no threat to the school at this time and the investigation is ongoing.


Scam Phone Calls “from” City Hall

Elkins residents report receiving phone calls appearing to originate from Elkins City Hall. On these calls, a man identifying himself as “Steve Day” claimed to be representing the mayor’s office.
These ARE NOT coming from city hall. Although of course city personnel may sometimes call city residents, we will never request personal information or payments this way.
If you receive a suspicious call, the best thing is to hang up and contact city hall yourself to investigate the legitimacy of the call. The main city hall phone number is: 304-636-1414. Departmental numbers are available by clicking here.
(Remember, the scammer can fake your caller ID into showing this number but is really calling from a different number. When in doubt, it is safe to call 304-636-1414 to verify what’s going on.)

Street sweeper schedule: There’s an app for that

City police will begin ticketing cars for street-sweeper parking violations Monday, May 3.

Not sure when you need to move your car? City of Elkins GIS has released an app to help!

Click here to access a map view of the city. Click on your street and the app will tell you the day/time when the street sweeper comes through.

More information about street sweeping, including a downloadable PDF of the street-by-street schedule, is available by clicking here.

Questions? Contact Operations: spoe@cityofelkinswv.com; 304-636-1414, Ext. 1437.

City Hall News: Week of April 26, 2021

Elkins, W. Va., April 24, 2021: The Elkins Water Board holds its inaugural meeting this week. The bid opening for the city hall parking-lot project has been postponed. Arbor Day plantings and observances are scheduled for Friday.

The April 26 meeting to open bids on the city hall parking-lot project has been postponed to provide additional time for contractors to update their proposals in response to a project addendum. The new date will be announced.

The inaugural meeting of the Elkins Water Board occurs Tuesday at 2 p.m. The water board manages the city’s water system. At this first meeting, the board will elect officers, review its establishing statute, and take other initial administrative actions. The board will also review the financial position of the city’s Water Fund.

In observance of Arbor Day, the Emma Scott Garden Club will be planting a tree at noon on Friday at the Davis Street Park. Also on Friday, at 2 p.m., the Elkins Tree Board will host an Arbor Day celebration and tree-planting in Glendale Park.

There are openings on the Elkins Planning Commission and the Elkins Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA). These volunteer positions play crucial roles in city governance. The Elkins Planning Commission is nearing the end of a five-year project to update the city’s zoning laws, which have been mostly unchanged since adoption in the middle of the 1900s. The BZA hears appeals of zoning decisions and related matters and will play an important role in administering the updated zoning laws. The application procedure and more information can be found here: www.bit.ly/ElkinsCommissionsBoards


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