Why aren’t the park restrooms open yet?

First, the answer to the question on many people’s minds: Restrooms in all city parks will be opened April 1. The “season” for unlocked restrooms in Elkins parks runs April through October.

Why do we wait until April 1?

These restrooms are unheated spaces, so during the off-season the water is turned off at the meter, the water lines are drained, and the drains are filled with antifreeze to prevent damage to the plumbing and fixtures. As a result, it’s not possible to easily open them up on a nice Saturday during the off season, then close them again.

Although Elkins sometimes gets periods of favorable weather before April or after October, it’s too unreliable to count on. But by April 1, we can be pretty sure we’re done with winter–or with the risk of pipe-bursting freezes,  at least. As a result, the Elkins Parks and Recreation Commission (which has only two year-round employees) budgets for seasonal staff members (who, among other duties, clean, maintain, and lock/unlock restrooms) only for April through October.

That’s why the parks bathrooms won’t be open until April 1.

Council Certifies Vote Tallies for 2021 Election

New mayor and councilors to be sworn in March 31, take office April 1

Elkins, W. Va., March 10, 2021: Meeting yesterday as the Elkins Board of canvassers, the Elkins council certified vote totals in the 2021 Municipal Election. The new mayor and the five councilors elected at this election will be sworn in March 31 and take office April 1.

The vote totals that council certified Wednesday were unchanged since the declaration of results at the close of Monday’s canvass. During the canvass, council reviewed 32 provisional ballots and accepted 22 of them, changing some vote totals but not the outcomes of any races. Candidates had 48 hours from the close of the canvass to request recounts, but none did, enabling council to certify as final the declared vote tallies in all five city wards.

Citywide, Jerry Marco won the office of mayor with 719 votes out of 1,039 cast. Votes for other mayoral candidates were as follows: Andrew Carroll, 146; D.C. Talkington, 5; and Karen Wilmoth, 169.

Also voted on by all city voters were three proposed charter amendments. A proposal to adopt the Mayor-Manager form of government was defeated 685 to 334. A proposal to pledge compliance with open government laws and a proposal to extend the mayor’s term from two to four years succeeded 780 to 229 and 563 to 458, respectively.

In the First Ward council race, incumbent Robert Chenoweth retained his seat with 260 votes against two challengers, Phillips Kolsun, who received 62 votes, and Travis Norwood, who received 40 votes.

In the Second Ward council race, incumbent Charles Friddle, III prevailed over challenger Carman Pennington, 95 to 76.

In the Third Ward council race, challenger Clint Higgins defeated incumbent Carman Metheny 52 to 38.

There was no incumbent in the Fourth Ward council race, as Karen Wilmoth—the councilor whose term was expiring—filed to run for mayor instead. In Fourth Ward, a former council member, Nanci Bross-Fregonara, defeated first-time candidate Liz Marshall-MacVean 143 to 98.

In Fifth Ward, incumbent Councilor David Parker received 72 votes, defeating challengers Howard Knapp (6 votes) and Burley Woods (67 votes).

The new mayor and all five council members commencing new terms April 1 will be sworn in at a special council meeting at 7 p.m. on March 31, at the Phil Gainer Community Center.

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Two dead in River Street Fire

House was posted as uninhabitable with entrances sealed

Elkins, W. Va., March 10, 2021: Two people died last night in a fire that occurred in a house on River Street. The house had been closed and posted as uninhabitable by city fire and code enforcement officials. The decedents have not been identified, and the W. Va. State Fire Marshal is investigating.

The house, at 5 River Street, had been offered for sale at auction in 2019 for unpaid property taxes but did not sell. The State of West Virginia now holds a lien against the property for the unpaid taxes and associated fees.

This property came to the attention of city officials last year because of a large refuse pile in the backyard and signs of entry and occupation by unauthorized persons. Because there was no water service to the house, it was considered de facto uninhabitable under city code. The front porch was also missing, and the house was in a general and advanced state of disrepair.

City Code Enforcement Officer Phil Isner ordered the unauthorized occupants to vacate the premises, requested electrical power be disconnected, and—on June 1, 2020—posted signs on the front and back doors informing that the house had been determined to be unsafe. The signs prohibited occupancy until such time as an official finding that the identified hazardous conditions had been corrected.

At the time of the posting, Isner sealed the back door with plywood and screwed the front door shut. He also closed and locked the building’s windows. Isner and Elkins Fire Department Chief Tom Meader included the property on their near-daily rounds monitoring properties of concern.

Lacking title to the property or a court order authorizing further steps, the city had at this point exhausted its options for enforcement actions against this property. After the posting, the city offered to redeem the tax lien, take title of the property, and shoulder the cost of demolishing the decrepit structure, but this offer was declined by the owner of record.

The Elkins Fire Department responded to the fire and attempted to make entry, but the building was fully engulfed by the time firefighters arrived. Because the fire occurred in a building with no electrical power or gas service, it seems to have resulted from human activity. As is always the case when fires result in deaths, the W. Va. State Fire Marshal is investigating and will be the only source of any further official statements regarding this matter.

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Canvass Results

At yesterday’s canvass of the 2021 Municipal Election, council–seated as the Board of Canvassers–declared election results. Although most of the 30 provisional ballots were accepted, they did not change any of the races’ outcomes. (Read more about the canvass here.)

The deadline for candidates to request a recount is 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday (48 hours after conclusion of the canvass). No recount has yet been requested.

Council convenes Wednesday at 3 p.m. to certify the vote totals in all wards where recounts have not been requested.

Review changes in vote totals by clicking here.

Update on Downtown Trees

From the Elkins Tree Board:

“Elkins Main Street and the Elkins Tree Board recognizes and thanks the City of Elkins Operations Department for their recent work on the downtown trees. Trimming—and removing—trees is a significant undertaking, and they have persevered.

“The urban forest is a vital part of city life. A true public resource, the downtown canopy provides shade for businesses and pedestrians, creates an inviting visual cue for visitors, and establishes habitat for birdlif e; while providing positive mental benefits, sequestering carbon, and mitigating the urban heat island effect.

“So: why have some trees come down? Urban forestry is about finding the right tree for the right place. In Elkins, many trees have been planted above their right place—elevated in tree boxes. Replacing these trees in phases over time with new trees planted at grade will extend the lifetime of our urban trees, while encouraging deep root growth, which helps trees avoid damaging infrastructure.

“In mid-March, Elkins will welcome new saplings to its downtown core. With species and planting requirements thoughtfully considered, the newest city trees will help make the place we live more livable. They are an investment in tomorrow, today.”

Explainer: What’s a “Canvass”?

On Monday, at 11 a.m., the Elkins council will convene in public session at the Phil Gainer Community Center as the Elkins Board of Canvassers. The purpose of the meeting is to canvass the election that was held Tuesday.

What does it mean to “canvass the election”? (more…)

Where to Find Election Results

To publicize election results on the evening of March 2, we have added a new page to the city website: www.cityofelkinswv.com/election-results

Preliminary results of the March 2, 2021 election will be posted on that page as results are received from polling places. Election results are not final until after canvassing (March 8) and certification (March 10).

We will also provide updates on the below channels:

City Hall News: Week of March 1, 2021

Elkins, W. Va., February 27, 2021: Election day is Tuesday. The Finance Committee meets Monday, and Council meets Thursday. The regularly scheduled meeting of council’s Economic Growth and Development Committee is canceled.

On Monday at 10 a.m., the Finance Committee meets in special session to work on the fiscal year 2022 budget. At this meeting, the committee will consider requests for contributions to outside organizations, including the Elkins Parks and Recreation Commission, the Elkins-Randolph County Airport Authority, the Randolph County Animal Control Office, the Randolph-Elkins Health Department, and others.

The Elkins Historic Landmarks Commission has been working since 2013 to obtain Historic District National Register certification for the city’s Davis-Graham District neighborhood. On Monday at 1 p.m., there will be a virtual presentation concerning this effort. Please contact EHLC chair Maryann Durland for attendance information: (304) 636-3896.

Tuesday is election day. Polling places will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday is the last day to hand-deliver absentee ballots to the city clerk’s office (Elkins City Hall, 401 Davis Ave.) Absentee ballots postmarked by March 2 and received by mail before the start of the canvass on March 8 will be counted. More: www.bit.ly/Elkins2021Election.

The Elkins Tree Board meets virtually on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. For login information, email: nbrossfregonara@gmail.com.

Council holds its regular meeting Thursday at 7 p.m. The agenda may be adjusted through Tuesday. Current items are consideration of a nominee to the Elkins Tree Board, a contract for integration of new water meter software with the city’s accounting system, the second and final reading of an amended floodplain ordinance, and the first reading of an ordinance establishing a board to manage the city’s water system.

Fire-protection service fees for property owners outside Elkins city limits are due by March 8.

Fire season starts Monday. From March 1 through May 31, there is to be no outdoor burning between the hours of 6 a.m. and 5 p.m. inside city limits, per city code.

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Elkins Returning to In-Person Meetings

Council Meetings will be held at Phil Gainer Community Center

Elkins, W. Va., February 24, 2021: Elkins Common Council and its committees will return to in-person meetings March 1, Mayor Van Broughton ordered last week. Committee meetings will be held in council chambers, while council meetings—including when council convenes as the Board of Canvassers following the March 2 city election—will be held at the Phil Gainer Community Center.

“We can hold committee meetings in council chambers because, with only three council members and some city staff members, there will be enough room for people to spread out,” said Broughton. “We’re moving council meetings to the Phil Gainer Center because there just isn’t room in council chambers for social distancing between ten council members and a half dozen city employees.”

The mayor’s order prohibited attendance by anyone currently experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, having tested positive for the COVID-19 virus within fourteen days of the meeting, or residing in a household with anyone in any of these categories. Attendees will be required to sign in, provide contact information, and affirm that they are in compliance with these requirements.

The mayor also listed safety precautions that councilors, city staff, and audience members will be asked to follow at in-person council and committee meetings.

  • Face coverings must be worn by all persons at all times, except when speaking. Speakers must be six feet or separated by a partition from other persons.
  • Audience members who do not reside in the same household must maintain a six-foot distance from each other.
  • To enable appropriate distancing, a maximum capacity will be enforced for both council chambers and the Phil Gainer Center. (The number will depend on how many attendees are from the same household and so cannot be posted in advance.)

The mayor says he believes returning to in-person meetings with these precautions in place achieves the necessary balance of safety and openness.

“As mayor, I take my responsibility to the citizens, to city employees, and to [council] very seriously,” said Broughton, in his order. “This includes protection of health and safety along with operation of a transparent government. I have continued to work with the administrative officers in evaluating our local pandemic-related health conditions and balancing that with our duty as elected officials. I am confident we have made the right decisions so far and that we will continue to make good decisions moving forward.”

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City Glass Recycling Drop-off Site Reopens

The city’s glass recycling dropoff site near Robert E. Lee Avenue/Flood Control Road has been reopened.

The site was closed in early February as the containers were full. As of today, our contractor has emptied the containers and the site is operational once more.

For more information about recycling in Elkins, click here.

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