City Hall News for August 29, 2020

Elkins, W. Va., August 29, 2020: On Tuesday, at 5:30 p.m., council will host an in-person Charter Change Q&A event at the Phil Gainer Community Center. Council’s charter-change attorney will present a brief summary of his analysis of the current charter, which was last updated in 1901. Then council will take questions and comments from in-person attendees. To reduce chances of transmitting the COVID-19 virus, seats will be placed 6 feet apart, face coverings are required, and only 72 audience members will be admitted. See: www.bit.ly/ElkinsCharterUpdate.

Elkins Tree Board meets Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. in the Darden Garden, between city hall and the Darden House. The board will consider agenda items including setting tree planting and maintenance workdays and the possibility of an Adopt-a-Tree program.

At its 5:30 p.m. Thursday virtual meeting, council’s EGAD Committee will discuss next steps for annexation and the placement of electric vehicle charging stations in Elkins.

Council meets virtually in regular session Thursday at 7 p.m. The meeting will begin with a public hearing concerning the issuance of bonds to fund Phase II of the sewer/stormwater separation project. (See: www.bit.ly/Phase2Sewer)

Council’s regular meeting commences immediately following this hearing. The agenda is not yet complete but includes the third and final reading of the ordinance issuing the sewer bonds. Council will also receive the results of the online charter-change survey and continue its discussion of possible charter changes.

There will be written and physical civil-service testing for prospective firefighters September 12. More information, including test requirements, here: www.bit.ly/ElkinsCivilService

All council and committee meetings are open to the public. For virtual meeting login info, agendas, and information about submitting public comments, please see: www.cityofelkinswv.com/login.

Charter Change Q&A Tuesday, Sept. 1

Elkins Common Council will host an in-person Charter Change Q&A event at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, September 1 at the Phil Gainer Center. Council’s charter-change attorney, Tim Stranko, will present the findings of his analysis of the current charter, which was last updated in 1901. Then council will take questions and comments from in-person attendees.

Stranko’s presentation at Tuesday’s Q&A will present three main categories of possible charter changes. The first category consists of updates to charter provisions that have been rendered obsolete by changes in state law and the evolution of the Elkins city government. These updates would simplify and modernize the charter without significantly affecting the form and functioning of the city government.

The second category in Stranko’s presentation will be possible changes to council size, elections, and representation. While Elkins uses strict ward-based representation and election processes, many other West Virginia cities have at least some “at-large” council members or have ward-based members face citywide election.

“At-large representation and citywide voting might increase voter turnout and enable a wider range of people to run for office,” says Sutton. “State code is not very specific about these aspects of city councils, so there are a few possible options.”

The third category includes possible changes to the structure of the city government. State law authorizes West Virginia cities to use one of five government structures, or plans. Under the current plan, council holds both governing and administrative authority and the mayor has almost no independent authority (i.e., what state code calls the Mayor-Council Plan). Other available plans assign administrative authority to either a mayor (i.e., Strong Mayor Plan) or a city manager (i.e., the Manager or Mayor-Manager plans).

“In the city’s strategic plan, council set a goal of evaluating the feasibility of adopting a city manager form of government,” says Elkins City Clerk Jessica Sutton. “That evaluation is ongoing, so now is the time for the public to speak up if that is something they support or oppose.”

The Q&A session will follow the governor’s orders and public health guidelines for reducing the risk of transmitting the COVID-19 virus. Attendees must wear masks at all times inside the building and will be seated six feet apart from each other. A total of 72 members of the public will be admitted.

Due to technical obstacles, the Q&A will not be livestreamed. A written summary of questions and answers will be posted to the city’s website.

“We don’t currently have the tools to livestream an event with so many different potential speakers and ensure that viewers would be able to hear all questions and answers,” says Sutton. “If anyone isn’t comfortable attending an in-person event or has a schedule conflict, they can email ideas and concerns to me and, if time permits, I’ll present them to council and Mr. Stranko during the Q&A.”

Sutton pointed out that there are additional options for public input.

“Our online survey will be available through September 2 and people can also submit public comments for any upcoming council meetings,” she says. “Also, before council can finally adopt a charter by ordinance, state law requires a formal public hearing. Right now, the earliest that could happen would be sometime in October.”

Sutton emphasized the importance of public input during this process.

“Changing the city’s charter could profoundly affect Elkins for generations. It’s vital that councilors hear as much input as possible so they can draft a charter update that everyone can feel good about.”

For a link to the online survey and more charter-related information, including the text of the current charter, a charter-change FAQ, and other background resources, please visit: www.bit.ly/ElkinsCharterUpdate.

Charter Change: City Manager Costs and Tenure

During council’s ongoing consideration of possible updates and changes to the city charter, councilors requested information about the potential costs and likely tenure of a city manager in Elkins. Tim Stranko, the attorney retained by council to assist with the charter-change process, has prepared a memo answering these questions.

Mr. Stranko’s research finds that, in West Virginia cities employing city managers, the annual salary range is $75-130,000, with the average for a West Virginia city being $89,035.  According to a study by the American Society for Public Administration, “the average tenure of a city manager has been “lengthening over the decades” to 6.9 years.” Attached to his memo is a report from the International City/County Management Association that looks at the question of tenure of city managers in more detail.

Mr. Stranko also presents specific information from several West Virginia cities that employ city managers. Click here to access the memo.

Restructure Council?

Last in a series of four articles about the charter change process

Last week, Elkins Common Council began public deliberations on possible changes to the city charter. This week, the City of Elkins is running a series of articles providing background and contextual information about the charter-change process. You can find more about this process, including an analysis of the current charter and charter change FAQs, here: www.bit.ly/ElkinsCharterUpdate.

How big should council be? How should council members be elected? How should representation be configured?

These are some of the other questions council is wrestling with as members deliberate toward possible changes to the Elkins City Charter, which has not been updated since 1901. (more…)

Change Our Government Structure?

Third in a series of four articles about the charter change process

Last week, Elkins Common Council began public deliberations on possible changes to the city charter. This week, the City of Elkins is running a series of articles providing background and contextual information about the charter-change process. You can find more about this process, including an analysis of the current charter and charter change FAQs, here: www.bit.ly/ElkinsCharterUpdate.

One of the most important questions facing council during this process is whether to alter the basic structure of the city government. State code allows West Virginia municipalities to be structured under five different plans. Each of these plans has advantages and disadvantages. (more…)

What is a Charter—and What Does Ours Say?

Second in a series of four articles about the charter-change process.

Last week, Elkins Common Council began public deliberations on possible changes to the city charter. This week, the City of Elkins is running a series of articles providing background and contextual information about the charter-change process. You can find more about this process, including an analysis of the current charter and charter change FAQs, here: www.bit.ly/ElkinsCharterUpdate.

The role of a city charter is similar to that of a nation’s constitution. The charter stipulates the structure, authority, and basic operating rules of a city government. A city’s charter also describes the terms, election/appointment process, and core responsibilities of city officials. (more…)

The Charter Update Process

First in a series of four articles about the charter-change process.

Last week, Elkins Common Council began public deliberations on possible changes to the city charter. Because changes to a city’s charter can have profound effects on that city, it’s important that members of the public understand the process so they can provide informed input. Today through Friday, we’re running a series of blog posts providing background and contextual information about the charter-change process. (You can find more about this process, including an analysis of the current charter and charter change FAQs, here.) (more…)

City Hall News for August 8, 2020

Elkins, W. Va., August 8, 2020: Meeting this week are council’s Public Safety Committee and Rules & Ordinances Committee, as well as the Elkins Tree Board.  Monday’s regularly scheduled meeting of the Personnel Committee has been cancelled for lack of new business. (more…)

Fire Department Testing September 12

The Elkins Fire Department (EFD) will be performing civil service testing on September 12. The physical fitness testing and written testing will both be offered that day.

There are currently no openings at EFD. However, the only way to be considered for a future opening is to pass the physical and written tests and be placed on the eligible candidates list of the Elkins Firefighters Civil Service Commission.

EFD’s physical fitness standards have recently been updated. (To download them, click here.) The standards are challenging, so candidates interested in testing in September should begin training immediately.

Download an application packet here.

Elkins Council Considering Charter Changes Thursday

Elkins, W. Va., August 3, 2020: Elkins Common Council will hear a presentation from its charter-change consultant at Thursday’s 7 p.m. meeting. The presentation will include analysis of and recommendations for improving the city charter. Immediately following, council will begin public deliberations concerning what charter changes to pursue. Following Thursday’s meeting, subsequent planned steps in the charter review process include opportunities for questions and input from the public, a formal public hearing, and at least two additional public council meetings. (more…)

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