UPDATED 8/30: Water-Line Flushing to Resume Monday

Updated Monday, 8/30

Elkins, W. Va., August 27, 2021: Elkins crews have completed flushing water lines in Fourth Ward and Fifth Ward. There will be no flushing Friday night. Work will continue Monday 5 p.m.-5 a.m., when crews will start flushing lines south of Eleventh Street, including all of First Ward in Third and Second Wards. [Update: the change is because of water-line relocation work scheduled for South Elkins Monday at 4.]

“We’re making good time so far,” says Wes Lambert, the chief operator of the city’s water system. “The Street Department was good enough to detail four men to assist, so that has really helped us move quickly.”

After flushing is complete in a given section of the city, the Elkins Fire Department performs flow testing on each hydrant to verify that they are operating according to specifications. Although flow testing only requires hydrants to be open for a few minutes, it takes longer than flushing because each hydrant must be tested. Flushing does not require opening every hydrant, because many sit near each other on the same line.

Even though the overall goal of the flushing is to reduce sediment in water lines, customers in or near a section of the city that is being flushed may temporarily experience heightened discoloration in their water. This does not indicate that the water is unsafe to drink, cook with, or bathe in, but it would be advisable to avoid doing laundry until any remaining sediment has settled once again.

Customers experiencing cloudy or discolored water can try leaving taps open in a bathtub or sink for 20 minutes. It is important not to run hot water, however, as that would fill the building’s water heater with water that contains sediments.

Each week, the city will use its social media channels, email alert list, and website to announce which sections of the city will be flushed. The information will also be supplied to the media.

To keep up with City of Elkins news and announcements about this and other topics, bookmark our website (www.cityofelkinswv.com), sign up for email alerts (www.cityofelkinswv.com/newsletter-signup), and follow us via Facebook (www.facebook.com/elkinscityhall) or Twitter (www.twitter.com/elkinscityhall). The Water Line Flushing Map is here: www.bit.ly/Elkins-Flushing-Map.

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City Hall News: Week of August 30, 2021

Elkins, W. Va., August 28, 2021: The Elkins Planning Commission and Elkins City Council meet Thursday.

The Planning Commission meets virtually Thursday at 1 p.m. to continue its work updating the city’s zoning ordinance. Agenda items include consideration of input from city council, Elkins Main Street, and a historic preservation consultant. The commission will also be planning public input opportunities. Log-in information for this meeting is here: www.cityofelkinswv.com/council-and-committee-meetings.

Council meets Thursday at 7 p.m. The agenda, which can be adjusted through Tuesday, includes the second reading of an ordinance lowering the speed limit on Boundary Avenue from 25 to 15 miles per hour, consideration of the Elkins Tree Board’s application for a state grant to fund planting additional downtown trees, and a resolution of support for the Appalachian Forest National Heritage Area pollinator program. Council will also hear a presentation from Mark Doak, representing Envision Elkins, a downtown business owners’ group.

Water-line flushing resumes Monday: www.cityofelkinswv.com/water-line-flushing-to-resume-monday.

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Flushing Complete East of Randolph, Continuing West of Randolph

Elkins, W. Va., August 26, 2021: Water-line flushing east of Randolph Avenue is complete, and crews will begin flushing west of Randolph Avenue tonight. The Elkins Fire Department is flow-testing all fire hydrants in Fourth Ward today. Water lines are being flushed 5 p.m.-5 a.m. Monday-Friday, and work is expected to continue for the next two weeks.

Tonight’s flushing, which starts at 5 p.m., will begin in the vicinity of Randolph Avenue and Eleventh Street and proceed north between the Tygart River and Randolph. The hydrants to be flushed starting tonight lie in the easternmost part of First Ward and Second Ward. Hydrants in Fifth Ward will be flushed as well.

On the city’s online Water Line Flushing Map (www.bit.ly/Elkins-Flushing-Map), these hydrants are in Section 2 and are identified by green dots. (See screenshot, below.)

“Last night’s flushing in Fourth Ward went pretty quickly,” said Wes Lambert, the chief operator of the city’s water system. “The further we move out from Reservoir Hill, the longer it is going to take to clear some of the lines.”

To flush the lines, Water Distribution Department workers systematically open fire hydrants and let the water flow at full force until water clears. After flushing is complete, the Elkins Fire Department will perform flow testing on each hydrant to ensure they are operating as required for emergencies.

Although the overall goal of the flushing is to reduce sediment in water lines, customers in or near a section of the city that is being flushed may temporarily experience heightened discoloration in their water. This does not indicate that the water is unsafe to drink, cook with, or bathe in, but it would be advisable to avoid doing laundry until any remaining sediment has settled once again.

Customers experiencing cloudy or discolored water can try leaving taps open in a bathtub or sink for 20 minutes. It is important not to run hot water, however, as that would fill the building’s water heater with water that contains sediments.

Each week, the city will use its social media channels, email alert list, and website to announce which sections of the city will be flushed. The information will also be supplied to the media.

City officials are currently investigating whether funds awarded to Elkins under the American Rescue Project Act (ARPA) may be used to replace older water mains and make other improvements to the water distribution system.

“We are hoping to take some concrete steps soon toward a more permanent solution for customers experiencing discolored water,” says Lambert. “Until then, regular line flushing is the best tool we have for at least reducing the problems people are having. Unfortunately, some people are going to see discolored water as we proceed. We just hope everyone will be patient and bear with us as we get this program rolling again.”

To keep up with City of Elkins news and announcements about this and other topics, bookmark our website (www.cityofelkinswv.com), sign up for email alerts (www.cityofelkinswv.com/newsletter-signup), and follow us via Facebook (www.facebook.com/elkinscityhall) or Twitter (www.twitter.com/elkinscityhall). The Water Line Flushing Map is here: www.bit.ly/Elkins-Flushing-Map.

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Water-Line Flushing Starts Wednesday

Elkins, W. Va., August 24, 2021: The City of Elkins Water Distribution Department will begin flushing the city’s water lines on Wednesday night, the chief operator of the city’s water system announced today. The flushing will be performed 5 p.m.-5 a.m. Monday-Friday as other work allows. This week’s flushing will focus on Fourth Ward and U.S. Route 33 eastward from its intersection with Randolph Avenue.

The purpose of the flushing, which the health department recommends be performed every six months, is to reduce the volume of rust, mineral deposits, and other sediments in underground water pipes that can cause cloudy or discolored water at the tap.

In 2017, the city built a new, state-of-the-art plant to purify water from the Tygart Valley River. This water must travel to Elkins homes and businesses through a network of much older pipes, however, some of which have been in the ground for the better part of a century.

“Our water plant puts out high-quality, extremely pure drinking water, but some of the pipes that water has to go out through are really old and not in the greatest condition,” says Wes Lambert, the water system’s chief operator. “That fancy new plant doesn’t mean a whole lot to someone who gets brown water when they turn on the faucet.”

To flush the lines, Water Distribution Department workers will systematically open fire hydrants and let the water flow at full force for a prescribed amount of time. The flushing will be combined with flow testing to ensure each hydrant is operating in accordance with fire department requirements.

“The flushing is not a perfect process because of the way the system has grown over the years,” says Lambert. “There are some parts of the city where, because of hydrant location and the hydrodynamics of the pipe network in that area, we aren’t able to flush as much as we would like. But the hope is that by flushing everywhere we can on a regular basis, it will still reduce the overall volume of sediment in the pipes citywide.”

Another reason flushing is not always a cure-all for discolored water is because the rust or other sediments affecting certain customers may originate in their own service lines, the pipes that connect the city-maintained water mains to each customer’s house or building.

“If the rust is coming from a customer’s service line, the flushing we’re doing is not going to help a whole lot,” says Lambert, who points out that the city is responsible for water lines only until they reach each customer’s water meter. “In that case, the customer is going to need to consult with a plumber to see what they might be able to do.”

Lambert explains that the goal is to complete this round of flushing within about a month but concedes it may take longer.

“If our guys could do this every night, we’d be able to wrap up in about a month. But we know there are going to be water-line breaks and other projects that come along, so it will probably run longer than that.”

Although the overall goal of the flushing is to reduce sediment in water lines, customers in or near a section of the city that is being flushed may temporarily experience heightened discoloration in their water. This does not indicate that the water is unsafe to drink, cook with, or bathe in, but it would be advisable to avoid doing laundry until any remaining sediment has settled once again.

Customers experiencing cloudy or discolored water can try leaving taps open in a bathtub or sink for 20 minutes. It is important not to run hot water, however, as that would fill the building’s water heater with water that contains sediments.

Each week, the city will use its social media channels, email alert list, and website to announce which sections of the city will be flushed. The information will also be supplied to the media.

City officials are currently investigating whether funds awarded to Elkins under the American Rescue Project Act (ARPA) may be used to replace older water mains and make other improvements to the water distribution system.

“We are hoping to take some concrete steps soon toward a more permanent solution for customers experiencing discolored water,” says Lambert. “Until then, regular line flushing is the best tool we have for at least reducing the problems people are having. Unfortunately, some people are going to see discolored water as we proceed. We just hope everyone will be patient and bear with us as we get this program rolling again.”

To keep up with City of Elkins news and announcements about this and other topics, bookmark our website (www.cityofelkinswv.com), sign up for email alerts (www.cityofelkinswv.com/newsletter-signup), and follow us via Facebook (www.facebook.com/elkinscityhall) or Twitter (www.twitter.com/elkinscityhall).

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Elkins Launches Online ARPA Survey

Elkins, W. Va., August 20, 2021: City of Elkins is using an online survey to collect public input concerning how to spend federal pandemic-recovery funds granted to the city. The survey will accept responses through Sunday, September 12.

Under the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) passed earlier this year, Elkins has been awarded approximately $3 million in Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds. Mayor Jerry Marco has established an ad-hoc ARPA Advisory Committee to advise the Elkins council as it considers how to make use of these funds.

The mayor, the committee, and city staff have already been discussing possible uses for these funds, including improvements to the city’s water and sewer systems and ADA accessibility upgrades to city hall. The purpose of the online survey is to enable the public to propose additional ideas for making best use of these funds.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury (DOT) has issued rules guiding and restricting expenditures of these funds. There are two overarching restrictions.

First, ARPA funds must be used in one of the following categories: supporting the public health response to the pandemic; addressing the negative economic impacts of the pandemic; replacing public sector revenue losses; providing premium pay for essential workers; improving water and sewer infrastructure; improving broadband infrastructure; and/or providing equity-focused services.

Second, DOT rules specifically prohibit ARPA funds from being used to offset reductions in net tax revenues or to make extraordinary payments (i.e., payments intended to reduce accrued unfunded liabilities) into public pension funds.

According to the U.S. Treasury Department, ARPA funds will be distributed in two equal disbursements, half in 2021 and half in 2022. ARPA funds cannot be used to cover expenditures made prior to March 3, 2021. Funds must be obligated no later than December 31, 2024, and expenditures to cover those obligations must occur no later than December 31, 2026.

Extensive additional restrictions apply. These may be reviewed by visiting the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s ARPA Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds home page to access fact sheets, FAQs, and the full interim rules for use of these funds.

Survey: www.surveymonkey.com/r/RBWDQ3P

DOT Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds homepage: https://home.treasury.gov/policy-issues/coronavirus/assistance-for-state-local-and-tribal-governments/state-and-local-fiscal-recovery-funds

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Melody Himes appointed interim operations manager

At its regular meeting last night, the Elkins council entered executive session under the personnel exemption to discuss a personnel matter in the Operations Department.

After exiting executive session, Mayor Jerry Marco announced that no actions had been taken nor decisions made in executive session.

Councilor Rob Chenoweth, chair of the Personnel Committee, announced that Bob Pingley, the city’s operations manager, had submitted a letter of resignation earlier this week. Councilor Chenoweth moved that Melody Himes, the city’s operations assistant, be appointed interim operations manager. The motion carried.

The mayor announced plans to form a hiring committee.

Henry Ave. Swinging Bridge Closed

The Henry Avenue pedestrian bridge is closed until various urgent maintenance and repair needs can be addressed.
 
We understand that many people use this bridge regularly. The current intention is to re-open it. However, the viability of doing so will depend on what is determined about its condition.
 
We will provide an update after the Street Department has performed an in-depth evaluation.

Return of Juror Questionnaires Required by Law

Elkins, W. Va., August 18, 2021: Elkins Municipal Court recently mailed out questionnaires to prospective jurors, and these must be completed and returned by August 24, city officials announced today. Prospective jurors are required by law to respond and may face punitive action if they do not.

Elkins Municipal Court hears cases involving violations of city laws. Although jury trials are not common at the municipal court, all defendants have the constitutional right to one. A jury trial has been scheduled for September 22, and the city has sent questionnaires to the prospective jury pool to gather information such as availability and possible grounds for being excused or disqualified.

“We’ve sent out several hundred questionnaires to individuals selected as potential jurors for an upcoming jury trial in September,” says Michelle Metheny, the municipal court clerk. “I have only received a few of these questionnaires back. If people don’t return these questionnaires, we’ll have to summon them to appear, and they may then face a charge for failure to appear if they do not.”

Metheny points out that jury service is a crucial component of the judicial system in this country.

“We understand that jury service may seem inconvenient, but everyone has the right to a jury trial,” she says. “In order for any of us to be able to exercise that right, we all have to be willing to serve if asked.”

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City Hall News: Week of August 16, 2021

Elkins, W. Va., August 14, 2021: Meeting next week are the Elkins Sanitary Board, the Elkins Historic Landmarks Commission, and council’s Collaboration & Marketing, Municipal Properties, and Rules & Ordinances Committees. The Personnel Committee’s regular August meeting has been cancelled. Council meets Thursday.

Monday at 3:15 p.m., the Sanitary Board—which oversees the city’s sewer system—will review financial statements and invoices.

Tuesday at 9 a.m., the ad hoc Collaboration & Marketing Committee meets for further consideration of how the committee can best achieve its goals of strengthening community cooperation and making Elkins as attractive as possible for new residents and businesses.

Later Tuesday, at 4 p.m., the Historic Landmarks Commission meets to continue discussion of the possibility of extending the boundaries of the Downtown Historic District. The commission will also hear a report from its County Commission Committee and an update concerning Maplewood Cemetery.

Wednesday at 9 a.m., the Municipal Properties Committee will meet on an agenda that includes the items “downtown sound system” and “W. Va. Coalition Against Domestic Violence parking.”

On Wednesday at 10:30 a.m., the Rules & Ordinances Committee will work on finalizing its recommendations to council concerning additional authorities to be sought under the West Virginia Municipal Home Rule Program. Since 2015, Elkins has participated in this program, which enables cities to apply for authority to adopt local ordinances that differ from state code requirements. The committee will also discuss the vacant properties registration ordinance.

Council meets Thursday at 7 p.m. The agenda may be adjusted through Tuesday. Current items include action on any of the Rules & Ordinances Committee’s recommendations for new home-rule authorities, review of the Elkins Tree Board’s application for a West Virginia Department of Forestry Demonstration Grant (to fund next spring’s downtown tree plantings), and the appointment of two new members to the Board of Zoning Appeals.

Utility bills and in-city Fire & Rescue Service Fee payments are due to the Treasurer’s Department by Wednesday.

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Stoddard Avenue Water Leak

Update: Because of forecasted heavy rains, the leak repair on Stoddard Avenue previously planned for Wednesday is now scheduled to commence Thursday (8/19) at 1 p.m. The resulting outage/low pressure is mainly expected to affect customers on Stoddard Avenue (including Gateway Apartments), Patricia Avenue, and the D&E campus. Other customers may be affected as well.
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The city has received multiple reports of an ongoing low-volume water-main leak on Stoddard Avenue. Repair work on this leak is scheduled to commence Wednesday (8/18).
 
This timing is a result of several factors, including:
  • A shorthanded Water Distribution Department.
  • The scheduled absence of several department employees for mandatory training early next week.
  • The preference of our partners at Davis & Elkins College that water service to the campus not be interrupted during student move-in this weekend.
When work commences on Wednesday (8/18), the resulting outage/low pressure is mainly expected to affect customers on Stoddard Avenue (including Gateway Apartments), Patricia Avenue, and the D&E campus.
 
We will provide more specific notifications as the work commences.
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