Elkins, W. Va., June 8, 2021: City of Elkins is warning of a scam targeting local residents. The scam involves imposters knocking on doors, claiming to represent the city’s water utility, and demanding immediate in-person payment to avoid shutoffs. The city has received reports of two such incidents, and police are investigating.
Dan Stemple, a clerk in the city’s Utility Billing Department, says that city employees will never contact residents this way.
“If your account is overdue, you’ll receive a notice in the mail, then an automated phone call,” he explains. “If we don’t have your phone number, we’ll leave a tag on the front door of the property. No city employees ever visit you in person or call you to demand payment.”
If city employees do need to visit a property, such as to access a water meter or perform other work, they will be easily identifiable.
“Any city employees doing that kind of work would be in uniform and driving a clearly marked city vehicle,” says Stemple. “If you have the slightest concern about whether you are talking to a genuine city employee, you can also call to doublecheck.”
If you are contacted by anyone asking for money on behalf of the city, please call 911. To ask questions about this or any other utilities-related matter, please contact the Utility Billing Department:
- email@example.com; 304-636-1414, ext. 1720
- firstname.lastname@example.org; 304-636-1414, ext. 1715
Read this on our blog: www.cityofelkinswv.com/city-blog.
The city hall parking lot will be closed to public parking indefinitely, starting tonight. The contractor for the city hall parking lot project is breaking ground Wednesday, June 9, and the lot will be fenced off until the project is complete. Work is projected to continue through the summer.
Other than the two handicapped sites immediately adjacent to Fourth Street, there will be no public parking in the city hall lot while work is underway. The paved parking areas will be by permit only.
Courtesy of the Durbin & Greenbrier Railroad, alternative parking is available for June only in the unpaved lot at the southwest corner of Railroad Avenue and Fourth Street, catty-corner to the city hall parking lot. (This parking is at your own risk.)
If your vehicle is currently in the city hall parking lot, please move it before midnight tonight. Vehicles remaining in the lot on Wednesday morning may be towed if attempts to contact the owners are unsuccessful. Vehicles will be towed to the Durbin & Greenbrier lot mentioned above. This towing will not result in fines or charges.
The 15-minute parking zone in front of city hall will remain open as usual.
The goal of the city hall parking lot project is to provide both city employees and the public with a modern, paved, well-lit, aesthetically pleasing parking lot. Learn more by clicking here.
If you have questions, please contact the Operations Department.
Operations Administrative Assistant
Phone: 304-636-1414, Ext. 1437
401 Davis Avenue, Elkins, WV 26241
Elkins, W. Va., June 5, 2021: A busy week at Elkins City Hall will see meetings of council’s Finance, ARPA Advisory, Rules & Ordinances, Municipal Properties, and Personnel Committees. Council meets Thursday.
Monday at 10 a.m., the Finance Committee discusses the disposition of excess revenues as fiscal year 2021 draws to a close at the end of this month. The committee will also begin consideration of a proposal to fund a part-time animal control officer in Elkins.
The mayor’s ad hoc ARPA Advisory Committee, which will advise council on the use of the approximately $3 million in ARPA funds awarded to Elkins, meets Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. to review program guidance, consider initial proposals for expenditures, and plan public input opportunities.
At 9 a.m. on Wednesday, the Rules & Ordinances Committee will work on amendments to city code concerning street and alley abandonments and nuisance properties. Also on Wednesday, at 1 p.m., the Municipal Properties Committee will discuss downtown parking and the iron signs advertising fraternal and service organizations at city entrances.
The Personnel Committee meets Thursday at noon to review city policies concerning temporary employees. At 1 p.m. on Thursday, the Fire Chief Hiring Committee will review résumés.
Council meets Thursday at 7 p.m. The agenda, which may be adjusted though Tuesday, currently includes the second reading of the ordinance eliminating the enforcement agency and a resolution amending council rules.
All of the above meetings will be held at Elkins City Hall (401 Davis Avenue) in the council chamber. Face coverings are required for people who are not fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus.
Elkins, W. Va., June 4, 2021: Mayor Jerry Marco has established an ad-hoc committee to advise the Elkins council as it considers how to make use of approximately $3 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Fiscal Recovery Funds (FRF) awarded to the city earlier this year. The ARPA Advisory Committee meets for the first time on Tuesday at 1:30 p.m.
Elkins City Clerk Jessica Sutton explains that the committee will first review guidance documents from the U.S. Treasury Department, which were only released several weeks ago.
“Before council can start considering specific expenditures, we need to make sure we have a good grasp of what is allowed under ARPA rules,” she says. “The rules are more than 150 pages long, so that is going to take a little time. These are also interim rules, meaning there could be changes as we go along, much as there were with CARES Act funds.”
The Treasury Department’s interim rules state that ARPA funds may be used in four broad categories: to respond to the public health emergency or its negative economic impacts; to provide premium pay to workers performing essential work during the public health emergency; to replace lost public sector revenues; and to make investments in water, sewer, or broadband infrastructure.
ARPA disbursements may not be used for deposit into pension funds or to offset reduction in tax revenues “resulting from a change in law, regulation, or administrative interpretation.” ARPA funds also may not be used as savings for future spending needs.
The ARPA Advisory Committee consists of the chairpersons of each of council’s five standing committees. The committee’s chairperson will be Mike Hinchman (chairperson of the Finance Committee). The committee’s other members are Marilynn Cuonzo (Municipal Properties Committee), Rob Chenoweth (Personnel Committee), David Parker (Public Safety Committee), and Nanci Bross-Fregonara (Rules & Ordinances).
Mayor Marco says he wants community expectations about this money to remain realistic.
“This is absolutely once-in-a-lifetime money for Elkins,” says Marco. “That said, I hope everyone will keep in mind the high cost of materials these days. It’s a lot of money, but it won’t go as far as it would have just a few years ago.”
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.
“Council understands that time is of the essence, because this is a relatively compressed timeframe,” says Marco. “However, they also understand we need to act very deliberately in using these windfall funds. This committee is going to play a vital role in making sure we all have a good understanding of the rules as we start to consider possible projects and expenditures.”
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.
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.
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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.
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
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.
- email@example.com; 304-636-1414, ext. 1720
- firstname.lastname@example.org; 304-636-1414, ext. 1715
Additional information and answers to frequently asked questions about the water meter replacement project may be found here: www.bit.ly/ElkinsWaterMeters
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.