City abandons late fee policy

Elkins City Council abandoned an informal policy Thursday which would cost the city nearly $20,000 to continue.

A resolution to “authorize application of delayed water payment penalty” was adopted by council after City Treasurer Lisa Daniels-Smith brought attention to a policy which waived the late fee on city utility bills for first-time offenders.

After checking with City Clerk Sutton Stokes, who found no resolution or ordinance pertaining to such a practice, a resolution was drafted to reassert the policy of assessing a 10 percent fee to any late payments.

“(Stokes) was unable to find where any council had approved that one-time forgiveness.” Daniels-Smith told council, adding that by abandoning the policy the city can avoid $20,000 in software upgrades and maintenance fees.

“I just feel that it is not cost effective for the city to pay the fee to rewrite the computer system and then we have to pay the maintenance fee on that every year,” she said.

When asked why the resolution was being made, City Attorney Gerry Roberts explained that it was to make sure council had written and taken action on a policy that they were intending to follow. Because the city did not want to spend the money to track the individuals that had taken advantage of the fee forgiveness, it was important to have an official document on the record, Roberts said.

The treasurer further explained that this resolution did not increase the amount of the penalty nor did it change the date or time frame that the customer had before the additional fee was applied. The current fee is set by the West Virginia Public Service Commission, Daniels-Smith said.

In other news:

During the mayor’s comments, Mayor Duke Talbott announced that the results of the Armory Feasibility Study would be revealed during a public meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Elkins High School auditorium.

Members of the public are urged to attend, Talbott said. Representatives from the city, Randolph County Development Authority, County Commission and other government bodies also will be attending.

Elkins City Council members approved changes to the city clerk’s job description which will make that position responsible for E911 mapping and addressing in the city as well as social media. Additions to the job include the power to assign “new addresses as needed, such as for new construction or property subdivision”; assist “members of the public with address-related questions”; and supervise “projects to update and improve city mapping.”

Personnel going on day trips on city business will continue to be able to be reimbursed for their meals after council approved a change to the city’s personnel manual. The city had been referencing the West Virginia state policy regarding reimbursements, but the state has changed their rules and the city wanted to reflect its decision to no longer use it as a guide.

Under the new state guideline, employees would not be able to be reimbursed for meals during the hours of a normal work day. Daniels-Smith said that in order for the city to continue to offer that option to employees, the council needed to remove the reference to state policy from its manual.

Talbott also announced that William Vanorsdale was reappointed to a 5-year term on the Housing Authority of the City of Elkins ending Dec. 31, 2018.

Council also approved the following agenda items:

An application to the Governor’s Community Participation Grant Program that, if received, will assist in the Glendale park restrooms project.

The program could yield up to $15,000 for the restrooms and concession stands at the park.

Designation of the municipal courtroom as the location for absentee in-person voting. Stokes noted that this resolution will make absentee voting more easily accessible to anyone with trouble getting around as the municipal courtroom is located on the first floor of city hall.

The appointment of 25 residents to the uniform election board.

A travel request for city clerk to attend the West Virginia Municipal League Mid-Winter Meeting and Elections Seminar Feb. 17-19 in Charleston.

The appointment of Don Corbin to an unexpired term on the Board of Zoning Appeals.

An employment recommendation to move sanitation worker Mark Brown to full-time status upon completion of his 90-day probationary period.

The payment of invoices from Robert R. Rodecker for the water-system improvement project.

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