Code causing conflict

Elkins City Councilman-elect Lonnie Randall wants to continue serving the town as a volunteer firefighter after he’s sworn in, but the city code may not allow him the opportunity.

“I don’t think the people of Elkins want to lose a 10-year volunteer firefighter,” Randall said during a break in Thursday’s City Council meeting. “They want to keep that firefighter and gain a councilman.”

Randall, who won a 1st Ward council seat in Tuesday’s Elkins Municipal Election, said city officials are working to find a way around the problem.

“It’s in the city’s hands,” he said. “I’m hoping they can find a way to let me do both. Council is here to help the people, and so is the fire department.”

A section of the city code states that city employees are not eligible to serve as mayor or on council. Currently, all of Elkins’ volunteer firefighters are paid for calls they respond to within city limits. Because the city pays them, they are eligible for workers’ compensation, which helps lower the city’s insurance premiums.

Fire Chief Tom Meader said his department’s volunteers are paid minimum wage for in-town calls. He said most volunteers get paid every three weeks by the city, averaging $200 to $300.

During Thursday’s meeting, Councilman Mark Scott made a motion for council to go into executive session for “discussion between client and attorney.” Councilman Charles Kinnison, who lost in the 1st Ward Council race Tuesday to Randall, asked to recuse himself from the session.

After about 45 minutes, council emerged from the executive session. Mayor Duke Talbott said, “No actions were taken, no decisions were made.”

Following the meeting, when asked by The Inter-Mountain what the city’s stance was on Randall’s desire to serve as both a councilman and a volunteer firefighter, Talbott said, “It’s purely a legal matter.”

– Also during Thursday’s meeting, Councilwoman Marilynn Cuonzo, 4th Ward, noted that the building permits approved by council included four demolition permits requested by Kroger Corp., and a permit request by the company for asbestos removal.

“They’re building a Super Kroger,” Talbott said. “It’s been on the drawing board for quite a while.” The mayor said Kroger recently purchased a piece of property near the current store needed for the project.

“They do have big plans,” Mayor-elect and current 2nd Ward Councilman Van Broughton said. “We’re lucky they’ve stayed in town.”

Kroger Corp. requested demolition permits for structures located at 522 and 524 Center St. and 400 and 400 1/2 Randolph Ave., totalling $45,000.

The $19,500 asbestos removal permit is for all four structures.

– Talbott said he and Broughton had begun the “transition process” for the mayoral position.

“I’ve started a series of meetings with Mayor-Elect Broughton,” Talbott said. “We want to have as seamless a transition as possible.”

The next Elkins City Council meeting will be March 21 at 7 p.m. at Elkins City Hall.