Elkins Council debates position

Elkins City Council held a spirited discussion Thursday regarding the creation of a full-time position to enable Elkins to be accredited as a National Main Street Community.

Council discussed a proposed resolution dealing with Elkins ON TRAC’s efforts to achieve the Main Street program designation. The language of the proposed resolution stated that Elkins City Council “authorizes a full-time position that shall be designated as the Main Street program manager.”

The proposed resolution also stated that Main Street accreditation “requires that there be a full-time Main Street project manager.”

Some council members questioned the wisdom of creating a full-time position when council is currently trying to make necessary cuts in the next fiscal year’s budget.

Councilman Bob Woolwine said council plans to include $15,000 in next year’s budget to support ON TRAC, but “not necessarily for a position.”

“My concern is, we may have enough money this year, but we have to have money in successive years to afford this,” Councilman Mark Scott said.

“Unless you have a significant increase in revenues next year, you’re going to have an awful time balancing the budget as it is right now,” Councilman Tom Hensil said. “If you continue down the road you’re going right now, in three or four years you’re going to be in serious trouble.”

“I know there’s been concern about each department taking a 10 percent cut in their budget (in the proposed budget for the next fiscal year),” Mayor-elect Van Broughton said. “For instance, our police department took a 10 percent hit. It was my understanding that the police department was going to hire three new policemen. Chief White, is that still feasible?”

Police Chief H.R. White said, “I cannot hire three now. We’re going to have one less police officer.”

“Wow,” Broughton said, but added, “We do need ON TRAC, and Karen (Carper, a VISTA volunteer at Elkins ON TRAC) does a great, great job.”

Mayor Duke Talbott said ON TRAC and the Main Street program were valuable to Elkins because they are “basically economic development tools.”

Referring to the proposed resolution, Talbott said, “All this does right now is show the intent” to create a position in the future. Councilmembers then discussed asking the Randolph County Commission to contribute financial support in creating the full-time position.

Councilwoman Nanci Bross-Fregonara suggested that the wording of the resolution be changed from “Council authorizes” to “Council supports a full-time position that shall be designated as the Main Street program manager.”

Council approved the amendment to the proposed resolution unanimously, and then unanimously approved the amended resolution.

  • During a break in Thursday’s meeting, Councilman-elect Lonnie Randall told The Inter-Mountain that he had resolved his conflict with city code preventing him from serving as both a council member and a volunteer firefighter.

Randall said he asked members of the Elkins Fire Department to become an honorary member of the department, and the firefighters unanimously approved. He will still be involved with the department but will not be able to go on fire calls.

Randall said in his discussions with city officials he was told he could not be sworn in as a councilman on April 1 and remain a volunteer firefighter for the city.

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 minimum wage 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.

Randall, who won a 1st Ward council seat in this month’s Elkins Municipal Election, said as a city official he will look at the section of code and see if it should be modified.

  • The City of Elkins held a reception just before Thursday’s meeting to recognize the public service of three departing elected officials, Talbott, Hensil and Councilman Charles Kinnison, before their final council meeting.

Plaques were given to each of the three men in honor of their efforts for the city.

Talbott thanked councilmembers and city employees for all their cooperation over the years.

“It’s been a great ride and I appreciate everything everyone has done. Thank you all,” Talbott said.

Hensil and Kinnison both said it was a pleasure to serve the town’s residents and thanked their fellow councilmembers.

A special council meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Monday to approve the Fiscal Year 2014 budget for the city.

The meeting will be held at Elkins City Hall.