City may condemn property

ELKINS – The city of Elkins is moving toward building a new water treatment plant, but is facing a hurdle. To acquire private property deemed necessary for the project, the city may file an imminent domain petition that would condemn the property.

Elkins City Council passed a resolution during Thursday’s meeting that will authorize the city to move forward with acquiring the property.

The measure gives City Attorney Gerri Roberts authority to “complete all actions necessary for the acquisition of said properties through any and all means authorized for a political subdivision by West Virginia code.”

The resolution also gives Mayor Van Broughton the authority to execute “any and all documents necessary to complete the property acquisitions.” City Treasurer Lisa Daniels-Smith has permission to remit funds to complete the property transactions.

The resolution was passed unanimously. Councilman Bob Woolwine, 1st Ward, asked how close the city was to obtaining the land.

“We are in the process of that,” Roberts said. “We have some of the deeds and have set a deadline for April 20-21 to obtain the rest.”

Elkins Operations Manager Bob Pingley said the city mainly needed to obtain easements for the construction of the plant, but some property still had to be acquired. Pingley said if the property owner does not want to sell the property, the city can move forward with condemning and taking the property.

Roberts explained to The Inter-Mountain if a deed is not obtained the city can file an imminent domain petition in Randolph County Circuit Court to acquire the land. When the city files the petition, money must be set aside in an escrow account equal to the appraised value of the property. Roberts said if the judge grants the imminent domain petition, the property owner would receive the money in the escrow account.

“We may have to condemn some of the property,” Pingley told The Inter-Mountain. “We are not getting responses back. It (the filing of the petition) gives us right of entry so we can start the project without acquiring the property completely. It allows us to move forward with the project.

“We are hoping to go to bid within the next 90 days,” he added. “If we get lucky, this fall we will see activity at the construction site.”

Neither Pingley or Roberts could name the exact amount of acreage the city needs, or how many property owners could be facing an imminent domain petition. Pingley said he believes there are about “three pieces of property that may have to be condemned.”

In other council action:

Council approved two promotions in the Elkins Police Department. Acting Police Chief Lt. S.D. Richards was promoted to captain at a wage of $18.60 an hour. Second Lt. E.R. Canfield was promoted to First Lt. with a wage of $17.61 per hour.

Council also spent approximately 15 minutes in an executive session on an agenda item listed as a “personnel matter in municipal court.” Council went into closed session at approximately 7:05 p.m. and returned to open session around 7:20 p.m. Upon returning, Broughton said no decisions were made.