Jimmy Hammond says city needs to communicate better

Editor’s note: The following is the fourth in a series of articles detailing responses of former mayors of Elkins to the challenges currently facing the city. The series will continue through this week.

ELKINS — Former Elkins mayor Jimmy Hammond says current city officials could do a better job in both keeping the public informed about projects and in responding to complaints.

Hammond’s responses to The Inter-Mountain’s questionnaire for former Elkins mayors are listed below:

1) What years did you serve as mayor of Elkins?

1993-2001.

2) Can you recall what the single largest complaint you had while you were mayor was, and how were you able to rectify the problem?

Snow plowing — you didn’t plow my street, you blocked my driveway, you plowed my car in. I learned to say we are sorry and will try to do better.

3) Do you feel the new $37 million water plant in Elkins was a successful project and one that was handled responsibly? What would you have done to see the project was finished closer to the original budget?

A new water plant was needed. It would be hard to judge the project from the outside looking in. The things I would have done different: Would have kept the rate payers better informed about what was going on and why the cost and completion time kept moving the wrong way.

4) Many area businesses were opposed to the 1 percent sales tax passed by City Council. Now the tax is in effect. What would be the best use of the new tax income?

I think the 1 percent sales tax is no different from any other tax, and it should be put in the general fund.

The city did not do a great job of selling the tax and its use to the tax payers.

5) In your opinion, what is the best way for the city to be able pay its bills and keep taxes down?

If anyone can figure that out, please come help me with my budget. I am sure there are some savings that could be found. The city bills keep going up as everything else does. The money must come from somewhere.

6) Elkins is considering hiring a city manager. Was that option ever considered when you were mayor and, if so, why wasn’t one hired?

I think it is way overdue. It was talked about during my term. Council members were not willing to give up any of their power.

7) Buckhannon has a five-member city council, as do most cities the size of Elkins. Morgantown has a six-member city council and Morgantown is four times larger than Elkins. If Elkins creates a position for a city manager, should Elkins also reduce the number of city council seats?

Elkins should decrease the city council to five members. Any city manager will have trouble pleasing six bosses. Eleven bosses would be almost impossible. The number should be cut down, there would be more accountability. The fewer people involved takes away from the “safety in numbers” theory.

8) If city council approves a city manager position, should current city council members and current city employees be disqualified to apply for this position?

No. City employees and council members should be considered.

9) Do you feel the managing of the city of Elkins has changed since you were the mayor and, if so, how?

Managing the city certainly has changed. The mayor’s job has changed for the better. There was no operations manager, the day to day operations were handled by the mayor.

10) What do you miss the most about being mayor of Elkins?

Not much.

11) What grade would you give the city in addressing dilapidated properties and what would you do differently, if anything?

Dilapidated properties have been a major problem for every administration for years, and there are no easy and affordable solutions. I would give the enforcement of the ordinance a “D” and the public relations an “F.” I have never heard anyone say maybe we could have done better or we will try to do better. It is my opinion until the attitude of the administration and council members change there will be no change in dealing with dilapidated properties.

12) Are you in favor of annexing businesses and residential areas into the city? If so, where would be the best place to start?

I am very much in favor of annexing businesses and residential areas. Obviously business would be up the Beverly pike and residential in the Scott Addition.

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