Envision Elkins requests action from city officials

The Inter-Mountain photo by Brad Johnson Mark Doak speaks to Elkins City Council on Thursday on behalf of Envision Elkins.

ELKINS — A local businessman addressed Elkins City Council Thursday evening representing other downtown business owners.

Mark Doak made a presentation on behalf of Envision Elkins during Thursday’s council meeting at Elkins City Hall.

Doak said Envision Elkins began meeting twice a month about two years ago. The group consists of downtown property owners, the majority of whom “reside outside Elkins city limits with no electoral voice in government,” he said. The group counts 34 property owners on its distribution list.

“Many individuals are investing in downtown Elkins,” Doak said. “We are currently preparing a ‘Spring Spruce Up’ listing, asking each property owner to make an improvement to their building in the spring of 2019.

“As with any investment, the property owners see opportunities along with challenges to their investment dollars,” he told council members.

On behalf of Envision Elkins, Doak listed four “actions the city could take to support and grow the private investment trend.”

First, Doak said city officials should work to grow the population of Elkins, which was listed at 7,350 in 2000, and at 7,050 in 2017. “Overall, we have been stuck at the same population for the past 17 years,” he said.

“The consensus of our group supports annexation,” Doak said. “… Those outside the city limits opposing annexation to avoid taxation, currently enjoy many of the Elkins benefits.”

Second, Envision Elkins supports the completion of Corridor H.

“Capitalizing on Corridor H will require utilities, other infrastructure and traffic planning,” Doak notes. “… it must be prioritized before meaningful decisions can be made in other areas.”

Third, Envision Elkins wants city officials to use the revenue from the new 1 percent sales tax to improve the town, not just pay bills and salaries.

“We appreciate and are excited about the city’s Strategic Plan, especially the areas of downtown beautification, improving the governmental process and city expansion and opportunities,” Doak said. “The 1 percent sales tax provides a funding source to implement the Strategic Plan.

“We believe the challenge to the city is to ensure the majority of the sales tax is not absorbed into normal city operations,” he said. “We would again respectively request the city provide an outline on how the sales tax will be used.”

In October, City Treasurer Tracy Judy explained that $184,833.12 accrued during the roughly two-month period since the July 1 implementation of the tax. She noted officials had only estimated in the city budget for $250,000 to be raised in the first full year. City officials have declined to earmark how the sales tax revenue will be spent.

The fourth point Doak made was about law enforcement.

“The city police are consistently mentioned at our meeting,” he told council. “Everyone appreciates Chief (Glenn) Galloway and the department he is building. We would like to have downtown police foot patrols. There is also the question of why Elkins is providing law enforcement in areas outside of city limits.”

Doak closed his presentation by stressing that Envision Elkins wants to work with city officials to create a “growing, vibrant Elkins.”

“There are many positives happening in and around Elkins,” Doak said. “We appreciate your efforts. Envision Elkins welcomes the opportunity to partner with you in making Elkins a better community.”

Doak also provided the council members and city officials present with packets containing supporting documentation.

No council members or city officials commented on Doak’s presentation during the meeting, but afterward, Mayor Van Broughton told The Inter-Mountain, “I thought Mark’s presentation was great. I really appreciate what he was saying and the way he presented it. We all have to work together.”