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Elkins to begin virtual meetings

The Inter-Mountain file photo From left, Elkins City Councilwoman Karen Wilmoth, Operations Manager Bob Pingley, Chief of Police Travis Bennett and Councilman Chris Lowther take part in a recent meeting.

ELKINS — The City of Elkins will begin having governmental meetings using online streaming technology this week.

A special call Elkins City Council meeting — which officials are describing as a “virtual meeting” — has been scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday.

Due to policy changes in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the meeting will not be open to the public. Residents are encouraged to watch the meeting by going to www.cityofelkinswv.com/login and following information about how to participate.

“No live comments can be accepted due to physical and technological limitations during the coronavirus pandemic state of emergency,” the agenda for Thursday’s meeting reads. “Public comments may be entered to Elkins City Clerk Jessica Sutton by emailing jsutton@cityofelkinswv.com or calling 304-636-1414 ext. 1211. To be read aloud during the public comment period of this meeting, comments must be entered no later than 6:30 p.m. Thursday.”

On the agenda for Thursday’s meeting is a “COVID-19 State of Emergency update,” the reappointment of Gerri Roberts as the city attorney, and consideration of the Fiscal Year 2021 city budget.

Sutton issued the following press release Monday:

“Upon Mayor Broughton’s declaration of a citywide state of emergency on March 17, 2020, and based on recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control regarding minimizing infection risk during the coronavirus pandemic, Elkins Common Council temporarily suspended council and committee meetings.

“This suspension was necessary because of the requirement, under the West Virginia Open Meetings Act, that the public must be able to attend any meeting of a city council or other governing body of a political subdivision in West Virginia. Because of the federal recommendation that people avoid gatherings of ten people or more, and because the City of Elkins did not yet have the capability to enable remote access to meetings, there was no way to proceed that was both legal and safe for the public and for city officials and staff.

“After research and testing, city staff has selected the Zoom conferencing platform to enable remote attendance of meetings by city officials, staff, and members of the public. By using Zoom, anyone who wants to can join and listen to council and committee meetings by either dialing in (audio only) or by using the Zoom app or web platform.

“Unfortunately, like many other West Virginia cities exploring remote meeting options, we have not found a satisfactory way to enable live public comment via this platform while still ensuring an orderly meeting. The best solution we can offer right now is that we will accept public comment submitted via email or telephone call/voice mail to the city clerk up to 30 minutes before the start of each meeting. Public comments received in this way will be read aloud at the meeting. (Please note that current council rules restrict each public comment to five minutes in length.)”

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