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Elkins looking at creating city manager position

ELKINS — Elkins City Council will begin public discussions on making changes to the city’s charter during its regularly scheduled virtual meeting Thursday.

One of the goals of the charter change is to possibly alter the way city government is currently set up and hiring a city manager.

“A city charter is the foundational document of a municipality,” Elkins City Clerk Jessica Sutton said in a city press release Monday. “It lays out the structure, authorities, and basic operating rules of a city’s government. Here in Elkins, our charter hasn’t been updated since 1901, so it was time to take a look at what may need adapted to the times.”

Council will hear a presentation from its charter-change consultant on Thursday at 7 p.m. The meeting will be hosted online due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Immediately following the presentation, council will begin public discussions concerning what charter changes to pursue.

Following Thursday’s meeting, subsequent planned steps in the charter review process include opportunities for questions and input from the public, a formal public hearing, and at least two additional public council meetings.

According to the press release, council set goals of updating the charter and the feasibility of adopting a city manager form of government in its 2018-2023 Strategic Plan. Officials began working toward these goals in committee meetings during the summer of 2019. Council hired Tim Stranko, an attorney specializing in municipal law, to help the city with the charter update.

“Mr. Stranko wrapped up his presentations in June, and now council is going to start actively discussing and deliberating about what changes it can support making to the charter,” Sutton said.

The release states that one planned topic for discussion is the possibility of shifting to a city manager-based form of government. State code authorizes five “plans” of municipal government. Elkins currently uses the Mayor-Council Plan, in which both governing and administrative authority are held, collectively, by the mayor and the council.

“Under the Mayor-Council Plan, mayors have almost no authority and all important decisions–both policy and administrative–ultimately fall to council,” Sutton said in the release. “Council wants to consider whether shifting administrative authority to a manager might enable members to focus on policy, strategy, and goalsetting and leave day-to-day management decisions to someone with training and experience in city administration.”

Council will also discuss the possibility of making changes to council structure and election processes, extending the mayor’s term from two to four years, changing the date of elections and including financial processes in the charter.

The Elkins City Council meeting set for 7 p.m. Thursday can be accessed by the public by following the link on the city wishbone at cityofelkinswv.cm/loin/#council. Public comments may be entered to Sustain by mailing joust@cityofelkinswv.cm or calling 304-636-1414 XT. 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.

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