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Four running for mayor

Andrew Carroll

Andrew Carroll

Andrew Carroll is a teacher by vocation and an Elkinite at heart. After graduating from Davis & Elkins College in 2016, he decided to create his home in Elkins because of the specialness of place — a specialness of place that has evolved into a deep love of Elkins.

Currently, Carroll serves future generations as an English teacher at Elkins High School, where he is involved in initiatives to enhance student experiences and provide additional support for teachers. He coaches speech and debate at Elkins High School and Elkins Middle School, and is also the assistant cross-country coach at Elkins Middle School. He is a current member of the board of directors for the Woodlands Development Group, Kump Education Center, Wonder & Grow: Mindful Nature Experience, and is a member of the Davis & Elkins College National Alumni Council.

Carroll’s commitment to service, leadership and innovative teaching methods have been recognized in the community and statewide. In 2015, he was named the Young Leader of the Year by the Elkins-Randolph County Chamber of Commerce. In 2016, he was presented the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award by Davis & Elkins College for his commitment to putting service to others above his own self-interest. In 2019, he was awarded the West Virginia Council of Teachers of English Excellence in Teaching Award for his collaborative teaching practices. He values walkable cities, strong neighborhoods, and believes in the future of Elkins.

1) What do you believe is the biggest issue facing the city of Elkins?

Jerry Marco

Like many communities across West Virginia, Elkins faces serious issues related to drug addiction and its impacts. Healing people and cultivating the hope that stops addiction before it starts takes a community effort. The city has two important roles in that effort:

The City of Elkins has a duty to work collaboratively with other organizations and agencies to make sure that those in need are connected to resources that can help them begin healing. To do this, the Elkins Police Department should work with Randolph County EMS and mental health specialists in the community to create a Quick Response Team modeled after QRT in Huntington. The City of Huntington’s QRT is recognized nationally as the model for a community-based response to addiction. A QRT works collaboratively to make sure that individuals who overdose or individuals who are referred to them by the community make contact with law enforcement, medical professionals, and mental health specialists within 48 hours of a crisis. This kind of collaborative response ensures that individuals are connected to resources that can help them start on the pathway to healing.

The City of Elkins has a duty to address the environment that makes individuals susceptible to addiction. The Rural Health Information Hub points out that low educational attainment, poverty, unemployment, lack of access to mental health resources, and isolation are the primary contributing factors to addiction in rural communities. Beyond working to attract and retain businesses, the city can address the factors that led to addiction by continuing and increasing investment in educational and recreational resources for young people–the Phil Gainer Community Center is a great example of this–and by promoting a culture of community. My ‘Be Neighborly’ initiative is a low-cost/no-cost way to make sure that we are a community where neighbors know and support each other. See more information on my proposal at andrewforelkins.com.

2) What is the goal you most hope to achieve as mayor?

My highest priority as mayor is to rebuild the fabric of our community and restore faith in the future of our city by encouraging people to be neighborly. Robert D. Putnam asserts in his book “Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community” that at the core of many issues — including poor health outcomes, addiction — facing communities today is the long-term decline in civic, political, religious, participation along with a decline in participation in informal community groups.

Karen Wilmoth

Strengthening our community bonds and building social capital begins with a simple hello. As mayor, I will model community-building behavior and start the Be Neighborly program–modeled after Anaheim, California’s City of Kindness program. The mission of the Be Neighborly initiative to facilitate 1,000 new connections between neighbors in the next year.

We can be neighborly by saying hello to neighbors in front of you in the Kroger checkout line, or to neighbors waiting for carryout beside you at your favorite downtown spot. It may be hard at first, but the more we connect with each other the stronger a community we can become. We can be neighborly by writing a letter. Sometimes our schedules make it hard to say hello and connect–that’s why we’ve designed a letter template to share with neighbors. Visit my website to view the template. The benefits are numerous. Communities with stronger community bonds and greater social capital have reduced crime, improved health outcomes, and improved quality of life.

3) Do you support the creation of a city manager position for the City of Elkins?

Yes–I support the change to a Manager-Mayor form of government for three key reasons.

A) We need someone to lead the daily operations of the city. Currently, the city has five coequal department heads each doing an excellent job of serving the city, but there is no single individual to help coordinate between departments, pursue grant funding opportunities, and focus on big picture thinking and long term decision making. A city manager makes city government more efficient and opens up additional opportunities that wouldn’t exist otherwise. Cities in the 21st century are complex organizations that need an expert in government committed to the day to day operations of the city in a way that a part-time council and mayor cannot be. Just as businesses need the leadership of a strong CEO, cities need the strong leadership of a city manager.

B) There are numerous benefits. Benefits are easily seen in Philippi. Recently Philippi’s city manager, Jeremey Drennen, has helped the Philippi receive over 50,000 dollars in grants for downtown redevelopment, $2 million in grants for sewer line extensions, and worked to expand broadband access in the community. If we had a qualified individual with a Masters in Public Administration, Public Policy, or Business Administration — an expert in government — in city hall each day focusing on big-picture thinking and long-term decision making the doors of opportunity will be wide open. Additionally, city managers add efficiency to the operation of the city council by providing a policy expert to inform the council and help bridge continuity of city operations between elected officials.

C) We can afford a city manager. Using funding from the 1% sales tax, we can fund a city manager without diverting funding from other sources or increasing taxes. Based on salaries of comparably sized cities across West Virginia, I believe that we can attract and retain a quality candidate at a salary of 52,000 dollars a year–which is comparable to Lewisburg. With benefits–estimated at 65% of the salary–the total yearly investment by the city will be approximately $85,800.

4) What do you think the city should do to help small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic?

The city has two roles to play to help small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. The city has to make it easier for businesses to operate by reducing unnecessary regulations. For example, allowing businesses to use parking spaces in front of their businesses for pick-up of orders or allowing businesses to use parking spaces as parklets set up for outdoor dining. Additionally, the city has to be open to listening to the business community as their needs change and evolve during the rest of the pandemic.

The city has to advocate for state and federal relief for small businesses and to serve as an information hub to help connect small businesses with programs designed to help them through the pandemic. As mayor, I will always speak up for the needs of the business community to state and federal officials and when needed implore the council to pass resolutions that strongly state the needs of our community in hopes of spurring state and federal support. Additionally, I will work with the External Affairs Specialist Sutton Stokes, to make sure that small businesses are aware of programs — such as those offered by Woodlands Community Lenders — that can help support them through the pandemic.

5) What should the city do about the abandoned swinging bridge?

The city should continue to look for grant funding opportunities to replace the swinging bridge — a task that a city manager could devote significant time and attention to. Additionally, the swinging bridge is indicative of a larger problem. For decades, cities across the country prioritized cars over people. Public funds have paid for roads and streets, while sidewalks have been left the responsibility of individual property owners, leaving a patchwork network of sidewalks that are almost impossible to safely navigate — particularly for those with disabilities. Moving forward, the City of Elkins must look for innovative and creative solutions to prioritize people over cars and shift the burden of sidewalk repair and maintenance from the property owners to the city since sidewalks serve the common good. It is worth noting though, that solutions to this problem have no quick fixes and are likely to play out over the next few decades. If we make the right decisions now, we can ensure safe streets and a walkable community for residents 50, 60 and 70 years into the future.

6) Would you support the effort to annex businesses between the Elkins city limits and Beverly?

Yes, I believe that the city should use all means necessary to annex areas that benefit from their proximity to city limits. However, our primary focus should be the annexation of undeveloped land along North Randolph Avenue towards Corridor H and donut hole properties along Wilson Lane. I support annexation for two reasons.

Businesses benefit from proximity to Elkins as a population center. Residents of Elkins support many businesses that exist just outside of city limits. Annexation formally bonds our community together by acknowledging that the city and businesses need each other to survive. It also allows the city to expand services to all citizens and businesses. For example, Buckhannon benefits greatly from Lowe’s operating within the city limits. Elkins must support annexation to make sure that future business development–particularly along North Randolph Avenue benefit the citizens of Elkins.

It makes Elkins a more attractive business location. While the population of Elkins holds steady around 7,000 residents, the reality is that we are a hub of commerce and activity for nearly 40,000 residents in the region. However, the true economic vitality of our city is not recognized by outside observers because on paper we appear to be a smaller city. If we want to attract more business, we not only tell a better story about ourselves but also organize and function together as a city–that means pursuing annexation coupled with the expansion of city services to new residents. We are better together.

7) Should Elkins Police Department vehicles remain at City Hall when not in use, or should officers be allowed to drive them home regardless of where they live?

Officers should be allowed to drive them home regardless of where they live because the benefits of allowing them to drive them home outweigh the additional costs. There are two primary benefits to this policy.

A) It promotes public safety. Allowing officers to drive vehicles home means more police presence as they commute and as the vehicles are parked in neighborhoods. Greater visibility of police is an effective way to deter crime.

B) It provides an additional benefit to police officers. Public servants are often underpaid and overworked–allowing city police officers this benefit is a smart choice. It also helps the department recruit and retain officers by reducing commuting costs for officers. Additionally, police vehicles that are assigned to officers often last longer because officers take greater care and responsibility with them.

8) What is your vision for the Elkins Railyard?

The Randolph County Development Authority has done an excellent job of guiding the redevelopment of the heart of our city–and as mayor, I support their vision. A thriving densely developed commercial center is key to the future of our city. My only additional priority is that all redevelopment should prioritize pedestrian access, dense development, and not be subjected to mandatory parking minimums.

9) Is something needed in the Elkins Industrial Park to reduce the level of noise and, if so, what would that be?

No, I believe that the city code currently provides adequate protection for the residents of Elkins while also providing room for businesses to operate in the Elkins Industrial Park. Noisy cities are healthy cities — and we should celebrate that the industrial park is in the heart of Elkins. Dense mixed-use development is at the heart of a thriving walkable city — and the location of our industrial park is a key part of my vision of Elkins as a walkable city where residents can live, work, and benefit from community resources all within a 15-minute walk or bike ride from their home.

10) Would you support creating a public swimming pool within the city limits of Elkins?

No. While I will always support good ideas, I believe that because of the Randolph County Commission’s investment in the pool at the Elks Club it would be a poor use of city funding to develop a separate swimming pool within city limits. Instead, we should continue to make strategic investments in our parks because they are truly the gem of our city.

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Jerry Marco Jr.

My name is Jerry Marco. I am a lifelong resident of Randolph County. My wife Paula (who was born and raised in Elkins), and I have been married for more than 30 years, and have lived in Elkins our entire married life. Some of you may know us better as Scout’s parents. He was the long-legged hound-dog you would see us walking through town or in various city parks for approximately 13 years. Unfortunately we lost Scout back in November, but he will forever be in our hearts.

I am a man of faith and strong conviction. My wife and I were married in the First Baptist Church, and continue to attend services there.

I graduated from Davis & Elkins College in 1990 with a Bachelor of Science in Marketing and Management.

I just retired from the FBI after more than 28 years of service. More than half of my FBI career was supporting the Global War on Terrorism, which afforded me the opportunity to travel the world both domestically and internationally. This allowed me to experience various regions, cultures, cities and observe their infrastructures. I have led missions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Cambodia, Pakistan and Yemen, to name a few.

I have worked in countries that are very progressive and others with austere conditions. The key to a successful mission is planning and execution, while remaining flexible for the variables that can’t be predicted.

I was also a member of a Rapid Deployment Team for the FBI for many years. I deployed to New York after the attacks on September 11, 2001, and to Louisiana in 2005 in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, to assist with victim recovery and identification. I worked in the FBI command posts for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah and the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing China. I also supported several Presidential Inaugurations and State of the Union Addresses as part of the aforementioned Rapid Deployment Team.

I have coached and mentored our area youth for approximately 29 years with the YMCA, where I was able to teach life lessons that went way beyond sports.

Why do I want to be Mayor? I was blessed with parents that instilled in me a good-work ethic and high moral values at a young age. I was taught to help your neighbor in a time of need, or those less fortunate than you. My parents told me to leave something better than I found it. I will use this work ethic and philosophies to give back to a community that has been extremely good to me and my family. I love this county, this state and this city. I want to use the skill set I developed with the FBI to raise the bar in Elkins and make it better than it already is. I want to ensure the kids I coached have an opportunity to raise a family in Elkins when they finish high school or college.

1) What do you believe is the biggest issue facing the city of Elkins?

The two issues brought to my attention the most are the homelessness and drug problems in our town, which often go hand in hand. I have already had several discussions with our new sheriff, Rob Elbon, and Chief of Police Travis Bennett. We all agree this has to be a team effort, not only from within Randolph County, but also our neighboring counties. This problem is not unique to Elkins, and the solution is not simple, but I assure you we are looking at a variety of options to address these serious epidemics. We will soon have an Elkins Police Officer joining the Regional Drug Task Force, which is definitely a step in the right direction.

I don’t currently have a concrete plan to address the drug or homeless problems in our area; however, I have begun proactively researching potential options. I do know ignoring a problem will not make it go away. I wish I had the answers to our issues, but I will not lie or make false claims. I hope the honesty is refreshing. We need to ensure we have adequate resources available for individuals facing a sense of hopelessness, and are looking for assistance. I feel a lot of these individuals are salvageable, but we need to come together as a community to make a difference. If we try to remove these individuals from our town without offering assistance, we are just passing our problems to a neighboring towns or counties. The drug and homeless issues do not discriminate, and impact all social classes, races and genders. This is why most of us probably know families or friends that have been impacted with these issues.

I am open for suggestions from caring citizens that can educate me in areas where I lack knowledge. I would gladly sit down and have a brainstorming session to address the drug and homeless issues, as well as, other concerns within our community. Together we can make a difference, and I will gladly facilitate discussions to ensure we are looking at all potential options.

I welcome feedback from citizens that can educate me on various topics, and have experiences that would provide insight while we look at the drug and homeless issues, as well as other concerns within our city.

2) What is the goal you most hope to achieve as mayor?

My biggest goal is to make Elkins a more vibrant and safer community. We currently have a lot of store fronts and buildings that are vacant. I want to be an ambassador for the city that can entice a variety of businesses to utilize these structures. This would provide more options for our local citizens and visitors to our city, thus increasing revenue within our city.

In order to make Elkins a more vibrant community, people need to have a sense of security. I would like to improve lighting in areas where needed. Upgrade city owned sidewalks when necessary to ensure they are level and even. However, I do understand some sidewalks are owned by local businesses. I think an increased police presence is needed, possibly foot or bike patrols. As for a long term vision, I would like to invest in street cameras for the downtown area. This will reduce crime in the area and deter individuals with ill intent. These cameras can also be utilized by the Street Department to monitor road conditions during inclement weather. This would allow streets to be treated more expeditiously, and be safer for drivers and pedestrians. We need to use technology to our advantage to protect our citizens as well as those visiting our town.

3) Do you support the creation of a city manager position for the City of Elkins?

From my past experience, typically before a new position is established within a government, a need or deficiency is identified. Within City Hall, we currently have a public relations position, folks that handle finance, a city attorney, a city clerk, a sanitary board (possibly adding a water board in the future), to name a few. Also, the city recently contracted a human resource firm for $30,000.

Instead of using a so-called expert to make decisions for future growth for the entire city, I would recommend developing a committee comprised of representatives from city council, local business owners, the community at large and other developmental agencies to form and execute our plan. This allows for checks and balances and ensures the entire community is represented, instead of relying on one individual’s interpretation of the city’s needs.

I feel like I am left with a lot of questions regarding the city manager position. I would like to know what the roles and responsibilities for the city manager would be, as well as, the requirements for the position. I would also like to know if a city manager position would allow city hall to streamline processes and load balance projects, which would then eliminate other positions. I would like to know if this position would start on an interim basis, and if not effective, be eliminated in the future. Lastly, I would like to know the salary for a city manager position, and where the funding would come from. With so many unanswered questions, I am opposed to hiring a city manager.

4) What do you think the city should do to help small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic?

In the midst of a pandemic, we should be working with our existing businesses to ensure they are able to survive these challenging and unprecedented times. We could possibly give them a temporary reduction in taxes, until business stabilizes. We could advertise for local businesses on the city webpage to let the public know they are still open during the pandemic, what services they are offering, and their hours.

As for new businesses that may be interested in coming to the downtown area, we could waive their B&O (business and occupation) tax for the first six months, and give them an opportunity to develop a client/customer base. We could then implement the B&O tax in a phased approach to entice businesses to consider utilizing the downtown area.

5) What should the city do about the abandoned swinging bridge?

I love the history of our city, and for nostalgic purposes would like to see the swinging bridge restored. However, the city doesn’t own the swinging bridge, and the restoration process is complicated. If the bridge is restored to its original state, it would not be compliant with current safety codes, thus introducing liability issues. Therefore, I would need to separate my personal nostalgic feelings, and do what is best and most responsible for our citizens and visitors.

6) Would you support the effort to annex businesses between the Elkins city limits and Beverly?

With the recent changes in our state law, annexation is now on a voluntary basis. There are no more minor boundary adjustments allowed. I fully support anyone wanting to annex into the city, but also understand the hesitancy to do so. One of the benefits for annexation could be faster response times from our city police officers, since our Sheriff’s Department is required to cover the entire county. However, this would increase the area our city police would have to patrol, thus increasing the need for more officers. One of the biggest upsides for annexation is if the city population reaches 10,000 there are more federal grants available to the city for development. This would benefit all citizens within city limits.

7) Should Elkins Police Department vehicles remain at City Hall when not in use, or should officers be allowed to drive them home regardless of where they live?

Officers are often called during off hours to assist with calls not only within the city, but to assist other law enforcement entities. If they have to drive to City Hall to retrieve their vehicle, they are losing precious time, which could be a matter of life or death. I feel the Elkins Police officers should be permitted to take their vehicles home with them to allow for faster response times.

Also, the presence of these vehicles throughout our community can reduce crime in the area and deter individuals with ill intent.

8) What is your vision for the Elkins Railyard?

When I think about the Elkins Railyard, I envision a place that folks of all ages can gather and socialize, with a variety of activities available. Of course this would have to be post COVID. I would like to see outdoor heaters installed at the amphitheater so it could be utilized year round to showcase local talent, and artists from outside of our immediate area.

I envision the train being the focal point and foundation that we build on, since it is such a unique attraction. I have thought a train themed playground or green area would be interesting for our residents and visitors. I would entertain ideas and feedback from our community, and work with local businesses and the development authority to best serve the Elkins community.

9) Is something needed in the Elkins Industrial Park to reduce the level of noise and, if so, what would that be?

The Elkins City Council has addressed this question on multiple occasions.

The businesses that are currently located within the Elkins Industrial Park are OSHA compliant, are not in violation of any city codes. They employ local residents, pay city taxes and fire fees, and provide a services to local industries. The industrial park area was developed for these types of businesses. If we harass them, and they choose to relocate, there is no guarantee they will remain in Randolph County. This would be a deterrent to future businesses looking to come to Elkins

10) Would you support creating a public swimming pool within the city limits of Elkins?

The Randolph County Commission is currently working on opening a public swimming pool and splash pad at the Elk’s County Club. I am not sure it would be wise to spend municipal money on a competing interest. However, if the citizens of Elkins persuade me there is a need for a public swimming pool because the Elk’s County Club and the YMCA are not viable options, I would be willing to research possibilities.

•••

D.C. Talkington

Editor’s note: The candidate declined to provide a photo of himself.

I am DC Talkington. I’m 61 years old, and I own my home. I’ve lived in Elkins from 1981 until now.

I came here as an intern and married my wife from here. I know a lot of great people who lived here all their lives. I’ve served as pastor, youth pastor council, business owner, painter, and best of all as husband.

1) What do you believe is the biggest issue facing the city of Elkins?

The homeless and drugs.

2) Do you agree with the way the funds from the city’s 1% sales tax are being spent? What is your suggestion?

Make Elkins great.

3) Do you support the creation of a city manager position for the City of Elkins?

No, I do not.

4) What do you think the city should do to help small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic?

B&O tax, keep our businesses to small business owners.

5) What should the city do about the abandoned swinging bridge?

Take it down forever.

6) Would you support the effort to annex businesses between the Elkins city limits and Beverly?

No, I do not.

7) Should Elkins Police Department vehicles remain at City Hall when not in use, or should officers be allowed to drive them home regardless of where they live?

Leave them at city hall. Liability, insurance.

8) What is your vision for the Elkins Railyard?

More small businesses.

9) Is something needed in the Elkins Industrial Park to reduce the level of noise and, if so, what would that be?

Needs more research.

10) Would you support creating a public swimming pool within the city limits of Elkins?

No, I would not. Liability, insurance.

•••

Karen Wilmoth

Karen Wilmoth is a current Elkins City Council member who has represented Fourth Ward since 2019. She also represented Fourth Ward from 2005-2009.

She is married to Bob Wilmoth, a retired high school principal. She is a member of the Elkins Rehabilitation and Care Center board of directors; the Senior Center board of directors; and the Kump Center board of directors

Her daughters are Stephanie White (husband Matt, daughters Kayleigh and Ashlynn), an Associate Administrator for WVU Medicine; and Jessica Wilmoth, a Communications Specialist for the WVU School of Public Health.

Wilmoth attends First United Methodist Church. Her family provides both financial and logistical support for the back pack program (Bob is part of the delivery team).

She earned a West Virginia Wesleyan College MBA and a Davis & Elkins College Bachelor of Science Degree in Management and Marketing.

She worked at Davis & Elkins College from April 2003 to June 2020, and is now retired. While at D&E, she was the Director of Annual Giving & Stewardship (2003-2007), the Director of Development (formerly Advancement) Operations & Stewardship/Director of Development Records and Reports (2007 – 2013); and the Director of Development (April 2016 – June 2020). She was a member of the Secure the Future $100M campaign team (2008-2018).

At Fairmont State College from 2000 – 2004 she was an Adjunct Business Instructor, and a t Marshall University from 2000 – 2003 she was an Adjunct Instructor – Military Education Program.

She has been a member of the Rotary Club of Elkins, Rotary District 7530 from 1993 to the present, and is a past president of the club.

She served on the Elkins Historic Landmarks Commission from 2013 – 2017

1) What do you believe is the biggest issue facing the city of Elkins?

The biggest issue facing the City of Elkins is economic development. The city must work to develop an atmosphere that is conducive to business and that encourages businesses to locate within the city limits. Some tactics the city can employ are:

Working with the Randolph County Development Authority to provide acreage for development and to attract businesses to Elkins. By teaming with RCDA, property can be acquired, annexed into the City if it’s not already in city limits and infrastructure can be provided to make it more attractive to potential businesses.

Working with owners of vacant store-fronts to help them bring tenants to their properties.

Waiving B&O taxes for new businesses or, in the alternative, a graduated B&O tax over a number of years as the business becomes established.

Creating a guide for those seeking to open a business in Elkins containing (1) information about the various city regulations and permits that would be necessary including specific contact information to make those processes go more smoothly (2) information relating to various organizations in town that could be helpful in making the decision to locate within city limits such as the Elkins-Randolph County Chamber of Commerce and Elkins Main Street (3) information about the various media outlets (newspapers, radio stations) in the area that could be used to promote the new business.

Surveying other small towns in West Virginia to inventory the types of businesses located in those towns and work to attract similar business to Elkins.

Working with the Elkins-Randolph County Chamber of Commerce to help new businesses become an integrated part of the community. Building social infrastructure is crucial to business success.

Offering free promotion of new businesses on its website and social media platforms.

Additionally, new businesses mean more jobs. According to Work Force WV, the unemployment rate in Elkins is currently 6.8% while the overall unemployment rate for West Virginia is 6.1%. The City must work to bring jobs to the community.

Current business owners must also be given incentives to expand and grow their businesses. A survey of local businesses would dictate the types of inducements that would be helpful to encourage growth and expansion.

2) What is the goal you most hope to achieve as mayor?

While I have many goals I would like to achieve as mayor, the most important is to improve the economic environment of Elkins. It is crucial to the future of Elkins that existing businesses grow and that new businesses are attracted. Economic development is the first domino that will lead to prosperity for all. Other goals include:

Creating a comprehensive, long-term plan for infrastructure improvement that addresses water lines, sewer lines, storm sewers, streets, curbs, sidewalks and fire hydrants.

Initiating a wage and compensation study (that would become an ongoing study) and then implementing the recommendations of that study to ensure that City employees are paid equitably and fairly for their dedication and hard work on behalf of all the citizens of Elkins.

Working with the Code Enforcement Officer to ensure that our neighborhoods don’t become dumping grounds with dilapidated structures and copious amounts of garbage that devalue the neighboring properties. There are many rules and regulations in place which must be enforced. Additionally, the City must look to some unique solutions to help the property owners who have difficulty dealing with or understanding the problems as they stand.

Addressing the homelessness situation in a more meaningful way by working with various agencies and organizations with a goal of getting the necessary services to those who need them as well as rehousing those who are willing and able to take that step

Being more proactive in seeking grant funding for projects (see answer to question #5) that cannot be funded with the City’s current revenue stream.

Working with all of the groups in Elkins that are engaged in the betterment of the community. It would be great if the City could facilitate communication among these groups so that they could be helpful to each other and so that multiple groups aren’t working on the same idea unbeknownst to each other. While we tend to think this doesn’t happen in our small town, it does. This is one way the City can contribute to a better community and, perhaps, even participate in some of the projects.

3) Do you support the creation of a city manager position for the City of Elkins?

Based on research done to prepare to teach the City Government class for Rhododendron Girls State, I believe the city manager model of city government is most efficient and effective for smaller cities. However, the Finance Committee has not provided a solid plan as to how the City will finance this position so I am currently opposed to this proposed ordinance change. There are many more priority projects that require City resources at this point in time.

4) What do you think the city should do to help small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic? One of the most important things the City can do is survey its business community to ascertain just what is needed. Keeping that in mind, there are various avenues that can be taken:

The City needs to work with small businesses (as well as individuals who may be struggling) to ensure they are able to meet their obligations to the City without causing an undue burden on the business that may lead to its closure. To that end, a temporary reduction or deferment of B&O tax and/or license fees may be possible, keeping in mind that the City itself has financial obligations that must be met.

The City should investigate the possibility of creating a local relief fund. City funds if available, gifts from individuals and/or businesses that are doing well and federal COVID related grant monies could be combined to offer free or low cost loans or grants to help businesses through this difficult period.

The City could offer assistance to small businesses that are applying for SBA loans to help them through this period. No doubt, there is information the City possesses that would be helpful in making such applications.

The City can work with restaurants that do not have parking lots or outside seating areas to temporarily expand their outdoor seating capacity into the public right of way if they wish to do so. Many cities have used this technique to help eating establishments survive in these challenging times. This particular tactic has the potential to become a more permanent fixture in Elkins if there is demand to do so.

Likewise, the City can work with retail establishments to temporarily expand their sales floor to the public right of way if they wish to do so.

If not already standard procedure, all City departments should be encouraged to patronize in-town businesses for their purchases by creating a rubric to guide the departments in their spending (i.e., if an item costs within X% of what it costs from an out-of-town business, it must be purchased in-town). The difficulty here is, of course, that the City has financial constraints as well that must be taken into consideration.

The City could create an online directory for resources and information for local businesses to help them navigate this difficult time. For example, the City of Oakland, California, created a web portal to help business owners identify the local, state and federal resources available to them.

5) What should the city do about the abandoned swinging bridge?

I would like to see the City develop the river front property in that area of Wilson Street to include an extension of the bike path from the railyard to the river with a new bridge across the river and the bike path continuing on to Glendale Park. The City is not in a position to provide the financial support to undertake such a project so it would be imperative to seek grant funding for such a project. The City could work with other organizations such as the Randolph County Development Authority and the Randolph County Commission to tap into various funding sources, such as grants, for this type of project.

6) Would you support the effort to annex businesses between the Elkins city limits and Beverly?

I most certainly do support annexation efforts. However, the change in State law makes it impossible to annex properties without the consent of the owners. This relates, in part, to my answer to the first question and the strategies set forth therein – the City must make it attractive to property owners to take the necessary steps to be annexed by the City.

7) Should Elkins Police Department vehicles remain at City Hall when not in use, or should officers be allowed to drive them home regardless of where they live?

Members of the police department should be allowed to drive their vehicles to and from their homes (but not for personal errands). Allowing an officer to be responsible for his (or her) vehicle at all times encourages them to take better care of the vehicle and, in some cases, the presence of a police vehicle in a neighborhood can be a deterrent to crime. In case of an emergency, officers are better able to mobilize and respond more quickly than if they have to make the trip to city hall to retrieve his/her vehicle before proceeding to the scene of the situation. Since the vehicle doubles as an equipment locker, the officer spends less time transferring items to and from the vehicle and, thus, has more time to spend on patrol. There is little evidence that police officers abuse this privilege when it is part of their standard operating procedure.

8) What is your vision for the Elkins Railyard?

I would work more closely with the Randolph County Development Authority and the owners of individual parcels in the railyard to create a list of appropriate businesses (uses) for railyard properties. Then, the City must continue to work with the RCDA to attract those businesses and users to Elkins using the tactics set forth in my answer to question 1.

9) Is something needed in the Elkins Industrial Park to reduce the level of noise and, if so, what would that be?

The only option available to the City is to change the current noise ordinance; however, that would only apply to new businesses, not existing ones. Given the lack of space in the industrial park, it is possible that no new manufacturing plants would locate in that area. If the city is able to work with the Randolph County Development Authority to acquire new acreage for development, careful consideration would need to be given to the restrictive covenants that should be put in place for those areas.

10) Would you support creating a public swimming pool within the city limits of Elkins?

I would very much like to see a public swimming pool within the city limits. Careful consideration must be given to its location, ensuring that all who would use it have easy access. Additionally, thought must be given to what amenities would be needed such as a bathhouse, concession stand, parking lot, etc., which in turn leads to questions about what infrastructure (water lines, sewer lines, electric service) would be necessary and how much those items would cost. Further, the ability to staff and maintain the pool must be given serious attention.

A pool that cannot be adequately staffed and properly maintained would not be beneficial to the community. In fact, about 2000 public pools have closed over the past 10-15 years because of these very issues. Additionally, it is quite common for public pools to run at a deficit. The city must have a contingency plan in place to deal with such a situation. Conversations should be had with other municipalities/counties in our geographic region to investigate their experience with public pools and use that knowledge to ensure items that could be problematic are addressed in a proactive way. One additional consideration is the reopening of the Elks pool – will the area be able to support two similar facilities?

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