|By Bob Weaver (Part one)|
We haul out the crystal ball and paint a picture of Sunny Cal in the
next 25 years, for better or worse.
The steep hills, narrow hollows and poor access will continue to be
Calhoun's curse and blessing. Shades of Celtic culture and
Melungeon temperament will remain, but will continue to disappear. The
identity of extended family or neighbors as "whole
people" will diminish, along with the connectedness to place and time.
Where you came from ("Who are you?"), referring to
family of origin and how you have survived will be replaced by what
you are doing now ("What do you do?"). Most of the
pioneer families of origin will disappear as new citizens, mostly from
the northeast, buy cheap land for a lifestyle preference.
Land ownership will become more diverse, with smaller acreage.
The population of the county will remain about the same (8,000+) with
some slight increases over the next 25 years. The
Census Bureau is actually predicting a decline in population in about
25 years, which may be related to the aging population.
West Virginia and Calhoun County continue to have among the oldest
The political dynamic of the county will move toward information and
disclosure. Historically, systems have operated behind
closed doors. The less you tell the public, the better off you'll be.
The flow of news and information during most of the past
century has been controlled by omission with word-of-mouth accounts,
often inaccurate. With the advent of the internet and
computer technology, people want to know what's happening, even in
rural Calhoun County.
The failure of local governments or systems to take a pro-active
stance to inform the public will be consistently challenged. If
they are not open, they will collapse. The "old politics" of the 20th
century will be replaced by activist groups that develop
agendas and help elect officials.
Despite poor access to the outside world, retail sales will continue
to plummet except for convenience stores and specialty
services. There will be a continuing business shift toward southern
Calhoun County and I-79. Small rural businesses will be
forced to close unable to meet mandates of the EPA, which are based on
urban assumptions. The Town of Grantsville will be
unable to support itself as a municipal entity, no police or street
services. Customary services like water and sewage will likely
be taken over by a public service district.
The county government, unable to finance minimal services because of a
low tax base, will be consolidated with other county
units. The county will be unable to meet mandates by the State of West
Virginia. Consolidation will occur by pressured choice
or by take-over and West Virginia will eventually have about a dozen
or fifteen counties.
Grantsville will no longer be a seat of government. Tax decisions will
be made by voters and representatives elected from
more populated areas, an even further decline in voices speaking for
rural areas, a form of taxation without representation.
Centralization will be "sold" as efficient and less costly. It has
yet to prove otherwise.
Likewise, because of student decline and funding problems, the current
county school system will be scrapped and
administratively consolidated with several other counties. Calhoun
will have one central school site with greater emphasis on
home schooling using electronic media with fewer teachers. Teachers
will be tested more proficiently prior to their being hired,
and they will be given competency based tests to maintain their