BIGGER NOT BETTER: CHRONICLE EDITOR'S OBSERVATIONS 56 YEARS AGO

(02/28/2017)

BIG NOT ALWAYS BETTER

By Bob Weaver

In 1961, 56 years ago, Mary Ann Barrows, long-time editor of the Calhoun Chronicle, wrote a response to a Charleston newspaper story regarding efforts to consolidate counties.

That effort has been renewed over the years.

The years since, the Calhoun Commission has been obliged to make-do with little, being conservative keepers of the county budget and sometimes offending those that the efforts have hurt.

Barrows essentially stated then what many rural people believe is true now. While consolidation is touted as saving money and bringing more efficiency, there are few if any good examples.

While Calhoun continues to face critical financial problems 56 years after the article, a frequent reaction is that it will not matter if the county is unable to balance a budget and it bellies up and is placed in the hands of the Secretary of State and the West Virginia Legislature, presumably to consolidate it.

Several years ago when Wirt County was in budget default, a Charleston newspaper said, "Wirt County never amounted to much, anyway."

They can make a good case to get rid of 55 counties and 55 school systems.

Unfortunately, moves to merge, centralize, consolidate and globalized, have not improved the lives of people who live in and aspire to work in small communities, certainly those in rural areas.

The bigger is better trend in 21st century America, gives power and control to a few, and the rest are left behind.

What matters most in life is where we plant our feet, our community of people.

Unfortunately, if people are little connected to their community, and such change happens, regrets will follow.

- Bob Weaver

Here is the 1961 article:

The Charleston Gazette-Mail took considerable space on Sunday in a lead editorial to propose that, in the interest of economy and a more equitable distribution of legislative representation, there should be some consolidation of counties.

It pointed out that it might come to pass that Wirt, Calhoun and Gilmer be made one county, with a single school superintendent and a single group of county officials, thus effecting a savings of tax money. We did not take the editorial seriously, but do feel compelled to make a few comments thereon.

Such an arrangement would not effect much of a saving. One sheriff could not handle the work of three counties, so he’d have to have more deputies; the same would apply for school superintendents, county and circuit clerks, etc. Total payroll would wind up about the same. (Comment: Virtually all studies of consolidation in recent years show the costs go up, a lot)

If we are trying to find jobs for people, we can’t do it by more centralization of work, combining the duties of three counties under one roof.

Any move such as the Charleston newspaper proposes to be made would have to have a vote of the people, and we are inclined to think that voters in Wirt, Calhoun and Gilmer would go straight down the line against any such consolidation.

If we could save taxpayers money, we might propose that Kanawha County be operated similar to Washington, D.C., wherein it would be managed by a committee of the Legislature, thus saving the expense of county officials, or Kanawha and Cabell combine their offices and really have a nice set-up.

Things will move right on and our guess is that 50 years from now Wirt, Calhoun and Gilmer will each be a separate unity, in so far as government functions are concerned. (Comment: While Ms. Barrow's observation, the demise of rural counties has political momentum in Charleston).

Editors of daily papers do get off the beam, like the rest of us, and propose some funny things every now and then.


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