|Reprint: Charleston Daily Mail February 22, 2001|
West Virginians have endured the pain of consolidating high schools,
even jails. Isn't it time to look at county government as well?
The state has 55 county governments. Twenty-two of them have fewer
people, and are not big enough to qualify for a House of Delegates
district of their
Many of these counties splintered from larger counties in the 19th
travel was more difficult. Now they are expensive and inefficient
relics of an agrarian
Seeing a county fade away is sad. Wirt County, the state's smallest,
was never much
of anything. One-fifth of its population receives Social Security. Its
per capita income
is two-thirds the state average.
The county government makes ends meet by running a jail.
Wood County and other government agencies put female inmates in the
Jail, giving the county an infusion of money. But that source of
revenue will end when
the regional jail opens in Doddridge County.
This presents Wirt County with a major problem. Even after cutting the
deputy, after doing without a janitor for seven years, even after
having the county
commission president change the light bulbs at the courthouse, Wirt
government could go broke. It cannot afford a budget of less than
Sorry, but Wirt County needs to merge with Wood County. Wirt is a
county in name
Sen. Frank Deem, R-Wood, whose districts includes Wirt, complained
that a formal
consolidation would hurt the county seat.
"Elizabeth would wither," Deem said.
Sorry, but its already dead on the vine. The county commission
president says that
even if Wirt County laid off all county employees, it couldn't make
Sen. John Mitchell, D-Kanawha, has proposed the formal consolidation
He's right. The studies should begin as soon as possible.
It is disgusting how easy it is for the arrogant editor of The
Charleston Daily Mail to sit behind a
desk and demean rural counties in West Virginia, a basic lack of
respect for the dignity of
hard-working country people who represent our states history and
The integrity of communities like Wirt County and how people connect
to one another is a
precious commodity given away in consolidation and centralization,
always with the promise to
save money, although it never does.
(photo: John Griffin)
Wirt County was formed in 1848, originally settled in 1796 by
William Beauchamp. Wirt County was a pioneer in the oil and gas
industry in West Virginia since the development of the spectacular
Burning Springs field, one year after Col. Drake discovered oil at
Titusville, PA. Named for William Wirt distinguished lawyer, orator
and author, who is best known for the prosecution of Col. Aaron
How many urban county commissioners could say they are willing to
change light bulbs to help
keep things going?
Personally, I think Kanawha should merge with Clay so residents of
Charleston can drive up
I-79 to transact their business at the Clay courthouse.
The Charleston Gazette also ran an editorial, not as degrading, which
we will reprint tomorrow. -
Bob Weaver, The Hur Herald