(06/03/2001)
Lention Offutt, President of the Wirt Commission, says there is no relief in sight for the financial woes facing Wirt County. "Wirt County will begin to experience extreme financial difficulties with the opening of the Regional Jail in early July," he said.

The county is facing a $200,000 deficit, which Offutt has stated will place the county in default. Offutt said he is not willing to re-run a local levy to "save the county" unless there is a grassroots movement from citizens.

Offutt says "ALL" employees of the county will be laid off, leaving the elected officials with "NO" office help, although the Sheriff could retain a deputy. He also says "We will be unable to pay the regional jail bills, although we have budgeted $17,000 for an expense we expect in excess of $125,000.

During the past fifteen years, Wirt County has made a $50,000 profit from operating its jail, in addition to the county housing their own prisoners.

The collapse of Wirt County may be the first causality by in the state government's plan to reduce the number of rural counties, by having them taken over by more urban counties. Politicians who represent highly-populated areas like Kanawha County, contend government services would be more efficiently provided by larger counties, thus saving taxpayers money.

Offutt and other representatives of small counties believe the quality of rural life should be protected rather than urbanized. He has said rural life in Wirt County is a precious thing to be valued in future years.

Offutt has asked elected officials from rural counties to help him convince state government that rural counties should be maintained. He has suggested a number of solutions which would shift reasonably small amounts of money to allow them to provide services. "We need some short-term solutions, but a long-term solution could be achieved," he said. "We are not talking about huge sums of money."


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