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."