"I think what really bothers me, if Wirt County defaults, the legislature is likely
to change the laws to make it easier to do away with rural counties," said Wirt
County Commissioner Robert Lowe.|
Lowe says several longtime legislators like Oshel Craigo have been outspoken
on the issue. He said it has been in the cards for several years, referring to
county consolidation. Wirt will likely be the first domino to fall.
Wirt Countians will go to the polls on May 14 to vote on a special levy to keep
the county in operation for three years. Political prognosticators in Elizabeth
say the $180,000 annual levy, even though it will not raise taxes, will go down.
It has twice before.
Lowe says it has become a very personal issue in the small, low-population
county. "In the middle of all this, there are positive things going on. The new
health clinic, water line expansion and Mustang Survival is going great guns,"
he said. "We have had a lot of people working hard for our county."
"It is not all doomsday. Wirt County has a long history of rural life, a great
place to be," said Lowe. "Our Charleston politicians don't seem to place much
value on that."
Lowe repeated a consensus from several rural counties, stating "The quality of
life in West Virginia's rural counties may be the most marketable resource a
few years down the line, but there is little sense of preserving them with urban
counties taking them over."
Wirt political activist Wayne Wright says in a letter to the editor of the Wirt
County Journal and The Hur Herald, there is no light at the end of the tunnel,
and putting off the death of the county by voting for the levy is a band-aid
which he does not accept.
"I am going to vote against the Life Support System and hope we can better
position ourselves for the betterment of the community in the next step."(SEE
We Get Letters)
Wright or public officials have yet to declare what the next step might be if the
Lowe says in what may be the final days of the counties history, it seems to
have become a blame game, mostly based on decisions made over the years, or
inaction by county government and community leaders.
He said the county is sometimes blamed for Westvaco paying about 80 cents
tax an acre on their land, several thousands of acres in the county. "That rate
has been determined by the Managed Timberlands Bill passed by the
legislature, giving timber land owners a big tax break," not the county
government. "We don't set the rates."
"It seems many people believe they have not been getting their moneys worth
from county government," said Lowe. "It is likely, if the county defaults, to
see an increase in taxes and a decrease in services with consolidation."
Commissioner Lowe says many people still believe there are other alternatives
to saving the county. "Charleston has told us there will be no further grants or
bail-out to keep the county government going," he continued. "I have been to
dozens and dozens of meetings, and I do not have a solution other than voting
for the levy."
"I, personally am voting for the levy, and I am not a fickle voter," said Lowe.
"I think it will allow us to have more time to have some say about what
happens with Wirt County. Otherwise, it could be said for us."
Lowe concluded he was prepared to work with what the voters decide.
"It is their choice," he concluded.