"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 county defaults.

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.

Hur Herald from Sunny Cal
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