(02/22/2001)
A Kanawha County Senator says there are too many county governments in the state, and will introduce a resolution in the Legislature to study the matter. Sen. John Mitchell-D says the 55 county concept goes back to the 1800's when the county seat was located to be able to ride a horse to a courthouse and return home within a day.

State School Superintendent David Stewart said "We clearly have some counties where having enough funds to provide a quality education is a problem." Senate Education Chairman Lloyd Jackson-D from Lincoln asked "Is it efficient to have 55 personnel directors? Fifty-five budget directors? Fifty-five curriculum directors?"

Mitchell said small counties are struggling to survive financially, and consolidation could save taxpayers anywhere from $50 million to $500 million a year. He said the proposal is not new. "It is something a lot of people talk about in the back rooms." A 1989 a consolidation proposal was soundly defeated by voters 4-to-1.

In a Charleston Gazette story, Mitchell believes his case will become stronger as smaller counties are unable to remain financially viable, citing the speculation that Wirt County may be forced into bankruptcy this year.

Members of the Wirt County Commission were scheduled to meet today with Governor Bob Wise regarding the counties financial future. The meeting was arranged by Sen. Donna Boley.


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