Election 2014 — most important issues
What do you think are the top three issues facing the county? What are your ideas about addressing them?
This is a tough question. I could imagine answering it differently if I were still a first-time candidate. But as an experienced commissioner, I can tell you that there aren’t any three that stay on the top for very long. So very many issues face us routinely, that it is often all one can do to keep up.
All that being said, I feel that there is one issue I see above all others: how to reverse the trend of our declining and aging population.
In 2000, Pocahontas County had about 9,131 citizens. In 2010, we had about 8,717. That’s close to a 5% drop. Moreover, the elderly accounts for a larger portion of our population than ever. I am very proud of our County’s work on assisting our seniors. Our senior centers do great work; I see it every day. Yet we must work extra hard to keep our young people here. We must strive to create the framework and opportunities for our children to stay here, to make their living here. This is why our One Room University matters so much. This is why improved Internet matters so much. This is why combatting drug abuse matters so much. Perhaps then, given the one goal of increasing our population once again, these are the three top issues. But within them, supporting them, is the myriad of challenges that face each of us commissioners at every meeting. We must support all opportunities, improve upon all issues, to turn things around.
1. PRESERVING CLEAN WATER!
Fighting for clean water began when former State Senator Walt Helmick became the so-called ‘Economic Coordinator’ for Pocahontas County in charge of the clean-up of the toxic-waste site known as ‘Howes Leather’, located in Frank, WV. The estimated ‘clean-up’ cost was $15 – $20 Million, but since Howes Leather was a large donor to State Senator Helmick, Howes simply ‘donated’ their toxic-waste site to the county for a $250,000.00 tax-write-off, and the county then became responsible for the ‘clean-up’. Helmick simply had the berms of the toxic-holding-ponds shaved from 12 feet to 3 feet, then siphoned off the toxic-waste until a rain storm broke open the remaining berms and poured 13 Million gallons of toxic-waste into the Greenbrier River closing the water intake for Lewisburg for up to a week – since Lewisburg uses the Greenbrier River for its city drinking water!
Commission Candidate Norman Lee Alderman videotaped the shaved berms & the siphoning of the toxic-pond into the Greenbrier River, placed the video on the Internet, and the county was fined $9,000.00 for its violations. Alderman is proud of raising the issue of clean water, and spend much time in Charleston trying to get the State-DEP to enforce the laws, including escorting a team from DEP and DNR around the former Howes Leather site, showing them where carcinogenic transformers were buried. The DEP did little to nothing!
One of the first things that Candidates Norman Lee Alderman (Rep-SD) & Patti Heinemann (Dem-ND) will do at the first meeting in January 2015, if elected, is to finish the clean-up of Howes and have the dangerous buried transformers containing PCB & Chromium IV immediately removed so that these toxic chemicals are no longer a health threat to the people of Frank and Durbin.
2. PROPER SEWAGE MANAGEMENT!
Does it make sense to bury known leaking tanks, which required replacement from a gas-station, next to Deer Creek and then fill those leaking-tanks with 60,000 gallons of raw-human-sewage from Snowshoe & Silver Creek – as done by Alleghany Disposal, LLC in Green Bank? Fecal matter in the drinking water, streams & rivers is the most dangerous element next to toxic-chemicals! Therefore there needs to be an inventory of all underground storage tanks for their structural integrity, location, and removal away from any flood-plain or natural water source. Our collective health & safety is too important than risking toxins & deadly bacteria into our common environment!
Further it is a known fact that the municipal water supply in Marlinton is in desperate need of repair & replacement! The same applies to their sewage-treatment facility! And that also applies to the Town of Durbin – made worse by the fact that Durbin has been included in the Public Service District with Snowshoe & Silver Creek that has over developed itself to the extent that they need an entirely new sewage-treatment facility on the mountain! Yet with the massive Debt in excess of $1.5 Billion, there is little chance that either Intrawest or Fortress holding companies will ever be able to afford or get credit for a new sewage-treatment facility that will cost upwards to $30 Million! That’s why the State of West Virginia needs to take Receivership of both resorts, and relegate the day to day operations to Pocahontas County since it’s our county Citizens that are operating the resorts already – then split the profits 60% to the State & 40% to a ‘Workers CO-OP’ for the county!
3. MORAL & ETHICAL LOCAL GOVERNMENT!
This election is the first time in a lifetime that two (2) County Commissioners can be elected at the same time in the same election in order to bring about a majority for real change, new policies, and establish a Moral, Ethical & Righteous county government. For far too long public officials have only considered their own careers and forgotten their primary responsibilities & duties! That’s why this time there are two-candidates for the county commission in a ‘United Campaign’ that will put ‘THE GREATER COMMON GOOD BEFORE SELF OR ANY SELF-SERVING SPECIAL INTEREST!’ In this election year, the Citizens of Pocahontas County can, “Just say ‘NO’ to those who want to keep this county in Poverty & Pauperism – and Just SAY ‘YES’ to real Progress & Prosperity for the future!”
a.) Sewer plant for Big Spring area solution: Find PSD Board Members that can get it done.
b.) Funding for our school system solution: I hear whispers of a levy. I wouldn’t like to see that happen. At some point in time I think the feasibility of keeping the Hillsboro School will have to be visited. I would be in favor of giving 30+ acres of land at Green Bank Industrial Park back to the Board of Education for them to sale.
Varner, Kenneth “Buster”
- Jobs and drugs are part of the same problem. Let’s find a way for the people who are interested to work together on a solution. Find out what small business needs to create more jobs and work with the development authorities to make it happen.
- Attitude. We need to stop looking at people who want to build a business as though they are doing something wrong. If we don’t build new businesses there will be no new jobs. Period.
- Communications. High-speed Internet is a basic requirement of modern commerce.
Wilfong, Charles Albert
Mr. Wilfong did not respond to Eight Rivers Council by the deadline.
Alderman, Norman Lee
Mr. Alderman’s responses are issued jointly with Ms. Patti Heinemann, listed above.
Beard, William S. Jr.
Our county is facing several issues; these are the ones I feel are most important. First, is the need for jobs in our county. Without jobs we are losing numbers in population. Second is the lack of good internet service to help promote business. Thirdly, I believe that we should be helping to educate our children for a brighter future. These are the three issues I believe are most important at this time. I addressed jobs in question number 1, 2 and 3. I have addressed the internet issue in question number 4, and the third issue is perhaps the most important. Our children are our future. This puts a lot of dependence on our school systems and the education they provide. Proper funding in the schools to provide all they need to run successfully is imperative. Having good quality administrators and educators is also of great importance. These are issues that are under the control of our County Board of Education.
- Decreasing geographic access to health care within our county. This has gotten even worse since the Browning Family practice closed in Hillsboro. We need to explore and expand our partnerships with current medical practitioners, PMH, WVSOM and current Home Visitation/Home Health agencies to identify and treat our most vulnerable citizens, our children and elderly. We need to develop prevention programs that could be implemented within our county. We have unique needs as a rural county and developing TeleHealth programs where our local providers can be in direct contact with Tertiary Care Centers can improve access to services while our patients remain within the county. There has been interest and discussion within the state to expand mobile health services such as mobile dental offices that go into different communities to provide screenings and referrals. We have diminishing Safety nets for our Seniors and children. As State and Federal funding is cut for programs that provide multiple services that improve the quality of life for residents, we need to come up with creative partnerships so that we can continue some of these services while developing new solutions.
- Preserving the natural resources and beauty of our County. This is something we all have a stake in and we should be able to come together to ensure that our children have the same gift. By protecting and managing our resources we will build and grow our Economic base. It might be good to facilitate a County Plan like the Water Resource Management Plan in that it would not be binding, but guidelines for looking down the road.
- Good employment opportunities (see Jobs above).
- We need high speed internet access.
- We need to protect clean water.
- We need to build opportunities for young people – children, teens, people in their twenties and thirties to be life-long thinkers, dreamers, and doers – so that they can stay, build lives and families and careers in Pocahontas County.
By building competitive internet service in collaboration with the current working group and newcomer internet providers, we can improve internet access in the county.
By collecting and sharing data about water through our new county water management plan, we can build baseline data about our water quality that everyone can access, understand and share. This will allow us to identify and address problem areas in our watershed and develop targets for water quality and strategic plans to preserve and even improve our county’s water quality.
Through partnership with educational institutions (both school and community-based), we can foster integrated wrap-around services for youth. We can change our expectations about how much people are supposed to know when we hire them. As employers, we can create internships and integrate on-the-job training and leadership programs for our employees. We can begin to teach coding and computer programming to youth and adults while we build our internet infrastructure.