Marlinton Mayor Sam Felton Sees Big Benefits when Public Transportation Comes
Following the July 15th meeting between Pocahontas County business and community leaders and Tim Thomas of the Mountain Valley Transit Company -or MTA- which was about starting up public transit bus service in the County, we met with Marlinton Mayor Sam Felton to get his perspective about this.
Mayor, how excited are you about having the MTA bring public transit to town?
“Tim, I am very excited, when I begin to think about the possibilities and the tremendous change that it could bring to our community, to families who have been struggling often as a result of the opioid and drug issues that finally arrived in Pocahontas County” answered Felton. “The issue in some individuals’ lives has changed everything about their lives. So, with the drug problem comes the loss of jobs. Because of that comes domestic and family issues. Often the alternatives are shortcuts that lead to jail time. These individuals, even after certain programs or some jail time, where they have the opportunity to dry out and get things cleaned up, they exit, they are back in society again -no job to go to.”
“I think about the Chamber (of Commerce) meeting where Allen up at Interstate Hardwoods said he had thirty-five positions (unfilled) that day. Companies are needing employees; individuals are needing work! What’s the missing element so often? The simple answer is transportation. It is not just having a car. These individuals, because they have lost their licenses and been stopped numerous times without license, now maybe they owe a thousand dollars, maybe more than two thousand dollars of past citations and fines, which would have to be paid before they can get their license.”
“I remember one young man I spoke to who had got a job, but ironically, the individual he was depending upon to get him to his job, sometimes would not show up. As a result, he lost his job. So work is the key to everything else. And if we can get two or three out of ten willing to work and willing to get to a job, it can change not only individual livers, it can change our communities.”
“At the meeting that we had Monday (July 15th,) Interstate Hardwoods is committed enough and sees potential enough that they have said that they are willing to implement a twenty-five dollar a week payroll deduction. And snowshoe is going to consider, at least, -they have not said, I want to emphasize that, but they are going to at least consider a similar program. And that will give us two routes. A route from Marlinton to Interstate at Bartow. It will give us a route from Marlinton to Snowshoe Resort. I intend to have conversations with Beckworth Lumber Company. I know there’s times in the past where they have talked about the issue of getting dependable employees.”
“I know an individual that comes down from Bartow to Marlinton, and drives it himself every day. He says it costs him forty to forty-five dollars a week in his personal car. So, even individuals who are currently working at either of these locations, would have an opportunity to save fifteen dollars a week and let someone else worry about the driving.”
“As Mayor, I had real reservations about bringing public transportation to Marlinton. I didn’t want the people to think that I was providing ways for citizens to go out of county to shop. And, certainly that will be an option. But I want the public to understand those leisure trips are really a minority of what we are talking about. Probably ninety Percent of this program, at this point at least, will be geared toward getting people to work. And those who know the value of work know how important that is. I want everybody to come home in the evening as tired as I am. They are a lot less likely to be in trouble if they are thinking about having a meal and getting a little rest and going back to work the next morning.”
“At the next meeting, MTA is going to be on the County Commission’s agenda, and everyone who was at Monday evenings meeting, would see benefit at being at the County Commission’s meeting as well. We need their support.”