WV 11th District State Senators Address Pocahontas County Commissioners
West Virginia State Senators Bill Hamilton and John Pitsenbarger, who represent the 11th District, which includes Pocahontas County, addressed the county commissioners at their December 3rd meeting.
Hamilton said his primary purpose was to introduce new senator John Pitsenbarger to the commission. Pitsenbarger, Hamilton said, replaced Senator Greg Bozo who resigned several weeks ago. After his introduction of Pitsenbarger, Hamilton expressed concerns about the state budget.
“I thought we were out of the budget deficits” said Hamilton. “And now we are back into them.”
Senator Pitsenbarger said he is a lifelong farmer from Nicholas County and has worked on agricultural projects with local farmers here in Pocahontas County.
Commission President David McLaughlin asked Hamilton about how the governors “Roads for Prosperity” is working out. Hamilton said he has not yet seen a lot of work being done on 11th District roads, but the governor has given assurances that it is coming. For now, Hamilton says, “we just have to be patient.”
Commissioner Walt Helmick said Frontier Communications’ stock prices have been seriously dropping, but if Frontier goes into receivership, it could be a good thing since then a competitive telephone company might come in and do a better job. Mayor Felton added that Frontier has not been maintaining its equipment or lines, and now employs about half the folks they used to.
Helmick said another critical issue facing the county is lack of understanding by the public about the funding of the county school system. He engaged in a lively discussion about how much the “1400 formula”, a program he helped pass in the state legislature years ago, is helping the Pocahontas Board of Education (BOE) financially. That formula, Helmick explained, means that although there are only 991 students attending school in the county, state aid to the county is paid as if there were 1400 students in the county, which substantially helps the Board of Education’s budget. Helmick said he is concerned that the state may water down the 1400 Formula in the face of new budget deficits.
Helmick said he was also concerned about is a lack of understanding by the public about the purpose of the surcharge on fire insurance policies of about one-half of one percent and where that money goes. He said it goes to local fire departments, who very much need it.
Senator Hamilton said that the legislative leaders are also talking about doing away with the state business inventory tax as an effort bring new businesses to the state. Hamilton said he opposes this unless the legislature can find another way to make up for the loss of the four-hundred and forty million dollars that tax generates each year. He said the problem in bringing new businesses here is due to the lack of a reliable workforce, not the inventory tax.
Mayor Felton said that bringing reliable broadband internet service to all areas of the county is key to solving several of the problems discussed here, since It would encourage a lot of the younger mountain bikers and other tourists to move here. He said many of them would like to live here, but won’t because reliable connectivity to their devices is so important to younger people. If this connectivity problem was solved, according to Felton, it could lead an increase in younger residents; the creation of new internet-based businesses here reversing the decreasing number of students in the county.
George Murphy of the Snowshoe Resort Community District (RAD) also delivered an update on the RAD to the commissioners. He said they established three voting districts which divides the RAD into 3 equal districts; they are currently working ordinances to protect property investments; and are also looking to establish new sources of revenue.