INTERCEPTED LETTER - Consolidation Of Counties

(03/27/2001)

Charleston Daily Mail: Rebuttal To Editorial Of 2/22/01

Dear Editor,

Perhaps the "pain" West Virginia has endured through the consolidation of schools, hospitals and even jails, is because bigger is not always better. Some of the pain could be because consolidation has caused the dissolution of much needed jobs, loss of identity and a sense of community, and indeed has proven to be not less, but more expensive.

Perhaps the splintering of counties from larger ones in the 19th century had more to do with vision for the future, than it did difficult travel. Maybe our ancestors knew that smaller counties were vital to peaceful co-existence, order, efficiency and livability.

During the past years we have witnessed problems with urban sprawl, urban ghettos, high crime rates, crowded prisons, and consolidated schools that appear to be breeding grounds for poor education, violence and murder.

Our state's 55 counties are much more than "expensive and inefficient relics of an agrarian (characteristic of farmers or their way of life) past." I am deeply offended at statements such as "Wirt County, the state's smallest, was never much of anything." I'm sure you feel the same about many other rural counties, including my own beloved Calhoun County. I find such statements offensive, personally and for my fellow citizens. You might as well have said the people of these counties are or were never much of anything.

Our individual rural counties have been part of our very identity, something of which we are intensely proud. We are proud to say we are from Wirt, Calhoun, Roane, Clay, Ritchie or Gilmer Counties. We and our ancestors have contributed much to our state and country. While there are some compelling reasons for consolidation, the pompous and arrogant comments of Kanawha Countians and the politicos that reside within, including your newspaper, are most offending.

Perhaps, if our state government would look more toward the preservation of local government and the importance of smaller communities, and less toward making bigger, better, we could maintain the quality of life so valuable to our citizens.

Perhaps if our state government would stop piling unfunded mandates onto already strapped counties and start contributing to them, they could pull themselves out of their quagmire and halt the dissolution (death) of our most valuable asset - rural communities.

In the end, if folks like Senator Mitchell gets his way and counties are consolidated, in the Wood-Wirt case, the consolidated county should be named "Wirt" and if Kanawha is anxious to take in Clay County, we suggest the County Commission relocate to Clay, since it is easy travel up I-79.

Dianne Weaver
Mt. Zion, Calhoun County, WV