POINT PLEASANT — The first West Virginia Legislative Session of the year begins today in Charleston but before local legislators arrived at the Capitol, they sat down with the Mason County Commission last week.
Commissioners Tracy Doolittle, Miles Epling and Rick Handley wanted to stress not only the completion of U.S. 35 (minus tolls) to legislators, but touch upon additional needs and concerns of residents. Meeting with commissioners were Delegates Brady Paxton, Scott Cadle and Jim Butler as well as State Senators Mike Hall and Mitch Carmichael.
On behalf of the commission, Handley expressed Mason County’s financial situation to the legislators - the hits of units going offline at Philip Sporn Plant, the issues at Felman Production in New Haven and the county’s own budget crunch, among some of the highlights, or low lights. In all, the commission members tried to impart to legislators the financial realities in Mason County and the need to be remembered during the upcoming session.
“We’d like to have our piece of the pie despite the budget crunch,” Handley said.
Commissioners asked legislators to remember Mason County if any money became available for the installation of new fire hydrants. In the more recent past, the county spent around 30,000 on 10-11 hydrants strategically placed around the county though more are needed. Also mentioned, more funds for programs which benefit senior citizens.
Both Cadle and Butler said they’d recently received letters saying members of the house of delegates will no longer have discretionary funds to give to counties, though Carmichael said the senate had received no such letter. Out of these senate discretionary funds, Carmichael said last year Mason County received money for a sound system at Riverfront Park and funds for the local library, among other awards.
Another concern of commissioners is the effect on any sort of brokerage legislation in regards to non-emergency transports in the EMS industry. This proposal would allow private companies to bid on this transport service through the Department of Health and Human Resources. Handley said Mason County’s EMS service earns money from transports and those calls were financially crucial to maintain and to keep local. Apparently, this proposal has been withdrawn for the time being though Butler, who said he was against the proposal, cautioned it would not be uncommon to see it reappear. Cadle also said he hadn’t heard of any delegates supporting this measure.
Also in the meeting, County Clerk Diana Cromley who said she’d like to see more of the transfer tax county residents pay stay in Mason County. She added the West Virginia Association of Counties, of which she belongs, is supporting a similar measure. Currently, 50 percent of the transfer tax collected goes directly to the state.
Butler and Cadle also mentioned a new trucking company, Thompson Trucking which has gone in at Henderson and encouraged welcoming new businesses to the area. Butler said he’s also talked to economic development personnel who estimate the installation of the new cracker plant in Parkersburg could economically benefit areas as far as 70 miles away.