AND THEN AGAIN……by Tamara Pettit

……….Fat possums travel late at night!    Former Speaker of the West Virginia House of Delegates Clyde See was referring to the Legislature and how often in the rush to move bills through by deadlines presents a perfect opportunity to stuff those bill with amendments.  His assessment was accurate.   Wednesday is the 51st day of the  60-day legislative session and that is the final day bills must pass the originating house.  Bills that lobbyists thought were dead have risen and are sprinting through each chamber without thought of their impact in real-life world in West Virginia.  And, around the Capital rotunda, lobbyists are standing in spots where cell phones get the best receptions to tell those who pay their salaries “No worry.  We’ll kill the bill in the Senate (or House).”

………For the most part, many of these non-sensical bills will meet their demise when they cross the rotunda.  In the hurry to get them passed and out, many technical (or even constitutional issues are overlooked.  Many will die due to time constraints and a committee chair that simply won’t put the bill on the agenda.

…….The folly of passing bills in a hurry was demonstrated to me when I sponsored the bill to allow Mountaineer to export its races not once but three times.   Oh, it passed three times, but twice a technical problem was discovered that prevented the Governor from signing it. 

……Hoppy Kercheval noted (as did I several weeks ago) that Republicans are sending mixed messages with legislation they are pushing.   Local control of issues has always been a top  agenda issue with the Republican leadership, but not this session.   At the very top of their agenda is forbidding local school boards to impose mask mandates or testing.   Heck, I’m a Democrat and I don’t want the folks in Charleston telling my school board members what to do.  Those folks don’t live in Hancock County and most importantly, those aren’t their kids who are at risk.  We voted  for our School Board members and in doing so vested that power to decide issues like this.

…….The March 15th edition  will feature the Hancock County Board of Education race.  I have posed six questions to each Board member and we will include each candidate’s response.     While the legislation which removes the power from the local board to enact mask mandates and require COVID testing will either be dead as a doornail or a done deal by that time, I’m still interested in how your Board candidates feel about the issue.  We’ll be posing questions to candidates in the County Commission, Circuit Clerk, County Clerk, House of Delegates and Senate races on a weekly basis until early voting begins.

……Some pretty contentious words were spoken by Mike Nixon when he addressed the Hancock County Commission meeting Thursday.   A member of the Newell Fire Department, Nixon took the Commissioners to task on several issues.    He claims that since the Clean Air Act was enacted in 2015, the Fire Department has lost $400,000.00 on its bingo games at Wells School and cites a US Supreme Court case as basis for the Health Department not being able to enact the Act.

……  Nixon is  also angry because the unincorporated area of Newell has not received what he considers its “fair share” of American Rescue Plan funds.   While the incorporated communities of Chester, New Cumberland and Weirton got specified amounts and received those funds directly, all the unincorporated areas did not.  The County received its designated amount and Commissioners made the decision where that funding would be spent.  In April 2021, the Commission held a workshop for input on how the funds would be spent and subsequently chose programs with long-term impact.

……Nixon was at that workshop and addressed the Commission advocating for a one-time $5,000 payment to emergency personnel for their work during COVID,  funding for equipment for the Newell Fire Department and  sidewalks for Newell.   Nixon re-iterated that request Thursday questioning  why the County Commission could make the decision for Newell’s share of the money.  (As a public hearing on Newell’s privately owned water system, Nixon said the Newell Volunteer Fire Department is the official governing body for the unincorporated community.) 

…..Newell has always been unincorporated.    I know New Manchester (aka Pughtown & Fairview) was once incorporated and the residents made the decision to unincorporate because the residents and businesses didn’t want to pay any municipal taxes.     As  New Cumberland’s population has dwindled,  the town’s ability to stay afloat financially through the years and maintain a police force, water and sewerage system and street repair made some question if unincorporating might be a solution.   Had that happened, however, it would no longer be our county seat.

…..In Newell’s case,  Homer Laughlin has owned and operated both their sewer and water systems along with a vital infrastructure link: the Newell Bridge.  Because they are unincorporated Homer Laughlin and other businesses in the community are not subject to any municipal taxes.   Things have changed at Homer Laughlin and the Company is now looking to have the water and sewage declared distressed by the WV Public Service Commission and taken over by neighboring PSD’s like Tomlinson and Hancock County PSD.  

…….The citizens of Newell have done an admirable job of addressing issues in the community.   The Newell Improvement Council takes on the beautification issues; maintains Laurel Hollow Park and sponsors entertainment there during the summer.   And, the Newell Fire Department has been active in the Community as well.   Not real sure however, how Mike Nixon could claim it as a governing body?

…….Also in question is the condition of the Newell bridge, also privately-owned by Homer Laughlin.  Rumor has it (and I stress just rumors) that a $2 million-grant has been acquired for bridge repair.  On the trail of this rumor, I called Homer Laughlin to speak to the company spokesperson.   I left a message, but received no call back.  I’m guessing I won’t.   In the seven years we have operated Hometown News, I have often tried to get a call back on various issues at Homer Laughlin but to no avail. 

…..There is a bunny in my garage.   He wants to come into the house, but I refuse to buy into his tale of sunlight, spring and all things Easter.  I spied him in a Tupperware container of seasonal décor last week and briefly considered bringing him inside to brighten my day.    Luckily, my practical side prevailed.  Sure enough, the very next day winter returned with a vengeance bringing with it gloomy skies, wind and plummeting temperatures.   My front entrance door is naked for it is still  the season of no season.  Christmas and Valentine’s Day have passed and Spring is not quite  yet.  It’s not even March.   But today it’s Sunday and the sun is shining and hope springs eternal.   I go to the garage, grab the little bunny and mutter, “Come in, come in….and bring your little friends.”