This morning the local newspaper ran a story quoting Raleigh County Commissioner David Tolliver concerning details of the County’s proposed takeover of Little Beaver State Park. Commissioner Tolliver is quoted as having said “Jeff Pack, Roy Cooper, and Brandon Steele were also on board…” with the plan for the County to takeover Little Beaver State Park.
This is inaccurate. While I cannot speak for Delegates Pack or Cooper, I can speak for myself. No one from the County Commission ever spoke to me about the proposed takeover prior to the 2020 legislative session. I became aware of the idea floating around in the Senate during the 2020 session, but no one sat down with me and discussed the proposal. I never voiced support for this plan. As well, I know that Delegate Pack did an interview with WVVA where he specifically said that his constituents had brought up issues with the proposed takeover.
I was opposed to the proposed takeover for several reasons. One of those reasons is evidenced in the article in the form of several quotes from Commissioner Tolliver. “Tolliver said the state would have to repair the lake before the county assumed stewardship.” Essentially, Raleigh County would be getting a property that needed a very costly repair. The State certainly has the funds and expertise to carry out the repair. The County does not have the funds to expend on repairing the dam. While the State would have paid for the dam repair under the proposal, the County is certainly not in the position to handle similar issues if they arose in the future.
In another quote, Commissioner Tolliver said “the county will, eventually, have to ask taxpayers to pass a $750,000 levy to fund Parks and Recreation.” I am opposed to additional taxes on the citizens of Raleigh County. By acquiring this property from the State there would have been additional costs imposed on the County to maintain and operate the property. These expenses could only be made up from two sources: additional taxes or fees to use the park.
I am opposed to both of these ideas. While Little Beaver does need work and updates it is ill-conceived to shift ownership from the State, which can afford the cost of the work, to the County, which cannot afford the cost of the work. Right now it costs nothing for residents and visitors to enjoy Little Beaver State Park. If the County took the park over there would be a real danger that an entrance or user fee would need to be imposed to maintain and operate the park. If not a user fee, then the County also has discussed a tax levy to provide additional funds to Parks and Recreation. I feel we are taxed in excess as a people already, and I will not support a move that potentially creates the need to impose further taxes.
I do take offense at some of the statements concerning the legislature. Commissioner Tolliver is quoted as saying “It just ain’t worth the hassle of going down to the Legislature and letting them play their little silly games.” I’m not sure who this is directed at, but I can tell you with 100% certainty that at no time did anyone from the County Commission present to me proposed legislation to transfer ownership of the Park to the County. There was no “game” to be “played” on my part, and this kind of petty, vague, and inflammatory statement does not go very far in fostering a healthy relationship between the County and the Legislature.
It was also reported that Commissioner Hedrick said that “A problem arose…when none of the state legislators were confident about the language to use when writing the proposed legislation.” Again, I cannot speak for any of my fellow delegates that represent Raleigh County, but I was never contacted by anyone to prepare proposed legislation. Considering I am the only attorney in the delegation from Raleigh County you would think if there was any doubt about the appropriate language I might be a good person to contact.
We have a great County Commission with some very dedicated members. I think that Commissioner Greg Duckworth coming on board is only going to make the Commission stronger. They have done an amazing job maintaining our County in an environment of declining tax revenue from severance and the need to provide more services to an aging population. I have met with the Commissioners on several issues of importance such as the regional jail cost. I have introduced multiple pieces of legislation that are aimed at assisting not just Raleigh County, but every County in containing outrageous costs that have grown unbearable in an environment with a declining severance tax. There were no silly games played in the introduction of this needed legislation, and I will be introducing it again. I hope here in the next month that the Commission can communicate with the legislative delegation about the issues we are currently facing. We have large issues that can be addressed in the coming session. I hope the Commission can focus on those issues rather than levying ad hominem attacks in the local press because someone is upset over a bungled real estate transfer.