The Times West Virginian

March 17, 2013

Teamwork approach will help move county forward

Times West Virginian

— When you take on a leadership role, you have plenty of responsibilities.

And when you’re the mayor of one of Marion County’s 11 municipalities, that list of responsibilities can seem endless.

Services must be provided. Budgets must be balanced. Streets must be paved. Codes must be enforced. Safety is a concern. So is making sure everything runs smoothly on a daily basis. And don’t forget about the employees of the towns, who play integral roles in making sure each of these tasks is accomplished.

With such an extensive list of responsibilities, it’s always good to have someone you can turn to who can offer advice or simply listen.

That’s what happened last week when several mayors from around Marion County attended a forum to meet with county officials and discuss common issues that face their respective municipalities.

The forum was organized by Charlie Reese, director of the Marion County Development Office, and even though the atmosphere remained lighthearted, it was a chance for mayors to really discuss things their towns and councils are struggling with.

The issues ranged from shrinking budgets to dilapidated buildings.

The derelict properties especially worry the mayors because the state does not provide funding to be used to clean up those properties, and the towns simply don’t have the funds to address the problem themselves.

In Grant Town, for example, Mayor Melanie Thompson said there are a lot of dilapidated buildings.

“People leave ... and they’re letting these properties fall in disrepair,” Thompson said. “You can’t attract people into a town when they drive past all these derelict properties.”

There’s a similar problem in Mannington, according to Mayor Robert Garcia.

“They’ve got to be demolished, and there’s no way to get it done,” he said.

It’s not an issue that goes unnoticed. Randy Elliott, president of the Marion County Commission, told the mayors he gets a lot of calls and visits about dilapidated buildings and houses in the county.

“It would take millions of dollars just to clean up what we have in Marion County,” he added.

Those attending the forum said they’d like to have some involvement from the state Legislature, which they said would especially help when it comes to the dilapidated structures.

“I think the only way we’re going to get to the bottom of it is to have the Legislature come up with some way to raise money to appropriate to all the smaller communities — and cities, for that matter — to take these (dilapidated buildings) down,” Elliott said.

The mayors also discussed how they could attract businesses to their towns as well as how to retain and encourage additional businesses to invest in the communities.

No topic was too large or too small, and discussion even turned to setting up an agreement to let smaller communities or perhaps the county at large pool together to purchase bulk items like salt to treat the roads.

It’s no secret the towns face common issues, and with expenses going up as revenues go down, we know those issues get more complicated with each passing day.

But if our local mayors and county officials can work together as a team to resolve these common issues — not to mention bring the issues to the attention of leaders at the state level — each town and every resident will benefit.

Ultimately, that teamwork approach will help move Marion County forward.