Save the Sharp Farm of Pocahontas County
History and heritage in Slatyfork, West Virginia.

Letter to The Pocahontas Times from Tom Shipley

Thursday March 1, 2007
The Pocahontas Times

There can be little doubt that Commissioner Martin Saffer's campaign platform against the abuse of eminent domain was the impetus for his recent successful election to the Pocahontas County Commission. His voice on this and other issues is now the people's voice. It is hoped that his fellow commissioners will welcome this new voice and give it proper consideration as it represents the wishes of not one man, but many.

There are signs that the two commissioners of tenure may be disappointing us in this regard. Legally, they have the ability to maneuver motions, votes and appointments to exclude versus include the new commissioner and the views he was elected to represent. However, having that ability and acting on it may leave many in the county out of the public conversation.

One possible concern is the County Commission's recent appointment of board members to the Region IV Planning and Development Council. This council is a quasi-governmental agency assigned the task of assisting rural Public Service District boards in putting together the nuts and bolts of projects such as water and sewer system construction. This administrative board manages the affairs of and makes 'recommendations' to our Pocahontas County Public Service District board.

Barely a handful of our 9000 or so citizens have publicly stated they are in favor of the Sharp farm taking by Eminent Domain. Is it a coincidence that, out of the enormous pool of many against, three appointees to the Region IV council favor this use of Eminent Domain? It can be argued that these individuals offer unique and important perspectives for the future development of our county and that is logical and acceptable. But, if the goal of appointing these individuals to the Region IV board is to promote or recommend this use of Eminent Domain to the Public Service District board, then the danger exists that the collective will of the people will be compromised, circumvented. Meetings of these organizations often go by 'unnoticed' and unattended. Could Commissioners Carpenter and Griffith be sneaking their stance on Eminent Domain through the back door of Region IV? If so, this action runs the risk of disenfranchising the voters and should be carefully monitored.

We want to believe our officials are sincere in their actions. Recently reported votes on matters of importance appear, at least on the surface, to offer hope. It would be disappointing if our elected representatives were, instead, participating in a behind the scenes attempt to thwart the will of the people so strongly communicated in the last election. If encouragement by the people to find publicly acceptable solutions for our future is, indeed, being heeded this is a very promising development.

Tom Shipley
Slaty Fork