Thursday, April 28, 2016

People Leaving Webster County by the Bucket Full

According to the United States Census, Webster County's heyday occurred in the 1940's when over 18,000 people were residents of the county.

With one exception, it's been all downhill since then.

From 1940 to 1970, the population decreased to 9,809.  Webster saw a bump in population to 12,245 in 1980 but by the time of the 2010 Census, Webster's population stood at 9,154.

By Census estimates, in 2015, Webster now stands at 8,755 residents.  About 23 percent of Webster's population lives below federal poverty levels.

In its history, Webster has voted Democratic in every presidential election except in 1972 (when the county voted for Nixon over McGovern) and in 2012 (when the county voted for Romney over Obama).

Write-In Candidate for Sheriff

Sheriff candidate Barney Fife is shown
here with his campaign manager, Gomer
Pyle, both of Mayberry R.F.D.
It was bound to happen.

With all the muckraking, personal attacks, and negativity in some of the local elections, a new candidate for Sheriff has emerged.  Former Deputy Sheriff Barney Fife of Mayberry R.F.D. has filed as a write-in candidate in the upcoming election.

Fife is running a no holds barred campaign with the enlistment of Gomer Pyle as his campaign manager.  Fife certainly holds the advantage with name recognition and stellar law enforcement experience.  He also has the endorsement of former Sheriff Andy Taylor.

A recent poll conducted by Aunt Bee has Fife well ahead.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Mountain Valley Natural Gas Pipeline Project Update

The MVP project crosses the western half of Webster County with its mid-point near Erbacon.
In the Fall of 2014, representatives of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) project made a presentation in Webster County at the Webster Springs Municipal Building to inform residents of the proposed pipeline.  In October, 2015, the MVP filed its formal request for approval with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Approval is still pending.

This natural gas pipeline project is for a buried 42 inch pipeline that begins in northern West Virginia and ends in North Carolina.  The pipeline is projected to cross most of the western half of Webster County from Lower Lick Run near Replete to Camden on Gauley.

Proponents of the MVP project tout its economic benefit to Webster County in the form of estimated personal property tax revenue in its first year of operation (set for late 2018) in the range of $1.4 million, with depreciating revenues in following years.

The project has hit one major stumbling block when in August, 2015, Monroe County Circuit Judge Robert Irons ruled in favor of property owners who were seeking to stop MVP surveyors from entering their properties to survey for the pipeline's location.  Judge Irons ruled that the MVP project failed to establish that the project would provide sufficient public use to justify entering private property without an owner's permission.  It is not clear whether that ruling was appealed.  MVP can simply go around the objecting property owners onto property where the owners do consent.

According to the project schedule, construction is slated to begin in December, 2016 (see below).

The Mountain Valley Pipline project map showing its path across West Virginia into Virginia.

Austin Hayes: Cross Country/Track Threat

Webster County High School's cross country and track programs were in the limelight during the 2014-15 school year due in large part to the accomplishments of Brettley Harris, now a freshman at West Virginia Wesleyan College.  Harris was the Class A-AA cross country champion and runner-up in the Class A-AA men's 3200 meter race at the State Championships.

This year, quickly following on Brettley's footsteps is Highlander senior runner Austin Hayes.

Austin Hayes at a cross country meet.
Hayes, who was most recently ranked the top long distance threat in Class A-AA, has improved his performances each year of his high school career under the guidance of Cross Country and Track coach Steven Nutter.  In his cross country career (a race of 5,000 meters), Hayes registered these improving times: 2012, 9th Grade, 20:47.84; 2013, 10th Grade, 17:13.35; 2014, 11th Grade, 16:42.4; and 2015,12th Grade, 16:38.1.  His time of 16:38.1 this past Fall gave Hayes a fourth place finish in the WVSSAC Class A-AA State Championship, just 27 seconds behind the first place winner.

In his track season in 2016 so far, Austin's notable finishes included a first place finish in the 800 meter race with a time of 2:03.92 and a third place finish in the 3200 meter race with a time of 10:07.52, both at the Harry Green Invitational held at Bridgeport High School on April 16, 2016.

Austin's personal best times are:  
400m - 59.22
800m - 2:03.50
1600m (in) - 4:41.27
1600m - 4:31.91
3200m (in) - 11:18.28
3200m - 10:07.52
5K (xc) - 16:38.12
Austin Hayes (far left), Coach Nutter (center), and Brettley
Harris (center right).
Austin doing some "high water" training.

Primary Election Night Coverage Source

On primary election night, May 10, 2016, the Commentator will post updates of the results in selected local elections for Webster County. Races that will be posted include:  Sheriff, Magistrates, and Circuit Judge.  Results will be posted here long before any other local news source.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Early Voting for May Primary Election Begins April 27

Early voting for the May 10 primary election begins at the Webster County Courthouse on Wednesday, April 27, 2016.

Three offices in particular in Webster County are being hotly contested, being the races for Sheriff and the two Magistrate positions.

Early voting at the Courthouse begins Wednesday, April 27.
Four candidates are seeking to be Webster County's new Sheriff after current Sheriff David Bender surprised many people by not seeking a second term (which he was virtually assured of winning had he decided to file).  The four candidates for Sheriff are David Cutlip, the chief of police for Webster Springs, David Morris, a former Webster County deputy sheriff, Johnny Sandy, and David Vandevender, a current Webster County deputy sheriff.

In the Magistrate race, former Webster County Commissioner and business owner Victor McClure is opposing incumbent Magistrate Richard Robertson.  Reports have it that at two meet the candidate forums, McClure and Robertson exchanged heated words over the issues of the County's $1.5 million jail bill and the Magistrates' work schedule.  The other incumbent Magistrate, John Stone, is being opposed by coal miner Ryan Bruffy and deputy county clerk Daniel Lehman.  Both Stone and Robertson were first elected in 2008 and then re-elected in 2012.

Early voting occurs at the County Clerk's office on the first floor of the Courthouse.  Voters have the option of a traditional paper ballot or an electronic voting machine.

Joyce Morton to Serve as New Family Court Judge

Family Court Judge-elect Joyce Morton plans
to have her cat, Sir Rudy Poopsalot, with her on
the bench when her terms starts January 1, 2017.
Longtime Webster County lawyer Joyce Helmick Morton will become the new Family Court Judge for the Webster-Pocahontas County district.  Morton is running unopposed in the upcoming May 10 election and her eight year term will begin on January 1, 2017.  Judges are now elected on a non-partisan basis in the May primary election, with no election in the Fall general election.

Morton, who is married to Michael Carpenter, is originally from Sand Fork in Gilmer County, attended Gilmer County High School, studied at Glenville State College, and received her law degree from WVU.  Prior to her short-lived "retirement," Morton was a partner in the law firm of VanNostrand & Morton, and worked for the Milan Pushkar trust.