Commissioners to be commended for careful document
Archivists digging through documents at the Harrison
County Courthouse made an interesting find this week.
Under a pile of otherwise insignificant papers, crews found a document
signed by Patrick Henry, then governor of Virginia. The document dates
back to 1786.
Henry, if you will recall, was known as a fiery
orator in Colonial America. He is largely remembered in history books for
his speech urging the arming of the Virginia militia on the eve of The
Most of the document is handwritten in the flowery
script of the day, so nobody has been able to read it yet and figure out
what it says. It appears to be some sort of deed dealing with a land transfer.
What the document contains isnt as important as the fact that it was found.
Harrison County Commissioners ordered an inventory
of the old records after a pressing need surfaced to find additional space
and meet fire code regulations in the countys record room. But instead
of telling crews to just go in and throw everything out carte blanche,
commissioners asked that each document be inspected.
Last year, Marion County Commissioners werent so
smart. They just threw out records and received criticism from the public
for their actions. Who knows what historically significant piece of paper
might have been tucked under some of those piles of otherwise useless looking
We commend the Harrison County commissioners for
their handling of this situation. Because of their even minded response
to a problem, they have been able to preserve a small piece of history
in Harrison County.
That nagging itch of athletes foot
When I first started whitewater boating in West Virginia
during the late 1970s, the raft guides down at the New River used to talk
a lot about their problems with athletes foot.
Yes, athletes foot nasty cases of that itchy stuff between the toes.
I guess the combination of wearing soggy sneakers
day in and day out and the warm water temperatures of the New during the
summer months created a veritable breeding ground for fungus on the feet
of many of the Mountain States early river guides.
No amount of Desenex powder, spray or ointment seemed
to help. So, being generally resourceful people, and lacking health insurance
of any kind, the New River guides were forced to find their own cure.
What they came up with was temporary job transfers. They would move
from Fayetteville up to Preston County for a week of taking customers down
the mighty Cheat River.
Yep, the Cheat was a sure cure for those troubled
dogs, my guide-friend Greg Kump used to tell me. Because of the runoff
from coal mines, he said, the Cheat was so full of acid that nothing could
live in it nothing, not fish, not crawdads, not even those super strains
of New River Gorge Athletes Foot Fungus.
Of course, I didnt believe Greg. He was a raft
guide. And as the old joke goes: How can you tell when a raft guides lying?
The answer: His lips are moving.
But then, in the early 1980s, I floated the Cheat for the first time.
Rocks along the banks of the magnificent gorge were
orange, bright orange stained by the acid from mines. The water, although
clear, stung and burned my eyes.
Sure enough, Greg was right. The river was full
of acid, created when air and water come in contact with pyrite (iron sulfide),
a mineral exposed during the coal mining process. And yes, the Cheat guides
assured me, folks who typically worked the New often came north to rid
their feet of fungus.
Furthermore, the Cheat guides said, the treatment always seemed to
Anyhow, I suppose those early boating experiences
are to blame for my keen interest in such topics as the health of our rivers,
acid mine drainage and mining methods like mountaintop removal. And a series
of recent events has made me remember my friend Greg, the other New guides
and their feet.
My first flashback occurred the other day when the
West Virginia Legislature passed yet another lame mountaintop mining bill.
I remembered Gregs stories again on Friday, when thousands of people who
work for the mining industry turned out to protest a federal court ruling
that blocked development of the largest proposed mountaintop strip mine
in West Virginia history.
I found myself wondering: Do you suppose our legislators,
governor and all those protesters suffer from bad cases of athletes foot?
Perhaps a trip to the Cheat would help.
Dave Bassage, director of Friends of the Cheat,
a Kingwood-based river conservation group, says the health of the Cheat
has improved considerably in recent years. However, too much acid runoff
from coal mines still finds its way into the river.
Lets put it this way, Bassage said, Theres a lot more (reclamation)
left to do than has been done.
In other words, theres probably enough acid left in the Cheat to cure
a good case of athletes foot.
Then again, maybe all this recent chest pounding
in support of mountaintop mining and the coal industry is just a sign of
laziness. People dont want to try anything different something really
wild like responsible resource extraction.
I think the governor and our legislative leaders are especially guilty
of this charge. If they were serious about fixing the problems with the
mountaintop mining bill passed last year, they would have invited people
like Bassage, the U.S. EPA and the residents of proposed mountaintop mining
sites to sit down with coal company executives and state environmental
officials and hammer out a solution.
It could work. I havent heard one responsible conservationist
propose an end to all coal mining in West Virginia.
Instead, our political leaders seem to want to continue addressing
this issue in smoke-filled, back rooms, where anyone with environmental
concerns or concerns about the human impact of mountaintop mining is excluded.
Or they prefer to deal with it on the steps of the state Capitol.
Wouldnt it be great if someone in state government
really tried to find a solution to this issue instead of just cowering,
as usual, to the Arch Coals of the world?
But thats probably too much to ask especially
if their feet itch.
Bill Sedivy is executive editor of the Exponent and Telegram.
His column appears every Saturday.
Strong open-meetings law would keep close
eye on office-holders
Journalists, who make their living collecting and
disseminating information, can be expected to argue for a strong open-meetings
law. But journalists arent the only ones who should favor such a law.
Every citizen should.
Councilmen, county commissioners, delegates and
congressmen promise to serve those who elected them. Human nature being
what it is, that promise is often broken. So, citizens need to keep a close
watch on office-holders to make sure they are indeed serving the people
and not themselves. A strong open meetings law can help citizens do that.
West Virginia already has an open meetings law on
the books, but it can be made stronger. How? By making it more specific.
A bill already passed by the House and now before the state Senate would
The current law outlines broad rules that let officials
close meetings to the public for a variety of reasons. The bill is more
restrictive. For example, the current open meetings law allows governing
bodies to meet in private to discuss personnel or personal matters. Under
the bill, however, governing bodies would not be allowed to meet in private
to discuss personnel policy in general, or to review the performance of
a member of the public body, or to fill a vacant seat on the public body.
The bill also would set up a open-meetings advisory
committee under the Ethics Commission. Governing bodies could turn to the
committee for an opinion on whether a meeting should be open or closed
to the public. Such a committee is a good idea because, we believe, most
public officials do strive to serve the public. More often than not, they
close meetings because of ignorance of the open meetings law.
Still, there are times when public officials close
meetings to try to hide their shenanigans. That is why West Virginia needs
a strong, specific open meetings law. With prompt action today, the state
Legislature can ensure the state has such a law.
Telegram editorial board member