Rep. Mooney discusses issues in Wirt County

U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W.Va., speaks with officials in Wirt County on Tuesday during a town hall meeting to discuss issues of local concern, including economic development and the opioid crisis. (Photo by Wayne Towner)

ELIZABETH — About 20 Wirt County residents, mostly elected officials and community and business leaders, met Tuesday morning with U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney to discuss issues.

Mooney, R-W.Va., held an hour-long town hall meeting at the Wirt County Courthouse, with plans to go from there to a similar meeting in Calhoun County before returning to Washington, D.C., on Tuesday evening to vote on issues before the House of Representatives.

The original purpose of the meeting was to discuss economic development issues in Wirt County, but most of the time was spent discussing other issues, including the impact of floodplain legislation in Wirt County and the opioid crisis and its effects on children, the school system and the community.

Officials told Mooney that while there are still issues in Wirt County regarding business and employment, the area has experienced growth due to the pipeline project underway in the natural gas development in the area. That work has already resulted in new businesses being created, they said.

However, officials were concerned about the temporary nature of those improvements with the pipleline project expected to be completed within 18 months.

In response to an update on local work by the Federal Emergency Management Agency since February’s natural disaster declaration due to flooding, Mooney was told there remains an issue for Wirt County residents due to outdated maps and changes in floodplain regulations.

Maps for the county are over 20 years old and recent changes to the floodplain designations in sections of Wirt County don’t reflect the actual topography of the land. Mooney was told the floodplain borders have been extended without regard to the actual land involved, placing hillside which have never been flooded in areas where flood insurance is recommended or required. Seeking removal from that status through FEMA can cost landowers hundreds of dollars.

Mooney also was told about the opioid crisis and the impact it is having on Wirt County. Aside from those directly involved in using addictive substances, he was told about the outlying and often silent ripples of the crisis, especially in the school system where more and more children are being affected by opioid usage in their families.

More support is needed at a time when government support and services are being reduced, Wirt Schools Superintendent MaryJane Pope-Albin said.

Mooney said many of the issues raised in Wirt County on Tuesday reflect similar problems he has heard about at other meetings throughout the 17-county 2nd Congressional District, but each community also has unique problems.