UPDATE: Mason County Commission Passes Budget Cuts

By: Lauren Schmoll; Andrew Colegrove Email
By: Lauren Schmoll; Andrew Colegrove Email

UPDATE: 3/21/12 @ 7 p.m.
MASON COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Cuts are coming for county agencies in Mason County after the closing of a power plant leaves them without a big chunk of their tax revenue.

At their meeting Thursday the county commission approved a budget that cuts 50 percent of funding from all fire stations, EMS, libraries, parks, the health department and more.

"The fire department is working on a shoestring budget just to get along the way it was," Point Pleasant Volunteer Fire Department Chief Jeremy Bryant said. "It's really tough with all the mandates, rules and regulations that come down from the state and federal government."

County Commissioner Rick Handley says the cuts are necessary now that American Electric Power is shutting down the Phillip Sporn power plant in Mason County.

AEP says the closing is a result of new EPA regulations that would cost too much to implement.

The plant’s closing is cutting off nearly half a million dollars in tax revenue for the county.

"We're not like the federal government who can spend and spend and spend,” Handley said. “It's our responsibility to make sure we have a balanced budget.”

Diana Cromley is the Mason County Clerk and the president of the Mason County Library Board.

"We're hopeful we won't have to cut personnel," Cromley said.

She says they’re hoping to find grant money to help make the transition to this budget less drastic.

Their main hope now is to bring in new business and new revenue to the county.

"I believe in the power of prayer,” Cromley said. “I believe we'll get more industry to come into Mason County. That's what we're really looking for."

No county employees will be receiving raises in this budget either, Handley said.

This budget goes into effect starting in July.

The county commission says any new money that comes in will be given to fire crews and EMS first.

MASON COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- It's been almost two years since we found out American Electric Power would be shutting down the Phillip Sporn power plant in Mason County -- because of new EPA regulations it says would cost too much to implement.

Now, we have a new picture of how that closure is going to impact the community.

The Mason County Commission says the plant’s closure will cut its budget by nearly a half million dollars a year.

“This place up in here wouldn't be here if it wasn't for the plants,” local business owner Mark Thompson said.

For decades, they've been the lifeblood that's kept the town of New Haven, W.Va., going. But now, one is closing because of new EPA regulations.

“It's pretty sad right now and hard for the community,” Thompson said.

And getting harder.

The county commission says the plant's closing will mean a nearly half million dollar loss to its general fund.

“It's a big chunk of money,” Commission President Rick Handley said.

“That's a major chunk, because where do you cut?” Thompson asked.

The answer? Just about everywhere -- libraries, community centers, the county fair ... even EMS and fire. Their budgets all would be cut by 50 percent or more.

“We have a budget we have to live by,” Handley said. “And we're not like the federal government who doesn't have to have a balanced budget.”

“It's going to be tough,” Point Pleasant Fire Chief Jeremy Bryant said. “We're really gonna have to tighten our purse strings and try to make it with a lesser budget -- and it's going to be tight.”

Bryant worries about smaller departments being able to stay afloat, which would mean higher insurance costs for homeowners.

He says without the funds from the county, departments will be forced to rely more heavily on fundraisers -- something Thompson says the folks of Mason County are always willing to do.

“When the library needs something, we're there for them, and vice-versa,” Thompson said. “Fire department, we're there. We need to stick together as a county.”

That's as they all try to overcome a big loss.

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