Madison County Opinion...

JULY 23, 2003


Column
By Frank Gillespie
The Madison County Journal
July 23, 2003

Frankly Speaking
Rural America highlighted in Lynch’s return
As I write this, the people of West Virginia are preparing to welcome home a national hero. Private Jessica Lynch, a 20-year-old former POW is being returned to her home to continue a long, painful rehabilitation from her injuries.
Lynch was taken prisoner in Iraq shortly after hostilities began. She was severely injured with many broken bones. American armed forces rescued her from a poorly-maintained hospital in Iraq and brought her back to Walter Reed Hospital in D.C. for the best treatment available.
Exactly what happened to Private Lynch in Iraq is not clear. She has no memory of the day she was injured and captured. But at this time, it doesn’t matter. Jessica is coming home!
All of America is happy for Private Lynch. She has the best wishes of nearly every American. But those of us from rural America have a special relation to her and her family. You see, Jessica grew up in a small mountain village in West Virginia. Everyone for miles around knew her. They watched her grow from a toddler to a proud volunteer in the U.S. Army.
Jessica’s hometown of Palestine, West Virginia is similar to my hometown of Neese, Georgia. It is primarily agricultural. Businesses there are of the small, family-operated type. It is the kind of place in which every child is part of every family. As a child, she was as welcome in the homes of neighbors as she was in her own.
Now, all those families have gathered to welcome her home. She will be guarded, protected, entertained, visited and praised by those who know her best. She will receive the kind of support and love that makes it easier to recover from her massive injuries.
Those of you who watched the proceedings today, Tuesday, July 22, 2003, will have seen America at its best. You will have witnessed a rural community gathering around one of its own. You will have seen the support of family and friends that is impossible in the crowded, impersonal big city populations.
Rural Americans are self-sufficient, independent, patriotic, family-orientated, God-loving people. Rural Americans prefer to take care of their own rather than depending on government welfare for their daily needs.
Rural people know how to produce their own food, make or repair their own furniture and live well on a limited income. They are a private people who will be most satisfied once the media leave so they can go about the business of making Jessica whole again.
These are the people you will have seen welcoming one of their own home. Keep them in your memory. It takes a special event for the media to show you’re their courage, love of God, country and family. You see, self-sufficient, God-loving, family-supporting patriotic “hillbillies” are not “politically correct.”
Today is rural America’s chance to be seen and heard. But it won’t last.
The politically correct, big-government supporting, welfare-promoting media will be back to their normal selves by the weekend.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His web page can be accessed at www.mcga.net. His e-mail address is frankg@mcga.net.

Column
By Zach Mitcham
The Madison County Journal
July 23, 2003

From the Editor's Desk
Critical growth issue still looms
It’s no skydiving crew.
But the industrial authority is clearly the county’s risk-taking board of recent years, spending many thousands of dollars in hopes of generating business growth in the county.
But the county commissioners will soon be asked to step out on the wing of the plane, because the most controversial growth issue of recent years is coming their way again and they’ll be expected this time to jump or stay put.
Yeah, the commissioners have a tough choice coming.
But let’s look at the industrial development authority (IDA) first.
No doubt, the old adage of “you’ve got to spend money to make money” is a plausible credo for the IDA, which in recent years has embarked on an ambitious and very costly water expansion effort in the Hull-Dogsboro area and purchased a controversial piece of property for an industrial park.
The IDA has had little tangible reward to show for their actions. The water system expansion has faced delay after delay, becoming a true source of frustration for all involved or observing the effort. While some have questioned the authority’s spending, no one can fault the IDA for that drill bit that fell in the well and held up the expansion project for months or the bureaucratic snail that is the loan approval process.
The authority seems snakebit somehow on the water system and they’re clearly hoping that bad luck changes when expansion construction actually begins, perhaps next month.
The success of the water system would do more than bolster the confidence of an often-maligned governmental group of volunteer appointees. It would mean the southern portion of the county would have the infrastructure to attract more business, which would lead to more tax revenue for the county. Yadda, yadda — I know, but it’s true, and it’s important.
Because the county needs all the revenue it can get to pave roads, hire deputies and other services. And the expense of the infrastructure has already been substantial. The most recent loans for the system total more than $1 million.
The IDA, in seeking to increase the county’s tax base, did bite off more than it could chew late in 2001, jumping to step two before it completed step one, which was purchasing land for an industrial park before it completed the water system expansion. It did so in a manner that outraged many. It was seemingly a back-door way to get a cold storage facility on the property after the commissioners had earlier turned down the proposal.
Also, the IDA was not prepared financially for the acquisition. Consider that the authority has only paid interest on the land purchase — approximately $27,000 — while the $425,000 principle balance, which will be due next year, remains unpaid.
The group paid for its overzealous purchase with a severe public backlash. BOC meetings last year regarding the controversial land were tense. Tempers flared. The IDA chairman was dismissed.
Some people argued that the park was a good idea, simply in the wrong place. Others said the area is appropriate for commercial growth and that the greater welfare of the county will be served by establishment of a park.
Ultimately, the controversy was diffused as the IDA shifted its focus to the rehabilitation of an old well on the eastern portion of the land. Meanwhile, the commissioners established an advisory board — which included county officials, business leaders, as well as residents who opposed the park plan — that studied the property and determined that only the western portion of the land was worth developing.
Yes, the formation of an advisory committee doused the flaming controversy of a year ago. But it didn’t solve the matter. What will happen with that land was not settled.
Now, IDA members are looking to move forward with developing that part of the controversial land. The aim is still there: increase the county’s tax base. The James Holcomb Road property, they say, is still a good place to accomplish this, provided they follow the committee’s recommendations. They want the BOC to rezone the western part of the land as “industrial.”
That means the issue that caused a great divide will soon fall back in the laps of the BOC members.
The county commissioners have faced tough decisions in recent years. But the board was non-committal on clearly the most volatile issue of the current term, the industrial park proposal.
How will that land be used?
And even more importantly. How will this county grow?
It’s not parachute jumping.
But it’s a daunting decision nonetheless.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.

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