State of Tyler County Breakfast Is Held
Five keynote speakers, each representing his or her own area of expertise, converged at Genesis Healthcare’s Sistersville location on Aug. 22 to present at Wetzel County Chamber of Commerce’s “State of Tyler County Breakfast.” Keynote speakers were as follows: Eric Vincent, Tyler County Commissioner; Tina Rush, Markwest Energy Partners’ Local Government Affairs Representative; Luke Peters, Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Council’s Project Coordinator; Robin Daquilante, Superintendent of Tyler County Schools; Ryan Thorn, Economic Development Manager for the Office of U.S. Senator Manchin.
Commissioner Vincent noted Tyler County is in good financial condition, with $3 to $4 million in the county’s general fund. He highlighted the different projects progressing throughout the county, such as the Route 18 South waterline project, which will provide Arthur I. Boreman Elementary with water.
Vincent noted the sheriff’s office has been moved into a “better location” and the courthouse has also undergone window and security projects. Also, the county’s 4-H camp has undergone renovations, as to comply with the state fire marshal’s direction. Other upgrades to the 4-H grounds include the addition of a boys dorm and plans for a new bridge to the 4-H grounds. Vincent stated the county’s broadband initiative is moving forward, and the county is progressing on annexation projects. Of the latter, Vincent noted the county is out of space and needs a new building for its magistrate’s office. “We don’t have room for records,” he said. Vincent said the county is also renovating its 911 center, and is investigating the prospect of a communications tower at the Five Points location. This location, where five counties meet, would increase signals for 911 response.
Vincent said a concern continues to be the opioid crisis. He said the commission will continue to help and provide resources to law enforcement; however, change must happen from the heart.
As to oil and gas industry activity, Vincent said the county sees revenue but also hears concerns from citizens regarding road conditions. “Anytime there is progress, there is pain,” he noted.
Vincent said although the county’s commissioners are in the public eye, “There are many people who stand behind us.” Vincent recognized those behind-the-scenes. He named the county’s surveyor, assessor, clerks, first responders and law enforcement. He also complimented the county’s people and businesses. “We all do this together,” he noted. Vincent also noted how each person is a human being and is not perfect, though “We think we have to do everything right everyday.” Prior to his presentation, Vincent also thanked God for providing strength throughout trials he has endured.
In another matter, Tina Rush noted the “good things” happening in the oil and gas industry. Rush said she feels strongly that in eight to 10 years the area will see more of a boom thanks to the oil and gas industry. She stated the United States is a leader in natural gas production, followed by Russia, Iran, Qatar, and Canada. However, if the states of West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania would be measured alone, the tri-state area produces enough gas to be the third largest nation in the world. This gas mainly comes from Marcellus and Utica shale plays. Rush noted that from 2017-2030, the U.S. natural gas supply is expected to grow by 38 Bcf/d, with 45 percent of that growth expected to come from the Northeast.
Rush said everyday products stem from natural gas products, such as lotions, detergents, lipsticks, nail polishes, roofing, cell phones, and more. Furthermore, MarkWest, now a wholly-owned subsidiary of MPLX LP – which is a diversified growth-oriented master limited partnership formed in 2012 by Marathon Petroleum Corporation, has invested around $16 billion in the tri-state area. Rush said this is impressive, as well as that there are several gas companies which have all made substantial investments. She noted there has been a tremendous amount of money invested by the natural gas industry as a whole.
Rush stated MarkWest’s Sherwood complex, located in Doddridge County, has two more plants under construction which could be completed and operating by mid-November. If this is the case, at this point, Sherwood would be the largest gas processing plant in North America. Sherwood didn’t begin operating its first plant until 2012
Rush also spoke about Shale Crescent USA, a non-profit group that promotes the development of the Shale Crescent – the area around the Ohio River, including Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Shale Crescent USA recently authorized a study, completed by an international firm, that states the Shale Crescent area is the most profitable place to build a petrochemical plant, exceeding earnings potential of the Gulf Coast by four times as much profit. Advantages are abundant natural gas supply, access to water, proximity to market, skilled labor force, and cost advantage.
Next, Luke Peters, of the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Council, stated his organization serves eight counties. He noted MOVRC provides grant writing services to county organizations, among other services. For instance, Peters noted that when a cracker plant appeared to be a possibility for the Parkersburg area, the MOVRC helped to ensure roads and water supply were ready for the possible growth. Besides its Community Development Program, the MOVRC also offers the following programs: Foster Grandparents Program, Revolving Loan Program, Retired Senior Volunteer Program, Senior Companion Program, Workforce Development Program, among others. Peters noted the Revolving Loan Program has been successful.
Peters noted one of the biggest pools of funding for the area stems from the Small Cities Block Grant. He said Tyler County was due for funding and received two awards in the past year. One award will be used for the Route 18 South waterline extension project’s first phase, while the second award will be used for the county’s broadband expansion project.
Currently, the municipalities of Sistersville, Paden City, and Middlebourne are each undergoing projects. Peters said Tyler PSD water will be connected to Sistersville, and Sistersville will also undergo a line upgrade. Sistersville will pay a tap fee to be connected to Tyler PSD.
Peters said these sorts of projects do have an economic impact, as workers do purchase products and services in Tyler County.
Peters also touched on the topic of a Regional Code Enforcement Officer. He said small towns do not have the funds to address dilapidated buildings; therefore, the MOVRC is helping access funds for an inspector to cover eight different communities.
In another matter, Tyler County Schools Superintendent Robin Daquilante declared she had the best job of anyone in the room.
“We are striving to continue to do a job,” she noted of the Tyler County Schools system, which employees 214 people. Daquilante said thanks to WV Schools Building Authority grant funds, Tyler County Schools has seen several upgrades.
As to enrollment, Daquilante said Tyler County Schools currently enrolls 1297 students. She discussed state funding of schools and noted 1300 is the “magic number” of students. Once a school system enrolls 1300 students, the school system is no longer funded based on its number enrolled. Daquilante noted Doddridge County receives no state funding for its school system because of its tax base.
Daquilante said Tyler County Schools is consistently ranked near the top in the state, because of its graduation rates, graduates’ parents comments, and safety. She noted the school system tries to publicize its achievements, such as participation in Youth in Government, athletics, art, and vocational endeavors. She said Tyler County Schools’ students are well-behaved; notably 99.3 percent of TCS students have not been suspended. TCS has not had to expel a student for almost a year, and Daquilante commended the administration for this success. She also noted that there has not been a fight in the high school for two years. Daquilante remarked that although disciplinary issues might be a big deal to adults, in the grand scheme, “our kids are good.”
In December, Tyler County voters agreed to pass the school excess. Daquilante said these extra funds pay for textbooks and workbooks, library books, computers, and more. She said every classroom has an interactive SMART board, and TCS has also recently hired a full-time technical support person. She also noted that due to qualifications, Tyler County Schools’ students will also have free breakfasts and lunches this year.
Ryan Thorn, representative of Senator Manchin’s office, noted the importance of adapting to change and adapting to the “demands of today and tomorrow.” Thorn gave the example of how Pittsburgh was a large producer of steel in the 60s and 70s; however, present-day, Pittsburgh is better known as a research hub and technological advances.
Thorn noted how when he was in school, it was stressed to attend a four-year college or university. However, individuals can make more money now by pursuing a vocational education. He noted the importance of identifying a need, as to what kind of workforce is needed.
Thorn said Senator Manchin is focused on fighting the opioid epidemic, which has a “significant economic impact.” Thorn said Manchin had introduced two pieces of legislation, one in which a manufacturer is to pay one penny per milligram of opioid produced. This money would go toward rehabilitation. Another piece of legislation would allow a person convicted of a non-violent drug crime to have his or her record expunged once a two-year program is completed.
Thorn also expressed the necessity of having a capacity for growth and how housing must be available for companies wanting to move to the area.
Manchin remains focused on fighting the opioid epidemic, broadband expansion, preserving coalminers’ pension, veterans’ benefits, among other matters – according to Thorn.
Thorn said the senator’s door is always open and Manchin’s staff is here “for the right reasons.” Manchin’s office is also planning two job fairs. One will be Sept. 28 in the Parkersburg area, while the other will be held Oct. 12 in Fairmont.
The Wetzel County Chamber of Commerce’s Sharon Thomas providing closing remarks at the breakfast. She explained how two years ago, the chamber sold property it owned. At that time, chamber president Donnie Rigganbach said he wanted the chamber to do something lasting with the funds from the sale. Thomas said the chamber came together with Wetzel County Schools, West Virginia Northern Community College, and other organizations to provide a regional vocational training center. The chamber contributed $50,000 to the endeavor. The center is expected to open Sept. 4 and has 20 welding booths, which will allow 20 welders at the school in the morning and 20 in the evening. Thomas said WVNCC hopes to utilize the center in the evenings and weekends. She noted $50,000 might not seem like a large amount, but it is actually one-sixth of the chamber’s assets.