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W.Va. legislator hosts town meeting

Dolye says top priority is annexation in Jefferson County

Dolye says top priority is annexation in Jefferson County

January 12, 2008|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. - Del. John Doyle on Saturday said a change to Jefferson County's annexation policy could be one of the county's only agenda items addressed during this year's regular session of the West Virginia Legislature.

Because it is an election year, many politicians likely will be more concerned with giving speeches during the 60-day session than passing legislation, said Doyle, D-Jefferson.

"There is a premium on posturing as opposed to production," Doyle said.

After a meeting Saturday morning with the League of Women Voters, Doyle visited the Bolivar-Harpers Ferry Public Library for a town meeting. While only a few people showed up, Doyle answered questions for more than an hour about the state's legislative session and talked about what he would like to see accomplished.

Doyle argued passionately against a proposed change to the state's PROMISE scholarship program, which began in 2002.

West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin has asked for a bill that would require recipients of the scholarship to pay back some of the costs if they take jobs outside the state after graduation.

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"This doesn't make sense," Doyle said Saturday. "Kids aren't going to take a scholarship that ties them down. They'll just go to another school."

ATV law likely to be revisited

Doyle said he expects the issue to be one of several that will be hotly debated by the Legislature this year.

A law passed last year banning all-terrain vehicles from paved roads likely will be rehashed this year, Doyle said.

He said the law has been ineffective because it does not require the vehicles to be registered with license tags or another form of identification.

"Until we do that, we won't make a dent in the problem because people can't report the offender," Doyle said.

Doyle's biggest priority for Jefferson County is to change an annexation policy that allows municipalities to use public roads to link to properties they want to annex.

The problem is that municipalities call those properties contiguous because they are connected to them by a road, Doyle said.

"It's not contiguous, and you're really saddling the residents of the municipality with an extra tax burden," said Doyle, who argued that it is costly for police, fire and rescue personnel to respond to a property that is well outside of the municipal boundaries.

State expecting small surpluses

Doyle said requiring the approval of the Jefferson County Commission for such annexations would solve the problem.

Responding to a question about the state's fiscal health, Doyle said West Virginia is expecting small surpluses this year and deficits for a few years afterward. He said surpluses over the last few years were driven by the high price of oil, which raises the price of coal, one of the state's biggest commodities.

Terry Rohal of Shepherdstown, W.Va., expressed concern about state taxes on retiree benefits, saying she felt that the issue was "just being swept aside" by the Legislature. Doyle gave a bleak answer, saying that West Virginia is one of only a few states in the county that taxes retiree benefits because it has a high poverty rate.

"As a state with a lot of poor residents, it can be hard to generate tax revenue," Doyle said. "We debate this a lot, but I think we have done everything we can."

Doyle said he will hold another town meeting at the library and one in Shepherdstown when the state legislative session concludes in mid-March.

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