Randy Yohe Published

House Votes On Saving Thurmond, Diversifying Coalfield Communities 

Man with beard and glasses speaks among several other sitting people
Del. Elliott Pritt, R-Fayette, extols the historic value of Thurmond, WV.
Perry Bennett/WV Legislative Photography

One resolution and two bills on third reading in the House of Delegates Tuesday dealt with helping preserve West Virginia History, increasing help for the coalfield economy and alcohol at community festivals.

Officials with the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve have sparked legislative concerns over the possible demolition of some historic properties. 

House Resolution 6 passed with a voice vote. It reaffirms support for the town of Thurmond, located in the heart of the park, along with the historic buildings within the community, and the strong coal mining history associated with it.

Del. Elliott Pritt, R-Fayette, spoke on the need for legislative support.

Many of the structures from the original town of Thurmond still stand in very sharp contrast to the other coal mining communities in the area,” Pritt said. “They’re overrun, most of the structures are gone. When the National Park took control of this area we were under, we understood and believed that they were going to be preserving our history, our heritage, and the structures. And now they have a plan to demolish over half of the remaining structures in the town of Thurmond, which is now in the national park because of budget cuts.”

On third reading, Senate Bill 354 establishes the West Virginia Advanced Energy and Economic Corridor Authority. This King Coal Highway bill calls for yet another legislative effort to help diversify coalfield economies and enhance economic development. 

Del. Stephen Green, R-McDowell, spoke on how desperately that help is still needed.

“We have to look at other avenues of prosperity for us currently, and for our children and grandchildren,” Green said. “Tourism, which we are trying to cultivate in the southern counties, by itself is not the answer. We have to look at many different industries and opportunities.”

SB 354 passed 80 to 20 and goes to the Senate.

Finally, House Bill 5295 allows a community’s private outdoor designated area (PODA), meant for strolling alcohol consumption, to simultaneously host qualified permit holders, such as concerts and festivals. After debate over insurance liability, the bill passed 70-28 and also now goes to the Senate.