A roundtable discussion was held at Logan City Hall June 22 featuring US Congressman Evan Jenkins and a host of business, charity and community leaders from across the county.
In an opening statement centered mostly around propping up coal extraction through defunding of the Environmental Protection Agency, Jenkins said, “We have been at it now about 130, 140 days in the 114th congress. The Appropriations Committee is made up of 12 subcommittees. The entire discretionary budget — 1.3 trillion dollars is handled by 12 bills of the 12 subcommittees. One of the subcommittees that I am on is the Interior Subcommittee. EPA is under that subcommittee. We are wearing them out. Here’s what we did in the last two weeks: we led the charge and took 714 million dollars out of the EPA budget for the next fiscal year compared to what they are getting this year. We made it perfectly clear that we would use the power of purse. There’s 11 of us that control the EPA budget. We passed it [the proposed budget] through the subcommittee, we passed it through the full committee and Thursday and Friday of this week, in the full House of Representatives, we are going to be passing the interior appropriations bill that has those cuts in it.”
Before taking questions and comments Jenkins also touched on the drug epidemic affecting the area saying, “I have had several opportunities to meet with your sheriff [Sonya Dingess Porter]. I appreciate her and what she is doing. This drug crisis is real and it’s ravaging our communities. I’m starting a facility in Huntington called Lilly’s Place to take care of newborn infants who were drug-exposed during pregnancy. We have empowered the prescription monitoring program. Let’s go after the pill mills. We’re doing a pretty good job on that front, but we’re seeing the heroin coming in. It has impacted us all. My wife had a 28 year old nephew die a year and a half ago of a heroin overdose. We’ve all got stories. It’s neighbors, it’s friends, it’s family members and it’s personal.”
After Jenkins’ opening remarks, the roundtable was opened for discussion. The mayors of Logan and Chapmanville as well as Delegate Michel Moffatt were given the first opportunities to address Jenkins and the rest of the roundtable. “We appreciate your hard work you’ve already started doing for us. I know you’ve got a lot ahead of you. We’re feeling the effects here in the city that the economy has really taken a downturn. Our tax base is drying up. We just need help,” Mayor of Logan Sarafino Nolletti said.
Mayor of Chapmanville Jerry Price added, “We need jobs. Jobs are drying up. People are moving. People are going out of work and that promotes the drug problem. Our police departments are going to need all the help they can get. The biggest thing that I think we need is manufacturing jobs — something that’s not coal related. We are going to fight. We are going to stay coal miners, but we need to get some other jobs in here for people to do. If we don’t, this will be a ghost town.”
Community leaders representing Logan Regional Medical Center, Logan Mingo Area Mental Health (LMAMH), the PIECES Coalition and many others addressed Jenkins with their views concerning the need for coal jobs and jobs based in other economic activities as well as the drug problem facing the area. Donna Cook, CEO of LMAMH, stressed the difference between the need for drug treatment in the area of and the availability of drug treatment in the area. Logan County Sheriff Porter also stressed the need for funding of drug treatment and therapy to help combat the problem.
In his closing remarks, Jenkins urged people who are trying to organize grants or projects to reach out to his office saying, “If there grants, if there are projects or things that our office can go to back for you on, please let us know. That’s what we’re there for. We look forward to being in Logan County a lot. We’ve been here many times, and we’ll keep coming back.”