The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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March 3, 2013

Greenbrier fire levy goes up in smoke

Light turnout at polls

LEWISBURG — A proposed Greenbrier County fire levy flamed out Saturday, as voters rejected the measure by more than a two-to-one margin.

According to unofficial ballot totals, only two out of the county’s 29 precincts went for the levy — Charmco, where the tally was 19 to 16, and Quinwood, 72 to 34.

At the other end of the spectrum, voters in Organ Cave voted against the levy by an eight-to-one margin, 207 to 26.

With only about 14 percent of registered voters showing up at the polls, the overall ballot total was 2,427 against and 1,148 for the levy.

A grim group of some 20 firefighters, representing 10 of the county’s 15 volunteer fire departments, sat in the first floor courtroom of the Greenbrier County Courthouse as the precinct-by-precinct totals were tallied and read aloud.

Indicative of the overall mood, when the small victory in Charmco was announced, a mocking cheer went up from the audience.

The 15 VFDs had hoped to raise operating funds through the levy, which was described as similar to those already in place in Raleigh and Fayette counties. The Greenbrier levy was expected to bring in an estimated $1,886,000 in its first year, with funds allocated to each department according to property values in their respective fire districts.

Listening to the election returns rolling in Saturday night, the assembled firefighters shook their heads and spoke to each other in muted tones.

Shawn Wolford reluctantly took on the role of spokesman for the group once again, ruefully noting he’d served in that capacity arguing the case for the now-failed levy. The chief of the Rainelle VFD, Wolford is also chairman of the Greenbrier County Fire Levy Committee.

Wolford said while there were probably many reasons for the levy’s failure, one stood out.

“There was a lot of misinformation out there,” he stressed.

Asked how the firefighters could have countered the misinformation, Wolford responded, “We told the truth. I don’t know what more we could have done.”

He said the firefighters association has a meeting set for Monday evening, and he assumes the election will be the major topic, with funding alternatives and adjustments a close second.

“Town councils are going to have to make some tough decisions,” Wolford predicted. “The county commission is going to have to make some tough decisions.”

The Greenbrier County Commission will canvass the ballots Thursday beginning at 10 a.m.

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