Wyoming County Commission members will meet with representatives of the new West Virginia University School of Public Health this week, according to David “Bugs” Stover, county circuit clerk.
Stover told commissioners during their meeting Wednesday this is the first year for the new school.
“Their mandate, from WVU, is to improve the health of West Virginia citizens,” Stover said.
“Their presence in the county will be large,” Stover emphasized.
“This will be a gold standard deal,” he noted.
One five-mile section in the county has had 45 people die from cancer in the last decade, Silas Mullins, commission president, said.
The work will be research based as well, Stover said, and the WVU representatives will be looking for such things as more cancer deaths or lung disease per capita than other areas, and what could be the contributing factors.
They will be working with local doctors and dentists, Stover said.
Wyoming County was selected because “we’ve managed to send all these people to WVU who’ve impressed” the school officials there, Stover said of the county students attending the university.
Additionally, Wyoming County has one of the unhealthiest populations in a state that ranks at the bottom of national statistics, he explained.
Despite the fact the group wasn’t on the agenda, commissioners pledged to support the efforts of residents working to keep Pinnacle Creek Road open to the public.
Cliffs Natural Resources has locked off the corporation’s property in Pinnacle Creek, blocking those who’ve hunted and fished in the area for generations. The company has also blocked access to Pinnacle Creek Road, which has also been used by the public for generations.
A representative of Cliffs discussed the new corporate policy with the residents during a previous meeting and said the policy was being implemented corporation-wide on all its properties across the globe.
Mullins said commissioners will send Cliffs a letter in support of the citizens and their desire to continue the hunting and fishing traditions.
“We’re going to ask them to consider giving our citizens access to the property without any hassles,” Mullins said.
He said, in 1998, then-Prosecutor Warren McGraw filed a petition to stop U.S. Steel from blocking public access to the road. The state Division of Highways had given the deed to the road to U.S. Steel. In turn, U.S. Steel sold the property, which includes the road, to Cliffs.
After the petition was filed, U.S. Steel decided not to block the road and the petition didn’t move any further, Mullins told the small group.
Warren McGraw is now the circuit judge in Wyoming County.
“Right or wrong, this is the way life is now,” Mullins told the group. “This commission understands where you’re coming from. We’ve been doing these things all our lives...
“For whatever reason, now it’s being taken away from us.”
Mullins explained the issue will have to be handled in “due process” and the problem will not be solved overnight.
“There is no such thing anymore as public land,” Mullins said.
He promised the group that county officials are prepared to take “drastic measures,” though he didn’t outline the specifics, to keep the property open.