There is no better way to get to know a person than sitting down at a table with them.
The Pocahontas County Chamber of Commerce and its guests did just that Wednesday when Senator Greg Boso, (R) Nicholas, visited the county.
Boso, of Summersville, represents the 11th Senatorial District which consists of Nicholas, Pocahontas, Pendleton, Randolph, Upshur and Webster counties and part of Grant County. He was appointed by Governor Earl Ray Tomblin in January of this year to fill Senator Clark Barnes’ unexpired term when Barnes became Senate Clerk.
The day’s conversation covered many and varied issues facing the county and state – issues such as prevailing wage, the re-creation of the Broadband Enhancement Council and the elimination of straight ticket voting.
But at the onset, Boso introduced himself, saying he is defined by four “F”s.
The first is “faith.”
“Faith,” Boso said. “I work that. I don’t talk it as much as I work it.”
Part of that work is done in tandem with his wife, Deborah, with their involvement in a two-hour Wednesday night youth program at Summersville Baptist Church. When he talks about that work, there is no doubt that he is sincere in his concern for children.
‘“Let them come, Jesus said,’ let them know they are a part,” Boso said.
The second identifying “F” is family.
“I am a big believer in family,” he said. “I work in the legislature to find ways to keep families together.
Boso and his wife have been married for 36 years, and have three children.
The third “F” is for firefighter.
Boso has been a volunteer firefighter for 40 years, therefore he understands the struggles that firefighters face, fulfilling their duties and meeting the required hours of training, “as they try to keep their families together, and keep their jobs intact.”
A study, commissioned through WVU’s Public Administration Master’s program, will look at ways the state might fund firefighter training, so local fire departments don’t have to pay out of pocket for their fire service training.
“We need to lessen the burden,” Boso said.
Firefighter techniques have helped Boso in his decision making process – “adapt and overcome,” he said
“I take the firefighter part of me and use it in the legislature,” he explained. “Being able to recognize situations. Being able to effectively analyze those situations, and respond accordingly to whatever situation prevails.”
Boso said the state finds itself at a point where it needs to “adapt and overcome.”
“There are things that West Virginia is struggling with right now,” he said. “How do we overcome the situation we’ve got in the business climate? We’ve lost the coal mining industry and, for years, West Virginia has heaped the sustainability of our state government on the back of our coal industry. But it’s gone.”
Boso said that representatives are working on ways to overcome that loss, but it is going to take time.
Boso is a Forensic Engineer, and that is the fourth and final “F” of his intro.
He and NRAO Business Manager and COC president Mike Holstine were classmates at West Virginia Tech.
“West Virginia Tech is an excellent school,” Boso said. “It is a hands-on school. It taught us how, as engineers, to look and evaluate, and formulate plans to overcome situations in our local communities.”
Boso addressed some of the issues facing local communities, plans to address them and changes that will affect county residents and businesses.
One of those issues, of course, is the lack of sufficient broadband in the county.
Boso said a bill will be re-introduced in the next legislative session that calls for the state to invest in 2,500 miles of middle mile broadband infrastructure, which will allow small companies to feed off of it to supply last mile service to customers in rural areas.
In addition, Senate Bill 488 “re-constitutes the Broadband Deployment Council, which had expired at the end of 2014.” This bill intends to create a forum for citizen input into expanding Internet services throughout the state.
Although names have been submitted, Tomblin, as yet, has made no appointments. The council will be made up of leaders from the state’s education, business and community segments. Broadband providers may sit on the council this go round, but will have no vote.
No discussion in Pocahontas County is complete without looking at, what is considered to be, the dismal outcome of a federally funded Broadband Technologies Opportunities Program (BTOP) grant.
Rural areas had high hopes for better Internet service as a result of BTOP. Frontier Communications was the recipient of the majority of those funds.
During a 2014 Broadband Summit at the NRAO, then Frontier Communications Senior Operations Manager Mark McKenzie responded to criticism that Frontier used the $42 million BTOP grant to build segmented fiber lines that benefit only Frontier and cannot be reasonably accessed by competing companies.
“We built the grant the way the federal government told us to build the grant and they monitored every step of that,” McKenzie said.
That may be so, but even Boso had little good to say about the results, referring to the project as “screwed up, and a most ineptly managed program.”
In addition to reports of excess materials still lying idle, Pocahontas County Schools director of special education/student services/transportation/tech coordinator Ruth Bland told the group that the school system had to pay $15,000 to complete the BTOP work at PCHS.
With many businesses and agencies represented, topics and conversation covered a multitude of subjects.
With regard to Common Core, Boso said he is not a fan of the repeal of Common Core, calling it a “legitimate testing mechanism.”
“Common Core should not be repealed when there is nothing to replace it,” he said.
Senate Bill 249 brought about the elimination of straight-ticket voting, which will be implemented in the May primary election.
West Virginia was one of only a handful of states that permitted voters to cast a straight-party vote. Voters will now be required to vote for each individual candidate.
“Voters should be educated on candidates,” Boso said, “so they make intelligent, informed decisions to elect the most qualified candidate.”
The establishment of a One Stop Shop will require the Secretary of State’s office to develop a web portal that will help small businesses by providing one location where they can access information on multiple business taxes and regulations.
Changes in calculating prevailing wage, a result of Senate Bill 361, will help small contractors win bids for state, county and municipal jobs – areas where they have found themselves at a significant disadvantage under previous rates.
Boso provided copies of “Moving West Virginia Forward, 2015 Legislative Highlights,” which outlines the accomplishments of the 82nd Legislature. A PDF of this handbook may be found by searching its title.
In addition to his visit with the Chamber, Boso had lunch at the Dirt Bean Wednesday, toured part of the Green Bank Telescope with Holstine, and visited with Green Bank businessman Jacob Meck.
Boso and his wife attended the premiere of the Mountain Music Trail October 8 at the Pocahontas County Opera House. He returned to Marlinton Thursday for Attorney General Patrick Morrissey’s Town Hall on the Waters of the US Final Rule and its impact on agriculture and businesses in West Virginia. The Town Hall was sponsored by Pocahontas County Farm Bureau.
Jaynell Graham may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org