Brooke voters elect new commissioner, support levies

WELLSBURG – Brooke County voters on Tuesday elected a new county commissioner and supported the continuation of two long-time county levies.

Challenger Stacey Hukill Wise of Follansbee defeated incumbent Norma Tarr of Weirton in the Democratic race for county commissioner. Wise received 1,578 votes, while Tarr received 638.

All totals are unofficial until ballots are canvassed Monday.

Wise said was “completely overwhelmed” by the support she received and expressed thanks to the voters who supported her as well as her family and friends.

She said she spent the last six weeks campaigning door to door and found it “enlightening to get citizens’ thoughts and opinions.”

Wise, who has frequently attended the commission’s meetings in recent months, said she will continue to learn about issues affecting the county as she prepares to take office on Jan. 1.

She noted the commission has dealt with major budgetary constraints in recent months and she hopes to work with the other two commissioners to bring more revenue to the county and help county departments and agencies become more self-sufficient.

Wise said she will welcome input from everyone, including Tarr, who served as commissioner for 12 years.

“She’s a wonderful person, and I hope to gain knowledge and guidance from everyone,” she said.

No Republicans filed for the commission seat. The race was the only one decided Tuesday, with candidates in several other federal and state offices advancing to the Nov. 4 general election.

The election also decided the fate of the county’s ambulance excess levy and fire levy. A large majority of voters supported the two, ensuring each received the 61 percent of votes required for their passage.

Unofficial totals for the two levies are as follows:

Ambulance excess levy: 2,326 for and 579 against.

Fire levy: 2,430 for and 480 against.

The fire levy will raise $371,382 per year for five years, with the amount to be divided evenly among the Beech Bottom, Bethany, Bethany Pike, Colliers, Follansbee, Franklin Community, Hooverson Heights, McKinleyville, Weirton, Wellsburg and Windsor Heights fire departments.

The ambulance excess levy will raise $799,284, to be divided among the following agencies: Brooke County Ambulance Service; Brooke County Health Department; Brooke County Public Library and its Follansbee branch; Mary H. Weir Public Library; Brooke County Parks and Recreation Commission, which oversees Brooke Hills Park; West Virginia University Extension Service; Brooke County Senior Programs, including the senior center and nutrition program; Healthways, including the Brooke County Opportunity Center and mental hygiene proceeding costs; the Brooke County Museum and Cultural Center; and maintenance, repair and improvements to the county courthouse.

Tim Ennis, county commission president, said the county commissioners “want to thank voters for overwhelmingly supporting these levies. They (the levies) do a lot of good for the county. The agencies use this money wisely, and I thinmk the citizens realize that.”

The levies have been supported by voters for many years, but they often were the focus of special elections.

Ennis said he believes the commission’s decision to include them on ballots in the primary election, saving the county about $50,000 in costs for a separate election, was appreciated by the public.

Bob Fowler, director of the county’s ambulance service, also expressed thanks to voters. He said the ambulance excess levy generates about one-third of the ambulance service’s $800,000 budget.

“Thank you to the citizens Brooke County for supporting us. We will do our best to provide quality service to residents,” he said.

Joy Crawford, executive director of the Brooke County Committee on Aging, which oversees the Brooke County Senior Center, said the levy’s passage is “a blessing for us. That means we’ll be able to maintain our programs.”

Crawford credited the levy’s support in part to the many residents who receive services through the committee or know someone who does. Such services include transporting seniors to the hospital or doctors’ visits and providing thousands of meals at several nutrition sites or the homes of shut-ins.

Follansbee Fire Chief Larry Rea said the county’s fire departments use funds from the fire levy in different ways, from maintenance of vehicles and equipment to payment of worker compensation for firefighters and in Follansbee’s case, repaying a loan taken for a new fire truck.

“For many, this levy plays a large part in the day-to-day operations,” he said, adding the voters’ continued support is greatly appreciated.

With few political races to be decided, voter turnout was relatively low, with 13.95 percent of the county’s 21,244 registered voters casting ballots. Of the 2,963 ballots cast, 332 were through early voting and 70 were absentee ballots.