Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

May 31, 2014

Clif Moore, seven others laid off due to budget shortfall

WELCH — Eight employees, including Assistant County Administrator Clif Moore, are being laid off as a result of a widening budget shortfall in McDowell County.

“These are reductions in force,” Moore said Friday. “Depending upon the economic outlook the county commission has the flexibility of calling people back. It is based on sheer numbers. We agonized over it for a long time. The list changed several times. I think Mrs. (Jennifer) Wimmer went home a couple of days with a headache. There is never a good way to do this. Seven of the eight will take effect at midnight (Friday). Mine will take effect on June 13. That’s because Mrs. Wimmer and I are still working on a couple of budget issues.”

Wimmer, who works as county administrator, said the McDowell County Commission is still trying to collect $2.2 million in unpaid taxes. Also complicating matters is a recent decrease in coal mining activity in the county, decreases in coal severance tax revenue, and other factors that have negatively impacted the county’s bottom line, Moore added.

“Coal severance, tax revenue and those peripheral industries that help drive the economy of McDowell — when they are down we are down,” Moore said. “So we are hoping in the next few weeks or months — there are a few (mining) operations that are expanding — we are hoping to have an increase in revenue that will allow us to be more flexible as a county commission.”

Among the employees who were laid off Friday were the county’s public relations director, the county’s grant writer and the county’s regional jail cost containment coordinator.

Moore, also a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates, said he was involved in the decision that cost him his job as assistant county administrator.

“I made the decision — along with Mrs. Wimmer — to lay myself off,” Moore said. “It wasn’t personal or political. This was done solely based upon the budget, and how those salaries and fringe (benefits) relate to the overall budget.”

Moore said he and Wimmer are still working to balance the county’s budget. Moore said he has made no decision at this time as to what he will do after June 13.

“I’m sort of suffering along with the county employees, but I think I’m suffering more for them than myself,” Moore said. “But I certainly hope at some point we can bring them back.”

Moore said the county commission employs about 220 people when counting the staff of the Stevens Correctional Center in Welch.

“So it (the eight) is a very small number, but it’s a very large number if you are among the eight,” Moore said. “But we will be available to assist those eight people — or those seven people — to help them in the transition process as they begin to seek employment elsewhere.”

Moore said the county needs to diversify its economic base in order to help attract new business. He said the continued development of the King Coal Highway and Coalfields Expressway also are critical to future growth in McDowell County.

— Contact Charles Owens at cowens@bdtonline.com

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