Region VII Planning and Development Council, which serves Lewis County, is part of a discussion to merge with Region VI, which serves larger northern counties such as Monongalia, Harrison, and Marion, among others.
If the two are merged, as proposed by the West Virginia Department of Commerce, it would serve 13 counties, and be the largest planning and development council in the state.
According to Region VII Chair and Lewis County Commissioner Agnes Queen, the merger is not finalized.
“We’re trying to work with the state development office on a resolution,” she said.
Region VII is made up of Lewis, Gilmer, Braxton, Upshur, Barbour, Randolph, and Tucker counties, which are all counties with a smaller economic base than Region VI, which contains Doddridge, Preston, Taylor, Marion, Harrison, and Monongalia counties. Queen went on to say the Region VII counties would be lost in the shuffle with the Region VI counties.
“We need to make sure our voices are heard and we’re on equal footing,” she said.
Region VII Director Shane Whitehair said in an interview with The Record Delta, “We threw out all the concerns and questions we had, but there really are no defined answers as to what kind of effect it is going to have, what kind of resources we are going to be provided in addition to what we get now.”
According to the same article, Gov. Jim Justice has the authority to change their configuration Whitehair said.
Queen said they have not been told of a definite time of when this could happen, but they expect it to come up in the next legislative session.
“Whitehair is on point, and the Region VII staff is excellent,” Queen said.
“That’s how we got the funding for the water projects. Without them we wouldn’t have gotten the grants to complete them.”