BOONE COUNTY — Miners in southern West Virginia are still reeling over the news that 1,100 miners may be out of a job in October, but coalfields governments are in a panic as well.
“It affects the whole gambit that we live, here in Boone county,” county commissioner Mickey Brown said.
Brown fears the worst after a layoff announcement from Alpha Natural Resources.
Alpha announced it may cut the workers by October. Two of the affected mines, Black Castle and Institute, are located in Boone County.
“We try to make life good for people here in Boone County,” Brown said. “But it’s getting harder and harder.”
Brown said reduced revenue from the coal excise tax forced the Boone County Commission to cut $6 million from their $20 million budget, all before the layoff announcement.
That excise tax pays for infrastructure in Boone, like the new water system being installed on Easter Hollow.
Miner’s wife, Michelle Sigmon, calls Easter Hollow home. She said she’s suffered through a layoff before.
“You do everything that you can just to make it, and it’s not easy,” she said. “God helped us through.”
She said she loves living there, but she’s afraid of what’s going to happen to the county if the layoffs go through.
“They’re not going to have money to help us here in Boone County or West Virginia,” she said.
Brown also was pessimistic.
“Without coal, it’s going to be hard to survive,” he said. “Because we don’t have much diversity. We don’t have any flat land.”
Brown said there aren’t many other options for miners with the same pay scale. He said if Alpha moves mining equipment out of Institute and Black Castle, the loss in property tax would cripple the county government.
“You can’t go on forever, living on a bootstrap,” he said.
The silver lining to all of this is that nobody will feel the pressure for a year or so.
Brown said the budget for 2015 is already levied, so any effects from the loss of tax dollars will hit in July of 2016.