MATOAKA (WVVA) — The disincorporation of Matoaka continues. The slam of a gavel on Saturday won’t signal the end of a town hall meeting, but will instead signal the end of an auction, and with it, more than a century of history.
As of Friday, a police car belongs to the town of Matoaka, but Saturday, it’ll go home with the highest bidder, but that kind of exchange is typical for 21st Century small town America, where dwindling populations and dwindling tax dollars are causing local governments to fold up shop.
That includes the town of Matoaka, which has a population of 128. That’s a far cry from the high of 1,003 recorded in the 1950 Census.
Likewise, for the reduction of tax revenue over the years, as it’s plummeted to an amount that’s not nearly enough to keep town hall’s lights on. The decision was made last year to surrender Matoaka’s incorporated status.
“They approached the (Mercer) County commission two years ago and asked if we’d simply take over and brought their keys to the commission office,” said Bill Archer, a Mercer County Commissioner.
It was a touchy decision to shutter a government that had been running since 1912.
Eventually, as with so many other towns, especially in Southern West Virginia, people left, businesses closed and, now, a town is dissolving. Yet it’s still a community, just one without its own government.
“Even though it won’t be a ‘town’… it’s still a place. and it still has all the history it’s enjoyed for more than 100 years. The stories of this community are legendary in mercer county and Southern West Virginia, and it’s still a very important place, it just won’t have an incorporated town government,” said Archer.
It won’t govern itself, which means it will no longer have assets. Everything the town owns, from the office furniture in town hall to dump trucks and even a caboose, will be up for auction Saturday. The money will go toward clearing the disintegrating government’s debts and with that close the books on a century-old government.
“We’re selling history. this is part of history. We’re selling part of history,” said Eddie Pauley.
After these assets are sold, the disincorporation process will wrap up in about a month.
Pauley said he’s received significant out-of-state interest regarding the auction and that the police car, a late-model Ford Explorer, is expected to go for upwards of $100,000. The auction is scheduled for 11 a.m. at the old town hall.