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Controversy swirls over Tornado name change

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Officials for the U.S. Geological Survey recently changed the name of the town of Tornado to Upper Falls. But members of the community, county and state officials want them to change it back.

The controversial name change came to a head at a regular meeting of the Kanawha County Commission on Thursday.

Kanawha County Commission assistant Colt Sandoro told county commissioners Kent Carper and Hoppy Shores that Robert Thompson, a resident of the area, petitioned the U.S. Geological Survey's place names division to change the name Tornado to Upper Falls. Federal officials approved the change, but local authorities didn't find out about it until after the fact.

As near as county officials can tell, Thompson is the only one who wants the name changed, and most Tornado residents are opposed to the new name.

About a dozen local residents came to Thursday's meeting in support of keeping the community Tornado. "The community's name has been Tornado since 1881," said Tornado Fire Chief Greg Childress. He said the area was once known as Upper Falls, but it was before West Virginia was a separate state.

Thompson was not at Thursday's meeting, where Carper repeatedly asked how federal officials could change the name of the community without actually asking those who lived there about it.

"Is there anyone here in favor of this foolishness?" Carper asked. "You people live there, and you don't want us to change it."

They didn't. Neither do Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., Sens. Joe Manchin and Jay Rockefeller, both D-W.Va., or state delegates Suzette Raines and Eric Nelson, R-Kanawha.

Coal River Group founder Bill Currey said 14 different place names in the area have officially been changed by the U.S. Geological Survey against the will of local residents, making it confusing or impossible to find things on GPS or through Internet searches like Google. Currey said federal officials need to change the names back as soon as possible.

Carper and Shores voted to support changing the name of the community back to Tornado. They will ask officials with the Geological Survey to change the name back as soon as they can.

Also Thursday, commissioners talked with St. Albans Mayor Dick Callaway, Raines and Nelson about wresting control of the Kanawha County Senior Nutrition Program from Putnam County Aging. Putnam County Aging was given control of senior services in Kanawha and several other counties years ago, but Kanawha County officials have complained that Putnam Aging has been mismanaged.

In 2011, Putnam Aging had to pay back $1.35 million to West Virginia Medicaid for subcontracting out services to a company accused of health-care fraud. Callaway said Putnam Aging has not been properly providing meals and services for elderly people served by the Hansford Senior Center in St. Albans. He said Putnam Aging does not supply meals for about 70 shut-ins in St. Albans, some of whom are on hospice care.

Raines said she was told by state officials that because Kanawha County has a contract with Putnam Aging to provide senior services, local officials can only break the contract if they get enough complaints about Putnam Aging to show the organization is not doing its job.

Carper said county officials will start complaining immediately, starting with Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.

"I think we should let the governor know that the largest county in the state is not amused that about 70 seniors are not getting fed, when some of them are in hospice and waiting to die," he said.

Reach Rusty Marks at rustymarks@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.

 


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