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Sissonville not easy to pin down on map

SISSONVILLE, W.Va. -- To the average West Virginian headed up Interstate 77, the location of Sissonville seems apparent. Take Exit 114.

The U.S. Postal Service list its Post Office there neatly at 25312-9997.

Some local officials, though, are seeking a little more precision.

What is considered Sissonville? What is considered Greater Sissonville?

It depends on whom you ask.

The Greater Sissonville Development Council, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the Sissonville community and surrounding areas, tried to answer those questions at its meeting Monday night.

"If we're going to provide any kind of services, we ought to know in general where we're going," Secretary Tom Crouser said.

After reviewing several possible definitions of "Greater Sissonville," the council chose the borders of West Virginia's 39th House District.

The district includes nearly all of the northwestern part of Kanawha County and touches Roane, Jackson and Putnam counties. To the south, it borders Dunbar and Charleston and includes Yeager Airport, Mink Shoals and part of Cross Lanes.

The council felt the 39th District was the most comprehensive and inclusive political area to define Greater Sissonville, when compared against fire department maps, tax districts, magisterial districts and feeder schools.

Delegate Ron Walters, R-Kanawha, represents the district and was present at the meeting.

To be sure, the council's definition of Greater Sissonville carries no political weight, but applies only to the group, giving it a defined area in which to focus its efforts. While Sissonville is in the council's official name, it also serves areas around Sissonville as well.

Part of the issue with defining Sissonville is that the area isn't incorporated, thus making Sissonville's boundaries fluid. In fact, the U.S. Census Bureau provides the only governmental definition of Sissonville itself.

To the Census Bureau, Sissonville is a "census designated place (CDP)," meaning that it is enough of a community to be defined for statistical purposes. The Sissonville CDP is made of two Census tracts, which are split by I-77.

To the east of the interstate, "Sissonville" extends from Poca River Road near the Jackson County line to Legg Fork Road in the south. The eastern boundary roughly runs along Rocky Hollow Road and Coolbrook Drive.

On the west side of I-77, the Poca River is Sissonville's northern boundary and Call Road is the southern boundary. Sissonville Drive and Clearview Heights Road is the western boundary.

But that's only the Census definition.

Signs along Old U.S. 21 near Sissonville High School indicate that Sissonville is actually six miles north of the school. But Sissonville Middle School, the Sissonville post office and the Sissonville library are all near the high school — and also six miles from "Sissonville."

Part of the problem with defining Sissonville also entails that signage, and the council discussed that concern as well.

And about that interstate . . .

There's a bit of confusion with the exits off I-77. Once motorists leave the highway, there still isn't much direction provided to Sissonville — particularly to the schools.

For example, at the Tuppers Creek Road exit, No. 111, drivers make a left onto Call Road toward Sissonville. However, when Call Road ends at Old U.S. 21, a sign directs drivers north toward Camp Virgil Tate or south to Guthrie Center — not to anywhere carrying the Sissonville name.

There's also Exit 116, designated "Sissonville" for southbound drivers. But for northbound drivers, Exit 111 is designated "Sissonville/Pocatalico."

To add to the confusion, at the end of the ramp for Exit 111, signs to Sissonville point to the north on Old U.S. 21, which is the opposite direction of Sissonville middle and high schools.

"It's a problem," said Lisa Godwin, a Sissonville-based insurance agent and a member of the council. "We have three exits, and it is confusing."

Crouser said signs are needed for branding, in addition to simple directions. But because residents of communities like Guthrie and Millertown may not want to be lumped in with Sissonville, the council would have to be careful how it proceeds.

"There are people that are very defensive of the names," said Tom Miller, a member of the Sissonville, Millertown, Pocatalico and Guthrie Volunteer Fire Department and of the council.

The council voted to establish a committee comprising of Godwin, Miller, Earl Scyoc and Chad Taylor to work with the state Division of Highways to create and erect signs.

"I'm so glad we're doing this," Godwin said.

Contact writer Matt Murphy at Matt.Murphy@dailymail.com or 304-348-4817.


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