Angry residents call meeting 'underhanded'

February 26, 1998


Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - It's unclear what has angered Hedgesville, W.Va., residents more - the Berkeley County Commission's letter to the governor supporting fewer restrictions on a local landfill, or the way the commission went about discussing the letter and sending it.

Regardless, the dozens of people who attended the commission meeting Thursday wanted answers and action.

Instead, they got conflicting statements and time on next week's agenda so the commission can look into their concerns.

"This is too volatile and too important of an issue for a few people to make a decision," said Howard Strauss, former commissioner and current candidate for state Senate.

Strauss was one of 18 people who spoke Thursday at the commission meeting about a letter the commission sent to Gov. Cecil Underwood last week. The letter expressed the commission's majority consent to lifting the 500-ton daily limit at LCS Services Inc. on Allensville Road near Hedgesville.


Commissioners James Smith and Robert Burkhart supported the cap removal; Commissioner D. Wayne Dunham did not.

The letter was discussed in executive session Feb. 19. The commissioners reconvened in the public meeting room near 6 p.m. that day to vote.

Residents say the late vote was sneaky and should have been on placed on the agenda for public comment.

"I find it underhanded," said Yvonne Cohen, of Hedgesville, adding that the cap removal could aggravate a delicate ecological balance.

"You guys were caught with your panties down," said Faith Hall of Hedgesville. "You decided to have a secret meeting and you got caught."

The commissioners said the meeting violated no regulations. The letter was sent with the hope of ending a lawsuit, they said, although they are not named in the suit.

The Berkeley County Solid Waste Authority is the only local defendant.

County attorney Norwood Bentley said a settlement offer was made to drop the suit in exchange for lifting the daily cap while still abiding by the 9,999-ton monthly limit.

Edgar Mason, treasurer of the county's Solid Waste Authority, said he's heard nothing about any sort of settlement.

"Settlement offers had been made to other bodies of government but not to the Solid Waste Authority," Mason said.

Residents are expressed concern about what would happen if the cap is lifted. They predicted more traffic on an already deteriorating W.Va. 9 and more accidents, and they fear what restriction LCS might try to get lifted next.

"It's a start for them," Strauss said. "This is the first step. After the daily cap, then they'll go for the four 9s," he said, referring to the 9,999-ton monthly limit.

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