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Support voiced for civic center, park

April 10, 1998|By AMY WALLAUER

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Several Martinsburg residents on Thursday night voiced support for a civic center and park project being mulled over by Martinsburg City Council, but council is still wary of where the city could get funding for the renovations.

"If you will look in the city's budget we just approved in the end of March, we blocked out over $1 million in requests from department heads (for items) needed to do a good job," said Councilman Donald J. Anderson. "We don't have the money for that. Yes, we're in favor (of the project). But where are we going to get the money?"

Mayor Earnest Sparks has appointed a committee of residents and business people to research funding for the $24 million to $29 million project, which could transform the buildings in the B&O railroad yard into a civic center and the adjacent Tuscarora Creek into a linear park.

Council seems split on the project.

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Councilman Glenville Twigg said he would favor the project if it would draw crowds to a multi-purpose convention center, but the roundhouses at the B&O railroad yard just aren't big enough.

"If the right project was developed down there, that could pay for itself and bring in the tourist trade in a big way," Twigg said. "But there is a lot of baggage that goes with that property. We have major access problems and to solve those problems it's going to cost us money."

Councilman Richard Yauger made a motion to buy the roundhouse properties from CSX now, while the search goes on for funding. There was no second on his motion.

"It's a shame our council does not have vision enough to say something when these motions are on the floor," Yauger said. "I'll assume this particular council does not have any interest in doing something for the city."

Residents at Thursday's meeting said they believe the project can be funded.

Jim Castleman, a Martinsburg resident and member of the city's planning commission, told council he supports the development of the roundhouse and encouraged the community to get involved in raising money.

"Most (people) of Martinsburg have memories of that train station or these roundhouses and know someone who worked there. I think the buildings are worth saving," Castleman said.

Castleman said Washington, D.C., had 28 million visitors last year. If Martinsburg's civic center could draw just 3 percent of that, or 840,000 people, that would exceed the number necessary to break even, he said.

"I could get right now, if we had a place to have it, any number of groups to come here," Castleman said.

Roger Boyer, coordinator of Potomac Headwaters Resource Conservation and Development Region, Inc., said he is confident residents could raise funds for the project.

"I am completely, totally, unequivocally in support of developing both the roundhouse as a civic enter, a museum, or a marketplace and the Tuscarora Creek park," Boyer said. "I'm not an economist..but I do see opportunity and recognize that opportunity when I see it," he said.

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