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Voters may determine fate of roundhouse

August 21, 1998|By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Martinsburg residents may help determine the fate of the city's historical roundhouse complex with a vote on the November ballot, Martinsburg City Council members said during a press conference Thursday.

The council would consider including the issue on the city election ballot if someone requests it at the next council meeting, said Glenville L. Twigg, one of the five council members who voted against buying the property at a special meeting on July 16.

Twigg, Oden L. Barrett, Max G. Parkinson, Merle "B.I." Butts and Donald T. Anderson voted against spending $340,000 for an option to buy the CSX-owned property from developer Moncure Chatfield-Taylor.

The vote came up following the presentation of a special committee report on possible uses for the property and funding feasibility requested by the council.

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Richard L. Yauger and George Karos voted in favor of the purchase.

Barrett, Parkinson and Butts joined Twigg at the press conference. It was called, they said, to make clear their reasons for voting against the project and because the issue didn't die with the July 16 vote.

"We do not want to create any further false hope on the part of any of the good, hard-working people who have been lobbying on this issue," Twigg said.

Roundhouse supporters have been circulating a petition asking the council to reconsider its vote.

Anderson couldn't attend because of another commitment but asked the group to convey his similar opinion on the issue, Twigg said.

Yauger sat in the audience.

Council members spent most of the time restating the reasons they gave for voting against the project immediately after the July 16 vote.

Their responsibility has to be to all of the city's residents, who could end up strapped by a financially draining project, and possibly higher taxes, council members said.

Plans to turn the roundhouse complex into a community civic center don't seem viable, given the location, size and configuration of the buildings, said Twigg, who said the buildings' size and difficult access to them would limit the size of events.

Twigg said the City Council asked the County Commission to remove the roundhouse issue from the agenda of their joint meeting in September.

Buying the land would be only the tip of the city's financial responsibility. The project would likely include millions of dollars for renovation, even if the city could get grants, and an annual subsidy estimated at $200,000 to $300,000, he said.

Twigg said he would support building a civic center with better facilities and access to highways, and sees that project as something Berkeley, Morgan and Jefferson counties could fund together.

City residents have a right to put the issue to referendum, said Yauger, the lone supporter of the purchase when Chatfield-Taylor made his initial sale offer to the city in November 1997.

If the majority of voters say they want the city to buy the land, the council would have to follow their wishes, he said in a telephone interview Thursday night.

Yauger said he would be obligated to change his position if the majority voted against it.

"I would still love to see it happen, but I'd have to accept it also," he said.

Barrett said a referendum could change his mind if he saw most residents supported the purchase.

Karos was out of town on Thursday.

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