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Unger wants Panhandle caucus

January 12, 1999|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Freshman state Sen. John Unger is calling for the formation of an Eastern Panhandle caucus in Charleston that would concentrate on issues important to the area.

Unger, D-Berkeley, said there are many issues facing the Eastern Panhandle, and local lawmakers need to work together to address them.

John Overington, R-Berkeley, said he would like to see a local caucus meeting once a week in the capital to discuss projects that are important to voters back home.

Del. Dale Manuel, D-Jefferson, said it is difficult sometimes getting everyone together, but the rewards would justify the effort.

"I'm for anything that would allow us to work as a team," Manuel said.

Del. Vicki Douglas, D-Berkeley, said she had not heard of any plans for a caucus, but she said the local delegation usually stays in close communication on issues affecting the Panhandle.

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Like Douglas, Del. Larry Faircloth, R-Berkeley, said local lawmakers in touch.

"That's not anything new. But yes, we need to continue to do that," he said.

Unger said he believes it is important to have a caucus to push for local issues such as placing a governor's office in the Eastern Panhandle and widening W.Va. 9 to four lanes.

Berkeley County Commissioner Robert L. Burkhart said he likes the idea.

There are times when local officials need special help on issues, such as permission to develop an authority to oversee the renovation of the old B&O roundhouse off East Martin Street, he said.

The County Commission wants to set up a roundhouse authority, but to do so would require "enabling legislation" from the state, Burkhart said.

"The Eastern Panhandle is so much different from the rest of the state of West Virginia," he said. "We have a lot of different needs."

The Legislature begins its 60-day session on Wednesday. Gov. Cecil Underwood will kick off the session with his annual State of the State address at 7 p.m.

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