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Roundhouse leaders want help

August 06, 1999

Dunham at roundhouseBy BRYN MICKLE / Staff Writer, Martinsburg

photo: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer




MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Berkeley County has extended an invitation to several cities and counties in the surrounding area to join in the renovation of its historic B&O Roundhouse.

City councils in Martinsburg, Hagerstown, Berkeley Springs, W.Va., Charles Town, W.Va., and Winchester, Va., will be offered a chance to have representatives appointed to Berkeley County's Roundhouse Authority, the Berkeley County Commission said Thursday.

The offer will also be made to county commissions in Washington County in Maryland, Morgan and Jefferson counties in West Virginia and Frederick County, Va., the commission said.

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"There are a lot of people in this area that have expressed an interest in this project. This is a way to get more people involved and pulling in the same direction," Berkeley County Commission President D. Wayne Dunham said.

Berkeley County has raised upwards of $1 million in state and federal grants and private donations to buy the three-building roundhouse complex off Burke Street in Martinsburg.

Once the $190,000 property is purchased from CSX Corp. and Martinsburg developer Moncure Chatfield-Taylor, the county plans to transfer ownership of the property to a roundhouse authority that will oversee the restoration.

Estimates have placed the project cost as high as $16 million with plans calling for the complex possibly to be used as a transportation center, a convention hall and a museum.

The Berkeley County Commission swore in the first nine members of the Roundhouse Authority Thursday morning. Twelve seats remain open and could be filled by representatives from outside Berkeley County.

One potential stumbling block to the county's invitation could be grant restrictions that might require participants to make a financial commitment to the project.

"That's something we have to check into, but this isn't just about money. There are people outside the county that can offer expertise," Dunham said.

A partnership with neighboring communities would provide an opportunity to garner more federal support from legislators in Maryland and Virginia, Dunham said.

Direct financial support for the project would be "very difficult," Washington County Commissioner John Schnebly said.

"Speaking only for myself, I think it would be hard to commit funding for the project," Schnebly said.

The Washington County Commission could, however, provide moral support and help write grant requests, Schnebly said.

"I have no problem encouraging support for the region," he said.

The Berkeley County Roundhouse Authority on Thursday kicked off the first major phase of the renovation with a $25,000 project to repair a wall in the "frog and switch" building at the roundhouse complex.

A tree that has been growing out of bricks near the top of the building has weakened roof trusses and must be removed before workers can begin replacing the roof, Roundhouse Authority member CEM Martin said.

The $300,000 project to replace the roofs of the "frog and switch" and machine shop buildings should be completed by winter, Martin said.

To celebrate the first renovation phase the Roundhouse Authority held a short ceremony at the "frog and switch" building Thursday afternoon.

"We still have a long way to go, but it's a heck of a start," Martin said.

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