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Cabinet members arrive in Panhandle today

August 30, 1999|By BRYN MICKLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Several members of West Virginia Gov. Cecil Underwood's cabinet are scheduled to arrive in Martinsburg Tuesday afternoon for a three-day swing through the Eastern Panhandle.

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Underwood will join his cabinet Wednesday afternoon in Shepherdstown, W.Va., where he will lead a Thursday morning meeting with local elected officials at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center, Underwood spokesman Rod Blackstone said.

The Eastern Panhandle tour is an attempt to bridge the perceived communications gap between the Panhandle and the state capitol in Charleston, W.Va., Underwood said earlier this month during a visit to Martinsburg.

Members of the governor's cabinet will spread through Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties, where they will hold meetings that Underwood hopes will provide them with better insight into the region's needs and concerns.

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"The goal of this entire undertaking is to listen and learn what's going on and how to improve government services," Blackstone said.

With Charleston about a six-hour drive away from the Eastern Panhandle, more connection between the two areas is needed, Jefferson County Commission President Jim Ruland said.

"There are several things that contribute to that separation. Geography is one factor, but it is only one factor," Ruland said.

A highly centralized government that leaves little decision-making power in the hands of local leaders makes it difficult for county commissions to meet the expectations of the people that elect them, Ruland said.

"One size does not fit all. Each county needs more maneuvering room to address specific problems," Ruland said.

The Berkeley County Commissioners said last week they want to raise several concerns with Underwood including the Blairton water dispute, the W.Va. 9 widening project and drought relief projects for area farmers.

A public drought meeting with cabinet members is set for 3 p.m. at Martinsburg City Hall.

Other cabinet meetings will be held at schools, libraries and businesses in the three counties, Blackstone said.

The complete schedule for the visit was being finalized Monday afternoon, Blackstone said.

The Eastern Panhandle tour will conclude Thursday afternoon with a cabinet meeting to discuss issues raised during the visit, Blackstone said.

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