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Tracing center moving to Martinsburg

September 27, 1999|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A federal gun tracing center in Falling Waters that has been cramped for space due to an increase in employment is moving to a former Internal Revenue Service complex in Baker Heights where it will have three times more space, federal officials said Monday.

The National Tracing Center, which is operated by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, will move into the former IRS computing center site near the Veterans Affairs Medical Center along W.Va. 9 east of Martinsburg.

The former IRS building became available when the computing center recently moved into a new complex in the nearby Liberty Business Park.

Employees at the National Tracing Center have been dealing with cramped conditions since last year.

The current facility off the Spring Mills exit of Interstate 81 in northern Berkeley County was designed for 100 people. About 250 people work there, federal officials said.

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Last year, the U.S. Senate approved about $4.5 million to fund an expansion at the center, which tracks the licensing of guns.

Because the former IRS computing center was primarily used to house computer operations, the building will have to be converted for office space, said Richard Pavel, chief of space management for ATF.

It will take between 12 and 18 months to make modifications to the building and move tracing center employees into the building, Pavel said Monday.

With the new building, the National Tracing Center will more than triple its space, from 32,000 square feet to 100,000. The center is expected to see continued increases in its workforce, and the new building is critical for the expansions, Pavel said.

It is not yet known what the National Tracing Center's current building will be used for, Pavel said.

The federal government initially leased the building from Berkeley County developer Bruce Van Wyk, but Van Wyk has since sold the facility, and it is currently owned by a Washington, D.C., firm.

The National Tracing Center helps police determine the origin of guns used in crime scenes. Using import, dealer and manufacturer records, the center can help police determine when a gun was made, where it was sold and who purchased it.

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