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Parks funding on Berkeley's Nov. ballot

March 29, 2000|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Berkeley County voters will decide this fall whether to spend more money to build up their parks and recreation facilities.

The County Commission voted last week to put an excess levy for parks and recreation on the November ballot. At least 60 percent of the voters must approve it for the levy to pass.

If it fails, "We'll continue to struggle along and have very little facilities and parks," said Parks and Recreation Director Steve Catlett.

"It's difficult because we're growing so fast, we're having trouble keeping up with the increase," he said. "A lot of times, parks and recreation is not one of the priorities."

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The proposed rates range from 1.5 cents to 6 cents per $100 of assessed value, depending on the property classification. Homeowners would pay 2 percent.

For a house assessed at $100,000, of which $60,000 is taxable, the annual levy would be about $18, Catlett said, pointing out the amount is lower than the $25 fees for ambulance service and fire protection.

The excess levy would generate an estimated $791,000 over three years.

The Martinsburg-Berkeley County Parks and Recreation Board has created a comprehensive plan, by region, of possible projects for coming years. The projects are as diverse as buying about 100 acres for a park in south Berkeley County or building an indoor roller skating rink in or around Martinsburg.

Catlett said it is up to county residents to pay for the projects because funding is scarce at the state and national levels.

Surrounding states have grant programs for parks and recreation, but West Virginia does not, he said.

The federal government has also slashed its funding for local parks nationwide, he said. However, Congress may pass the federal Conservation and Reinvestment Act next year, which could mean $900 million for individual states, including about $2.5 million for West Virginia, Catlett said.

The West Virginia cities of Morgantown and Clarksburg are among the municipalities that have recently funded capital improvement projects with an excess levy, Catlett said.

The Parks and Recreation Board will hold five meetings throughout the county to hear what residents think of the comprehensive plan. They are scheduled for April 20 at Musselman High School, April 27 at Potomack Intermediate School, May 4 at Hedgesville High School, May 11 at Back Creek Valley Elementary School and May 18 at the Berkeley County Senior Center. All start at 7 p.m.

The comprehensive plan says the Parks and Recreation Board is currently working on three projects. An enclosure for the War Memorial Pool will cost $1 million, of which $300,000 has been raised. Another $297,000 is set aside so far for a recreation center at Lambert Park. And Poor House Farm is being renovated.

The plan lists three other immediate priorities: Acquire 10 acres at the DuPont Soccer Complex for two soccer fields, more parking and a baseball/softball field; acquire 20 acres for four adult softball fields wherever land is available in the county; and build a recreation center next to Mill Creek Middle School.

About 20 other long-range ideas such as new parks, a trail to connect them and outdoor pools are mentioned for the various regions of the county.

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