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Martinsburg voters to decide on levy, candidates Tuesday

June 10, 2000|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

Editor's Note: Martinsburg voters will go to the polls Tuesday. This article profiles the candidates who are unopposed in the city election. The candidates in the contested races will be profiled in Monday's Morning Herald.

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Even city voters in wards with uncontested council races will have at least one choice to make in Tuesday's election.

A referendum on renewing a levy that pays for nine police officers will be on the ballot. If it passes, the levy would generate an estimated $2 million over three years.

Ward 3 Councilman Max Parkinson and Ward 5 Councilman Glenville Twigg are running unopposed for re-election.

George Karos, a longtime councilman-at-large, is the only candidate running to replace Earnest Sparks as mayor. Sparks is challenging Councilman Richard Yauger in Ward 2.

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Incumbents Merle "B.I." Butts in Ward 1 and Oden Barrett in Ward 4 also have opposition.

Councilman Donald Anderson is running for re-election as an at-large representative. There are six candidates and two seats.

Polls will be open Tuesday from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Votes will be tabulated at City Hall.

The mayor's salary is $500 a month. Councilmen receive $200 per month. The positions carry four-year terms.

The city has collected a police excess levy from property owners since 1990. It pays for nine officers, or about one-fifth of the force.

An information flyer prepared by the city explains that the levy also helps fund specific police services, such as the K-9 patrol units, the emergency response team and funeral escorts.

City Manager Mark Baldwin stressed the word "renewal" when talking about the upcoming vote. Citizens should know that it is not a new levy to hire new officers, he said.

If the levy were voted down, the city could put the same referendum up for vote in a special election - at a cost of $20,000 to $30,000, Baldwin said.

Or, he said, the city could try to cut approximately $600,000 - about one-third of the three-year, $2 million total - from other budget lines to pay the nine officers' salaries, benefits and other expenses related to their duties next year.

The city's fact sheet estimates the owner of a house assessed at $100,000 would pay about $63 a year if the levy passes.

The current levy expires June 30. The city is not collecting it in the next fiscal year, starting July 1, because it has a surplus.

The new levy would be in effect for the fiscal years beginning July 1 of 2001, 2002 and 2003.

"I'm in favor of it 100 percent," Karos said.

So far, no city candidates have disagreed.

After 25 years as a councilman, Karos, 68, is ready to move into the mayor's office.

Karos, who owns two drug stores in Martinsburg and Inwood, W.Va., did not name any specific issues as being important in this year's campaign. He wants council members to work well with each other and with the county and state governments.

"I hope to show some leadership and continuity," he said.

Observers will note that his style of governing will be different than Sparks', Karos said, but he declined to say in what way.

"I don't want to let the cat out of the bag," he said.

Parkinson, 65, has represented Ward 3 for 14 years. He owns and operates Baker and Parkinson Real Estate Services Inc. in Martinsburg.

He said he is running again to continue work on projects in progress, such as the water system upgrade and the development of 740 acres that were recently annexed. He also mentioned street paving and state highway improvements as important issues.

Parkinson said the city is blessed with good employees and its downtown revitalization effort is working well.

"Martinsburg is going in the right direction with the leadership we have," he said.

Twigg, 54, is the supervisor of linen services at Washington County Hospital in Hagerstown. He has been the Ward 5 councilman for 10 years.

He said he has always enjoyed politics. As a kid, he read election returns while other kids read comics, he said.

"It's in my blood," Twigg said.

The biggest push by the city council of late has been code enforcement, he said. Code officers have been taking offenders to court.

Twigg said he is proud of helping spark the street paving program. "It's probably the most popular thing we do," he said.

He also said he is in favor of the Raleigh Street Extension to unclog traffic and of continuing the spring clean-up he started 10 years ago.

The Democratic and Republican executive committee positions will also be on Tuesday's ballot. One man and one woman can serve in each of the five wards and an at-large position, a total of six men and six women.

The only Democratic race is for the at-large male position, with Kimber White facing Donald T. Anderson. The other seats are either unopposed or have no candidates.

The Republicans have only one committee candidate on the ballot: Sylvia Fries in Ward 5.

City Recorder Sharon Flick said the parties can appoint committee members after the election if the positions are not filled.

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