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6 competing for 2 at-large seats

June 11, 2000|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Five candidates running for two at-large city council seats are championing a variety of ideas for improvement and change.

The sixth candidate, incumbent Donald Anderson, isn't talking.

Anderson, who has served on the council for 10 years, declined to be interviewed about his bid for re-election. He said he doesn't feel compelled to explain his campaign - or respond to even basic biographical questions - because so many city residents already know him and his record.

The city of Martinsburg's election is Tuesday. Polls will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

One of the races is a six-way battle for the at-large positions on the seven-member council - Anderson's seat and the one now held by George Karos, who is running unopposed for mayor.

Stan Berman, 69, is one of the challengers.

Berman's family had a hardware and building supply business in Baltimore. "I grew up playing with nails," he said.

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He later moved to Berkeley County to build vacation homes.

As a board member of the Eastern Panhandle Mental Health Center (which is now East Ridge Health Systems), Berman filled in as acting executive director for six months while a search was conducted. He went on to hold other positions there.

He retired from the building business in 1990 and from the health center in 1996.

Berman has served on Martinsburg's Planning Commission for 15 years and has worked for several years on a rewrite of the zoning ordinance.

He entered the council race, he said, to offer his planning experience as the city faces the development of 740 recently annexed acres west of Interstate 81.

Also important, Berman said, is getting council members to work closely with each other. Currently, conflicts hinder progress, he said.

Berman is proposing a citywide stormwater management fund and changes for City Council procedures, such as a 30-day "cooling-off period" instead of spur-of-the-moment votes.

Michael Griffin, 47, an electrical contractor, is also on the Planning Commission. He is in his second year.

He said running for council is "just another way to serve the community," like his volunteer work with the Moose Lodge.

The main issues in the campaign, according to Griffin, are infrastructure improvements, the large land annexation, the Raleigh Street extension and the Martinsburg bypass as traffic solutions and the need for a better park system.

The Raleigh Street extension would lead to a better business climate, he said. "We should redirect our energies into the downtown, instead of bypassing it," Griffin said.

His comments were not aimed as barbs at the current administration. "I have no criticism of anybody, current or past," Griffin said.

Charles Logan, 57, served on the City Council in 1993 and 1994, when terms were two years instead of the current four. He retired after a 31-year career with General Motors.

He said he is running for council again because since he's left office, "it seems like everything's stopped."

The same issues are still hanging around, such as a High Street house that was supposed to have been razed six years ago, Logan said. There are "quite a few" other properties in the 4th Ward that "need to be taken care of," he added.

Logan is also concerned about the traffic patterns in Martinsburg. He said he supports using Queen Street north and Raleigh Street south to alleviate the flow.

As the city expands, it is important to keep abreast of the building codes, he said. The current code enforcement committee "hasn't been doing its job," Logan said.

Gregg Wachtel, 47, was on the City Council at the same time as Logan. He served from 1992 to 1996.

"I still think I have something to offer," said Wachtel, the vice president of WRNR radio.

Recreation is one of his top priorities. He said the council should reconsider adding a glass enclosure over the War Memorial Park pool, although the cost has increased since it was considered about eight years ago.

The B&O Roundhouse should also be considered a recreation asset, Wachtel added, and the council should take "an active role" in preserving it. Asked if that meant money or moral support, he replied, "Just get involved. Period."

To ensure that the city police force has enough officers, the council should consider lobbying for a second State Police academy in the northern part of the state, so training can be streamlined, Wachtel said.

Kimber White, 40, owns the Boomtown Restaurant, which also caters functions.

He said that many of the same problems - infrastructure, downtown revitalization, small business attrition - exist now as they did two years ago, when he unsuccessfully ran for the House of Delegates in the 52nd District.

Those issues are tied together, White suggested.

Traffic patterns are a factor in the survival of small businesses because the downtown must be "user friendly" to consumers who drive, he said.

White said the Martinsburg bypass is a "necessity," but it won't offer full relief for several years. An immediate solution to unclog traffic, he said, is a route down Raleigh Street, connecting to Rockcliff Drive, away from the city.

He also supports a resurrected Youth Council, a park along the Tuscarora Creek, cuts in the business and occupation tax, a study of city employees' salaries and televised City Council meetings.

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