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New college's senate critic must be converted to an ally

July 27, 2000

New college's senate critic must be converted to an ally



It seems like the perfect solution for everyone involved. Shepherd College gets to expand its community and technical college program into downtown Martinsburg, W.Va., which would get all the student traffic that would come when the old Blue Ridge Outlet Center is transformed into a new college campus.

There's only one hitch: Key lawmakers, who would provide much of the money to make it happen, say the project's backers are moving too fast and circumventing procedures established in the last session of the legislature. We've said it before, but it apparently must be said again: Butting heads with the Legislature's money people is not the way to go.

Oshel Craigo, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said that despite the endorsement of Gov. Cecil Underwood, it will be necessary to do a site study and hold public hearings. It would be a "critical, critical mistake" to attempt to bypass the process, he said.

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State Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, seems to understand that, and the need for keeping his Senate colleagues happy on this issue. Unger also agreed with Craigo that there seems to to be some attempt to use the confusion of the transition between the old and new systems of higher education oversight to get Shepherd's move grandfathered in.

Is that true? It doesn't matter, because Craigo, who's warned local lawmakers that he and his committee would take a dim view of anything resembling a fast shuffle, thinks somebody's trying to pull a fast one here.

Someone, and Unger seems in the right spot to do it, needs to build some trust and get both sides working together. If Shepherd has been pushed to move quickly, only to be told to put the brakes on now, Craigo needs to hear that, face-to-face, from the people involved.

That said, we agree that the Blue Ridge site, with plenty of parking and food-preparation facilities on site, probably offers the best chance to get this facility up and running quickly. The task now is to jump through whatever hoops it takes to satisfy Senator Craigo that boosters of a new community college are going to site it according to the terms of the new law.

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