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Berkeley voters asked to approve rec bond

October 08, 2000

Berkeley voters asked to approve rec bond



By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer, Martinsburg

photo: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer

War Memorial poolMARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Berkeley County voters will be asked Nov. 7 to raise $3.16 million over the next three years to build two recreation and gymnasium facilities, cover the city swimming pool, pay for a permanent skateboard park and make other park and recreation improvements.

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The County Commission has put on the ballot a measure that would cost the owner of a $100,000 residence $24 a year for the next three years.

The demand is high for all recreation facilities, said Steve Catlett, director of the Martinsburg/Berkeley County Parks and Recreation Department and Scott Roach, president of the citizen committee pushing the levy.

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"We know the demand is there," Roach said. "We get calls all the time - why aren't you doing this? Why aren't you doing that?'"

"There is a shortage of everything," Catlett said. "We could still use a lot more. $10-$12 million would be nice. "But you have to start with something. You don't want to get too greedy and ask for too much and not have a realistic chance of getting approval."

This proposal was developed by the Parks and Recreation Board after public meetings earlier this year. The idea is to help meet some of the needs throughout the county.

"There's a better possibility in distributing the money more evenly," Catlett said. One-third would go to a recreation/gym facility near Inwood, another in the Hedgesville High School area and the rest to the Martinsburg area.

No formal opposition has surfaced, but south county civic activist Max Grove questions its need. He said the county can't maintain what it has, pointing to an overgrown exercise trail in the south county. And the school district has two gyms in his part of the county that can be used for recreation.

"Taxes went to pay for that," he said. "Those are public buildings for recreation."

He would prefer money be spent for "lifelong sports" such as tennis courts. "Something like a skateboard park might be a fad for two or three years, then nobody will want to do it."

Roach agreed the county can't keep up with maintenance because it can't make enough money from its facilities through fees. The trail is a good example, he said.

The user fees generated from the facilities built by the levy should allow them to be maintained, he said. Sixty percent of the department's $800,000 annual budget now comes from user fees.

Roach said the gyms are already so booked up with school-related activities, they are often inaccessible.

The park and recreations system has grown through "pot luck," he said. War Memorial Park became public after the private owner failed, as an example, he said.

This proposal will put the county on path to start meeting the needs - if voters want to pay for it, Roach said. Voters turned down a levy in 1992, although it got more than 50 percent. The recreation levy requires 60 percent.

"Taxes will always be an issue," Roach said. "It's certainly not an easy sell. But the thing about this levy is that it is an opportunity for the people of the county to decide what direction they want to go with their parks and recreation facilities."

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