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Berkeley ready to study office space issues

December 04, 2000

Berkeley ready to study office space issues



By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer, Martinsburg


MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The Berkeley County Commission appears ready early next year to begin seriously discussing plans for future office space and public parking for county buildings.

Incoming Commissioner Howard Strauss said he will propose the Commission form a special committee early next year to look at all the county's building needs. Commissioner John Wright said he supports the idea.

While a major focus could be the desire to consolidate all county judicial functions in one building, Strauss said the committee must look at all the needs.

"We need to look at existing buildings the county has and make a determination about the need to expand," Strauss said Thursday. "In my opinion, we're looking at a judicial center, but the broader focus should look at all the needs for buildings, planning for them, what they should be and where they should go."

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The issue was highlighted at Thursday's County Commission meeting by a discussion of trying to shoehorn into the existing buildings a courtroom for the new Circuit Court Judge Gray Silver, III. He will be located in the basement of the building on College and Spring street that houses the Prosecuting Attorney's Office and the Family Law Masters.

The family law masters will be replaced by two or three domestic judges in about two years, Commissioner Robert Burkhart said. And a new magistrate will be needed in a year or two. The dilapidated, old building that houses Magistrate Court probably does not have space for another judge, officials said.

"Past (county) administrations have built building after building after building with no thought to the future," Wright said. County judicial functions are scattered throughout six buildings. One idea mentioned most often is to build a new judicial center next the public library on King Street.

Wright said the issue should not be viewed as providing better offices for public employees, but helping the people of the county.

"We are not providing services to the people we should be," he said.

Said Strauss: "If we're going to ask people to pay additional money, we should ask them to have a say in how it would be spent."

In addition to county officials with expertise on buildings, bankers and local citizens should be put on the committee to discuss all aspects of any building projects, he said. Money will be a critical, with estimates ranging up to $20 million to build a new judicial building.

Strauss said the committee could study all the issues, then make recommendations. A building commission already exists that would be used to finance any plans.

Berkeley County Commissioner-elect Strauss said he plans to make propose the committee after he takes office in January.

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