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Commission debates county consolidation issue

February 22, 2001

Commission debates county consolidation issue



By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer, Martinsburg


MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The issue of consolidating public services into one government in Berkeley County arose again Thursday as commissioners were asked for their comments about merging counties throughout the state.

"The time has come in Berkeley County to study countywide government," said Commissioner John Wright.

"Before you talk about consolidation of counties, we should talk about consolidation within the county," said Commissioner Robert Burkhart. He said he had no opinion on the issue, but believes it should be discussed.

Wright said commissioners in years past have discussed it and the Chamber of Commerce of Martinsburg and Berkeley County has had a committee studying the issue.

Wright said the idea would have to go through the West Virginia Legislature. He said some people in the rural part of the county might not like it and Martinsburg city officials might have objections.

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But he said it could provide more efficient services to citizens, although he does not know if it would be any less expensive.

"I think we could be the Cadillac of counties in West Virginia," he said. "We should have one government.'

Commission President Howard Strauss was less enthusiastic about the idea.

"I think there are areas of cooperation and partnership" between the county and Martinsburg, he said. The county provides animal control for the city, he said, and police and fire operations cooperate now. He said the city will want to keep its own government.

"They like their own city government," he said.

He said he believes that as the county grows, specific areas such as Falling Waters or Inwood may want to incorporate into cities.

"The direction in Berkeley County is in the opposite direction," he said.

The issue has come up in Charleston because some counties are near insolvency and may want to merge some functions to be able to provide services to citizens, Strauss said.

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