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Commission holds first night meeting

March 02, 2001

Commission holds first night meeting



By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer, Martinsburg


MARTINSBURG, W. Va. - The first night meeting of the Berkeley County Commission Thursday drew about 80 people who commented on barriers in the Interstate 81 median and closing hours for private clubs, among other issues.

The state is considering whether to put barriers in medians on the new six-lane section of the interstate through the Martinsburg area. The state had said none would be installed, but this week said they would consider barriers because of concern from elected officials and the community.

A show of hands among those in the audience indicated support for strong barriers such as concrete, as well as for lowering the speed limit through the area.

Without barriers, "if a vehicle loses it, it will go across (the median) in the blink of an eye," said former county Sheriff's Deputy Christopher Breeze.

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He advocated strong concrete "jersey barriers" that divert vehicles back into their own lane.

There was no support voiced for a cable-barrier guard rail as the state is considering.

The commissioners and others have been pressuring the state to provide barriers, although Commissioner Robert Burkhart said he wants to see data that shows barriers are safer than a grassy median.

The commissioners also asked for public comment on a bill proposed by Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, that calls for a referendum in counties or cities on setting the closing time for the sale of alcohol on premises of private clubs.

The audience seemed to favor the idea of a public vote as opposed to having the commissioners set the time.

Breeze said the problem is both local residents driving drunk late at night, and people from other states with earlier closing times coming to West Virginia and drinking until 3:30 a.m.

Commissioner John Wright said 92 percent of the alcohol purchased late at night comes from convenience stores, not clubs and bars.

"You're not really solving the problem" by closing earlier, he said.

The commissioners also heard from representatives of Sportsman's Paradise Community, who said they are working to fix roads and clean up the troubled area, which has been plagued with crime.

The county is working with the community on a variety of issues.

The first night meeting was apparently judged a success by those attending, who applauded the commissioners for holding it. Regular commission meetings are held during the day.

The commissions will hold night meetings on the first Thursday of each month.

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