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Wise visits, speaks on amendment

October 10, 2002|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

Standing in the center of the nearly empty, dusty Roundhouse on Wednesday evening, West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise discussed the importance of Amendment 1 - which he said could help give new life to projects such as the Roundhouse that need an economic infusion.

If more than half of the state's voters in the Nov. 5 general election check the "yes" box, Amendment 1, being promoted as an economic development tool, will become a reality.

Wise said he wanted to clear up some misconceptions about the idea. Amendment 1 does not call for any new taxes to be levied, nor are taxes taken from one beneficiary, such as a school system, to be used for economic development, he said.

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Local officials and residents play a key role, he said as he outlined how Amendment 1 would be used should voters approve it.

If a developer feels he has a project that could boost the community's economy, he will pitch the idea - and its projected fiscal benefits - to the county commissioners or city council, Wise said.

If they support the idea, the commissioners or council members must then hold a public hearing, so residents can voice their opinions. If the idea clears those hurdles, it must be approved by the state tax office.

Finally, before one construction worker picks up a hammer, Wall Street must give the project the OK by issuing the necessary bonds, Wise said. If they choose to, state officials can secure the bond.

After the project is complete, property taxes from those businesses created will be used to pay off the bond. After the bond is paid off, tax money raised goes into local coffers, Wise said.

"It means no new taxes for anybody ... but potentially lots of new jobs," Wise said.

About 40 people stood in the Roundhouse as Wise and others outlined the project. Broken windows, dangling wires, aged steel beams and a few construction workers repairing the structure surrounded Wise.

The governor said he could think of no better place to speak about Amendment 1 than the Roundhouse.

"This facility would be an excellent candidate for Amendment No. 1," Wise said.

"I can't think of any area that will benefit more" than the Eastern Panhandle, the fastest growing area of the state, he said.

Martinsburg City Councilman Richard Yauger read aloud a proclamation signed by Mayor George Karos in favor of the idea, then looked out to the audience.

"I see some very, very young folks here," Yauger said, referring to a few children in attendance. He said Amendment 1 would provide jobs and services that could benefit them one day.

Wise, a Democrat, said members of his party, along with Republicans, support the idea, as do those in the labor industry. A few men in attendance wore union T-shirts, and Chris Perkins, president of the local chapter of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, was present.

"It will bring money to the Eastern Panhandle. It will also create a lot of skilled positions for union workers," Perkins said. "It will put people to work."

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