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Morgan, Mickey seek Jefferson Commission seat

November 01, 2002|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The Jefferson County Commission race between Democrat G. Warren Mickey and Republican Rusty Morgan is generating heated debates over impact fees and other issues related to population growth in the county.

The two candidates are locked in a countywide race for the Kabletown district seat, which will be determined in the Nov. 5 general election.

Morgan said he is running for the $27,500-a-year job because he wants to see implementation of an impact fee of at least $13,000 per house to adequately fund public education needs in Jefferson County.

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Impact fees are fees paid by developers to help offset the cost of increased services needed due to growth, such as new schools, additional fire and police services and utilities.

Morgan said the biggest slice of impact fee money needs to go to the school system to help it build the schools it needs.

Because the county's schools are crowded, at least three new schools are needed, Morgan said. More funding is also needed for schools to help them offer the high-tech training they want, said Morgan.

That type of training is vital to help the community land high-tech companies, Morgan said.

While Mickey has ideas for controlling growth, he said he is worried about some efforts going too far.

Mickey said, for example, he favors impact fees as long as they are fair and enforceable.

He said he does not think impact fees should be as high as $13,000 per house, because that would cause home values to rise, resulting in higher taxes.

Morgan disputed Mickey's claims, calling it a "scare tactic."

"He doesn't seem to like impact fees at all, and I think that's a disservice to the public," Morgan said.

Mickey said he didn't pull his prediction out of thin air.

Mickey said he talked to both Jefferson County Assessor Ginger Bordier and Prosecuting Attorney Michael D. Thompson, and they agreed large impact fees would raise taxes.

The fees would raise taxes because they would be added to the total cost of a home, Mickey said. Prices of homes are reviewed about every three years to determine tax rates, Mickey said.

"I'm looking out for the people who are already living in Jefferson County," said Mickey, a beef cattle farmer who served on the Jefferson County Board of Education for about 18 years.

Mickey said he fears that if the county implements an impact fee as high as $13,000, people are going to be more reluctant to pass excess levies to support the school system.

And excess levies will be needed because state funding for public school systems is limited, Mickey said.

Mickey said he supports "managed growth," under which developers would be required to build near municipalities. It makes sense to build near municipalities because that is where services like public water and sewer are already in place, he said.

In the rural zones, where development is usually limited to protect farmland, Mickey said he supports cluster development where about 80 percent of a proposed development would be required to be left in open space.

Morgan criticized Mickey's use of "managed growth," saying Mickey speaks in a "code" that no one has ever heard before.

Morgan said voters must realize that implementing impact fees is not going to be like "reinventing the wheel. This is being done by hundreds of communities across the country," said Morgan, who said he feels it is important to slow the rate of residential growth so schools can catch up.

Mickey said government officials cannot stop residential growth and still expect to have a vibrant community. In the primary election, Mickey said stopping growth does not make sense because there are too many people making livings from the construction business.

"I just don't think you can put a gate across the river and say 'Okay, the last person just crossed into Jefferson County,'" said Mickey, of 373 Roper North Fork Road, Charles Town.

Morgan, of P.O. Box 130, Rippon, said the county needs to re-prioritize its needs, such as putting more emphasis on recreational programs in the county. Soccer teams are playing in areas such as cemetery properties because playing space is scarce, Morgan said.

Morgan has been self-employed for most of his life, working in farming and the home building trade. He was a founding member of the Rural Health Education Partnerships, a Martinsburg-based program that works to recruit health care professionals to the area.

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