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Wise tackles growth, money at town meeting

April 08, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - After touring parts of the Eastern Panhandle Monday, members of Gov. Bob Wise's Cabinet took note of the rapid rate of growth in the area and said expansion of some state offices could be considered to keep up with it.

Wise's Cabinet members made the remarks at a town meeting Wise held at Orchard View Elementary School Monday night.

It was the culmination of a long day in which Cabinet members met with officials in their respective fields.

Stephanie Timmermeyer, secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection, said she did not realize how fast the Eastern Panhandle was growing and thinks the area could benefit from a two- or three-person DEP office.

The Division of Environmental Protection deals with areas such as waste disposal and related issues.

Fred VanKirk, secretary of transportation, said the area is being "strangled by traffic." The problem is evident on a variety of routes, from back roads to W.Va. 9 to Interstate 81, he said.

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"This area has grown so much," said Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Roger Pritt, adding that a DMV office probably could be added in Charles Town, W.Va., as a supplement to the one in Martinsburg.

Wise and his staff understand what the needs are, said Del. Bob Tabb, D-Jefferson, as he opened the meeting.

"He's aware and that's why he brought his Cabinet here," Tabb said.

Wise expressed enthusiasm in getting positive results for the area, and touched on several issues such as funding for a second high school in Jefferson County.

The state School Building Authority recently turned down a $15 million funding request from the Jefferson County Board of Education for a second high school, which board members said leaves them with some serious problems in trying to deal with a growing student population.

Wise said he understands there is a "very real need" for a second high school in Jefferson County and said he will set up meetings of all parties involved in the school construction process in an attempt to reach a resolution.

"I understand there is a lot of frustration," Wise said.

About 30 people attended the meeting, and some asked questions. One question addressed possible funding for a proposed industrial park that would straddle the Berkeley-Jefferson county line. The state Economic Development Grant Commission recently turned down a $5.3 million funding request for the development of the park.

Wise said there may be about $60 million more in funds available to the Economic Development Grant Commission that could be used to help fund the park, which would provide several hundred acres for new businesses, proponents say.

Wise also was asked what he thinks the impact on slot machine revenues will be if nearby states approve slot machine gambling.

Although Pennsylvania and Maryland are considering legalizing slot machines, the effects on slot machine revenue at state tracks, like the bustling Charles Town Races & Slots, may not be realized for some time, Wise said.

"It takes awhile to get a system up and running," Wise said.

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