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Money tight for fixing up Dunn Building

October 17, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Buying it was one thing. Fixing it up is quite another.

Berkeley County officials said Thursday they will have to scour their budgets to find the money needed to turn a former warehouse into a comprehensive county office center.

Plans are in place to turn the Dunn Building, which most recently was part of a defunct outlet shopping mall, into county offices.

"There is no money in the county's budget at this time in order to pay for the renovation work," Berkeley County Commission President Howard Strauss said.

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Strauss said he will not take money from each department head's budget. Instead, he said possible funding sources include any savings in daily jail bills, any extra money left in the county's facilities fund or any unexpected revenue, such as that from video lottery funds.

He could not say whether taxes will be raised, but pointed out the county's tax rate was slightly lowered for this fiscal year.

The matter came up during the county commission meeting Thursday morning, when officials with the Berkeley Senior Center said they might need to seek funding from the county for a renovation project.

Strauss replied that the county probably will not be able to contribute anything more than their annual allotment, since they cannot even pay for the Dunn Building renovation, which Strauss said is a priority.

Giving money to every group that asks will not be possible, he said.

"The taxpayers are not an ATM machine," Strauss said.

Part of the former Blue Ridge Outlet Center, the Dunn Building is at the corner of Stephen and Raleigh streets. It is one of three former warehouses the county bought in May 2002 for $3.8 million, a price that included 400 parking spaces. Another 111 spaces near the building were purchased separately at auction.

Strauss said Thursday that the center was valued at more than twice the amount the county paid.

"It was a significant bargain," he said.

More than $100,000 recently was saved by using community service workers to do some demolition work inside the Dunn Building. Community service workers tore out carpet, removed walls that had covered windows and removed dressing rooms and other leftovers from the shopping mall.

Strauss could not predict how much it will cost to renovate the building to make it suitable for offices. Partitions and counters will need to be built and fiber lines will be installed, among other work.

Existing office furniture will be kept and used, while the pull-down security gates installed for stores will be used to lock the offices, Strauss said.

Bids could be solicited next month and Strauss said he hopes construction will begin in the first quarter of next year.

County officials bought the center to consolidate county offices, which currently are scattered throughout different buildings. After the Dunn Building and an adjacent county judicial center open, some county-owned buildings will be sold.

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