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Agency seeks public's input in future needs of the Panhandle

July 23, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - What the Eastern Panhandle will be like in the next five years and which needs should be given priority over that time will be the focus of a town meeting planned for next week.

Officials with Eastern Panhandle Regional Planning and Development Council - commonly called Region 9 - are organizing the meeting, along with Economic Development Authority officials from Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties.

Anyone who lives in the Eastern Panhandle is invited to attend, including residents and leaders of organizations, said Region 9 Project Manager Vicki Shean.

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The meeting will be interactive, with no presentations.

Input from the meeting will be used to determine which issues are important and should be addressed by government agencies, nonprofit organizations and community groups, Shean said.

Goals and strategies to address the needs will be incorporated into a five-year plan, which will be updated annually so officials can evaluate what has been accomplished, what has been learned and what remains to be done. The last such plan covered the years up to 2002, Shean said.

Depending on one's viewpoint, ongoing growth in the Panhandle is a blessing or a curse. Plans for subdivisions are submitted continually and the population continues to increase.

"We certainly need to make informed decisions and know what kind of impact it will have," Shean said.

Possible topics to be discussed at the meeting include infrastructure needs in the Panhandle, including water and sewer systems. Aging wastewater treatment plants need to be updated and new water and sewer lines need to be installed in some areas, Shean said.

Other possible topics include stimulating economic growth to bring in new employers, thereby creating more jobs; and making sure affordable housing is available.

If a wide variety of people from the three counties attend, a "bigger picture" of regional needs hopefully will emerge, Shean said.

Region 9 is a quasi-government agency that provides regional planning and development services. Region 9 employees identify state and federal funding sources, help with grant applications and help administer certain programs.

The town meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, July 27, from 1:30 to 4 p.m. at the Holiday Inn in Martinsburg.

To ensure all participants are accommodated, Shean asked that those planning to attend RSVP by calling 304-263-1743 or by sending an e-mail to Region9@berkeleycountycomm.org.

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