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Strong education is one of goals at Region 9 meeting

July 28, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Developing a balance between development and green space, keeping a top priority on education and ensuring families have adequate facilities like good child care were among the issues discussed Tuesday when local leaders met to identify goals for the Eastern Panhandle.

Officials with Eastern Panhandle Regional Planning and Development Council - commonly called Region 9 - organized the meeting at the Holiday Inn off Foxcroft Avenue.

Input from the meeting was to be used to determine which issues are important and should be addressed by government agencies, nonprofit organizations and community groups, Region 9 officials said.

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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, Region 9 officials said.

Those who attended the meeting were divided into small groups. The groups were told to come up with priorities they believed were important for the area.

John Reisenweber said his group stressed education and "the more of it, the better."

The emphasis was not only on making sure the local public school systems have enough facilities to keep up with population growth, but on the fact that there should be more adult educational opportunities, said Reisenweber, a local representative for U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.

Also, there are drug problems in the area, and educational efforts focused toward children to help them avoid such pitfalls is important, Reisenweber said.

Morgan County accountant Franklin Miles sat at a table where environmentalists and developers participated in the discussions.

Regardless of the fact that the two groups had different viewpoints, both of them agreed that traffic problems and adequate roads are important things to stay on top of, Miles said.

Participants repeated the frequent complaint that elected officials in the southern part of the state do not understand the needs of the Eastern Panhandle and that the local area often is ignored.

Jefferson County resident Susan Walter said the three Eastern Panhandle counties duplicate the ways they offer services to their residents.

If those efforts were combined into a large region, the Panhandle might have more clout in Charleston, W.Va., Walter said.

Jeff Curtis, director of Main Street Martinsburg, went a step further.

"We should become our own state," Curtis said, joking.

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