Hooper faces challenge for Jefferson Commission seat

October 18, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - How Jefferson County manages its growth and how it works with other government agencies and nearby communities in coming years are among the top issues in the race for the Charles Town seat on the Jefferson County Commission, candidates said.

The race pits the incumbent, Republican Al Hooper, against Democrat Dale Manuel, who is stepping down from his seat in the state House of Delegates to run for the position.

Both men were unopposed in the primary election last May.

Hooper is a civil engineer who managed three successful corporations and who designed and built Tuscawilla Hills, a large housing development along W.Va. 51 west of Charles Town.


Manuel has spent 16 years in the Legislature representing Jefferson County and was a teacher at Wright Denny Intermediate School for 32 years before retiring this year.

The county commission term is six years and the salary is $30,800.

Al Hooper

Hooper, who is finishing his first term, said the rate of development in the county must be slowed down so the county has a chance to implement public services needed to support it. One way to accomplish that is through the modification of a land scoring process known as the Land Evaluation Site Assessment test, Hooper said.

The Land Evaluation Site Assessment test is designed to control growth in the county's rural zone.

In the test, a developer starts with a score of 100, but must reduce that number to less than 55 points to build, Hooper said.

The developer reduces the score through points awarded to the builder.

A list of variables are used to score developments under LESA, including public water availability and other factors.

Developers can get 22 points if they have public water and sewer service for their developments, Hooper said.

To make it more difficult to build under LESA, Hooper favors eliminating the points developers can get for water and sewer service.

Hooper also opposes "pipestem" annexations, which allows cities to reach out into areas of the county to take in certain areas.

"We've got to get a better grip on the pace of growth," said Hooper, 76, of 615 S. Seminary St., Charles Town.

Hooper believes cities and the county must begin working together on future planning and that adequate water and sewer services, roads, schools, emergency services and park facilities must be considered in all planning efforts.

Hooper also supports protection of well-water supplies and surface water, and wants to attract new businesses to broaden the tax base.

Hooper said his accomplishments have included overseeing a committee to establish building codes in the county, helping to start a paid ambulance service, gaining support from the county commission to build a $2.2 million community center at Sam Michaels Park and working with libraries to increase the commission's contribution to local libraries from $12,000 a year to $72,000 a year.

"I'm pretty proud of that," said Hooper, who designed and built the Old Charles Town Library.

Dale Manuel

Rather than depending on LESA to control growth, Manuel said he prefers a more traditional form of zoning. Manuel believes that would be a more effective method of preserving green space and setting land aside for public facilities such as recreational fields and walking trails.

Manuel said he also wants to use slot machine revenue from Charles Town Races & Slots to acquire recreational facilities and parks.

"There is a finite amount of land in Jefferson County. We need to get that land," said Manuel, 55, of 75 Porter Way, Charles Town. Manuel said he also wants to use slot machine revenue to help volunteer fire departments with projects and expand libraries.

Manuel said he wants to improve communication between the commission and state and local government, particularly the Jefferson County Board of Education. With his background as a lawmaker, Manuel said he has developed relationships with officials in the state highways department, the state Public Service Commission, the state Department of Health and Human Resources and other state agencies that would be beneficial to the county.

"I'd be able to lobby for county issues," Manuel said.

Manuel said he supports having the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department setting up satellite stations across the county. The satellite stations would allow the sheriff's department to set up offices in remote areas of the county, such as Blue Ridge Mountain, Manuel said.

Manuel also supports efforts to have affordable housing in the county, allowing parents and youth softball organizations to have more input on recreation facilities, to do the groundwork necessary to attract high-tech business, to push for progress on widening W.Va. 9 to four lanes, to protect well-water supplies and to save the former Jefferson County Jail.

"It would be a shame if we took that building down out of that streetscape," Manuel said, referring to the jail.

The jail is in downtown Charles Town and a recent historic review determined that tearing it down would change the character of the town's historic district setting. County officials have considered tearing down the jail to make room for new offices.

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