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$1 million secured for Martinsburg's state police barrack

February 23, 2005|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Troopers stationed at the West Virginia State Police's Martinsburg barrack find themselves working in cramped offices. There's no conference room and no garage to park a crime scene vehicle or in which to process evidence from cars.

"We need to double the size of the office," Sgt. Eric Burnett said.

State Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, said he has secured $1 million to repair the existing barrack and is seeking another $400,000 to $800,000 to enlarge it.

The $1 million will allow for a "worst-case scenario" of renovating the existing barrack off Edwin Miller Boulevard in Martinsburg, he said.

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"If we can get the $800,000, we're building for the future," Unger said during a telephone interview Tuesday.

That additional funding would allow for a garage, an addition onto the rear of the existing building and renovations to the current facility, Unger said.

Whether he is able to obtain the additional funding will not be known until April, Unger said.

Unger also is working on other state trooper-related bills. He is hoping to reform the retirement plan to allow troopers to retire when they turn 50 years old, rather than the current age requirement of 55.

He plans to introduce a bill Thursday that would give all state employees, including troopers, in fast-growing areas like Berkeley and Jefferson counties an annual stipend to help offset high cost-of-living expenses.

In addition to the stipend for troopers living in certain areas, he hopes he can increase state troopers' salaries statewide by 18 percent.

Civilian employees with the state police would receive a $1,200 pay raise.

Lastly, Unger wants to set aside $2 million for overtime costs, which would equal $500 per month per trooper. Troopers are working overtime but not being paid for it, Unger said.

Sen. Walt Helmick, D-Pocahontas, helped to secure the $1 million, which will be taken from the state police's budget.

Unger said he hopes renovations at the barrack will be finished in a year.

"It is vital that we continue to support the essential efforts and contributions of the men and women of the state police," Unger said in a press release. "Officers of the state police provide invaluable services and security to the citizens of West Virginia and as state lawmakers, it is our duty to recognize this through more than mere words."

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