Letters to the editor

March 06, 2005

Not everyone fits neatly into a growth category

To the editor:

I am a citizen and constituent of Jefferson County, W.Va., politicians. I applaud Jim Surkamp's efforts to raise awareness about issues currently being debated - it is more than I can say for many of the other politicians.

Most people do not have time to go to every meeting to gain insight on local issues, and using the listener forum is an insightful way to communicate to the constituents who, in-turn, can respond.

A recent (Martinsburg) Journal editorial classifies people as either pro-growth or "rabid no-growthers" and does not try to distinguish between any other perspectives. Many people in this county would not classify themselves as either. Personally, I believe many share in the opinion that what is best for Jefferson County is not rampant uncontrolled growth nor zero growth.


Growth is inevitable, whether it is organized and planned (preferabley) or not. What is needed is stable infrastructure to support the eventual needs of a growing community such as Jefferson County.

I am aware our system is not perfect, but am glad we actually have countywide zoning, compared to Berkeley County, which seems to have an uphill battle in trying to adequately plan for its future.

There should be no rush to develop everything possible, so hopefully what is developed will be positive for the community, with proper infrastructure to support it. Too often I see negative results of growth (higher taxes, traffic jams, poorly built homes, poorly designed and planned developments, overcrowded schools, etc.), which leads me to this opinion: The development interests are not what is best for the community, but what is best for developers' wallets.

I hope this does not include The Journal, which would sacrifice its objectivity to sell more newspapers and raise advertisement prices. I hope more politicians will share their opinions on issues vital to the ongoing debate over growth and how best to manage it.

Joe Funkhouser
Charles Town, W.Va.

Williamsport's treatment of museum members was awful

To the editor:

Let me begin by stating that I am not a resident of Williamsport. I live 500 feet from the town limits, which means I am not officially a resident. However, the actions of the current mayor and council have affected my town and my family. I say "my town" for the reason that our family has lived in, and has been a part of this town, since my great-grandfather relocated his family here from Sharpsburg, via the C&O Canal in 1918.

I became a member of the Williamsport Town Museum in 1995, due to my interest in local history. This was a group of warm, friendly, enthusiastic and energetic people, with a strong interest in researching and preserving our town's history.

As committee members, we worked long hours creating special displays and planning special events. Our family personally donated objects and placed other items on loan to the museum so that others could have an opportunity to view these artifacts. With the number of staff members, an individual was only asked to work one Sunday every six weeks; still, you could count on some members to show up every Sunday.

Maurice Snyder, the official town historian, was present every Sunday. The late Beckly "Bassy" Harsh could be counted on to be in attendance, and Virgil (Skip) Bowers, my father, would surely be occupying a seat as well.

Before the museum closed for the day, Gerry and Joan Knode, the backbone of the museum, would also make their appearance. The museum staff at this time counted about 17 people of similar interest.

Then in 2001, Mayor John Slayman attended a monthly museum meeting carrying a list of grievances against the museum staff. The first item was that I failed to obtain written permission from the mayor and Town Council to attend the annual Small Museum Association convention. (No one on the committee had done so in the previous five years, as the expenses were paid out of the museum budget, which had already been approved.)

Next, we were told the museum could no longer accept items on loan for display. The committee found this rather confusing, as the previous year the mayor had provided us with forms to be completed when objects were on loan to the museum. I did not stay to hear the entire inventory of violations, as number three stated, "You must be a resident of the town to be a member of the Museum Committee."

Thus ended our family's membership and the membership of nearly the entire committee. This was not the first attack Slayman had launched against the Museum Committee, but it was the last.

I am uncertain to this day what motivated Slayman's desire to harass the Museum Committee into nonexistence, but I do know what the cost to the town has been. Through no fault of the remaining members, I challenge you to find the museum open now. What three people can do is limited.

As I said in the beginning, I am not a resident of Williamsport, and I cannot vote in the March 7 election. I also cannot speak with authority of other matters concerning Mayor Slayman. But of the demise of the Town Museum, I can speak in the first person: I was there.

K.L. Bowers

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