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Agency might lose free office space in Martinsburg

April 29, 2005|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A county-owned building that houses the American Red Cross likely will be offered for sale next year, meaning for the first time in 29 years the county will not be able to offer free office space to the Red Cross, the Berkeley County Commissioners said Thursday.

Citing the high costs to buy or rent office space, Red Cross Executive Director Jon Jarrell said the organization might be forced to move its organization out of Berkeley County.

The Berkeley County chapter of the Red Cross serves five counties, Jarrell said.

The Red Cross now is housed in a building at 101 S. Spring St., which also is the site of the county prosecuting attorney's offices and those of Family Court judges.

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Once the county's new judicial center is finished, the Spring Street building will be one of four downtown Martinsburg buildings offered for sale, the commissioners said.

County Commission President Steve Teufel said he hopes some sort of solution can be found when the Red Cross' lease expires on March 31, 2006, but Commissioner Howard Strauss cautioned against raising "false hopes."

The former lease expired nearly a month ago, on March 31. A one-year extension was granted Thursday, with the understanding that the space must be vacated by March 31, 2006.

County attorney Norwood Bentley said the new lease should indicate that the county will take possession of the building on that date. Any tenant not out by then would be removed, he said.

Jarrell said Red Cross officials have looked at around 70 properties. High costs associated with renting space or buying a building negatively would affect the services the Red Cross offers, Jarrell said.

Along with the Spring Street building, three county-owned buildings on King Street also will be sold, Teufel said.

Although Teufel said it might be possible that the Red Cross could move into one of those, Strauss cautioned against that, saying the buildings must be sold.

Several county offices have been moved into the Dunn Building, part of the former Blue Ridge Outlet shopping complex.

All of the county's judicial-related offices will be moved into the Berkeley Building, across the street from the Dunn Building, next summer.

Construction on the judicial center has been under way for months.

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