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New library long overdue in north Berkeley, groups agree

August 05, 2005|by CANDICE BOSLEY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Although they all agree on the same goal - having the best possible library in northern Berkeley County - the groups of people involved in the process have become contentious on the means to accomplish that objective.

Much of the disagreement seems to center on whether a temporary library branch should be opened in the basement of the Marlowe (W.Va.) Ruritan building.

By Thursday afternoon, the matter had wound its way to the Berkeley County Commission meeting, when Commissioners Steve Teufel and Ron Collins listened to different people talk about the matter for more than an hour. The commission did not make any decisions or recommendations.

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After the meeting, Teufel said it will be up to library officials to decide the best site for a temporary branch.

"The commission really doesn't have any say," he said.

The Martinsburg-Berkeley County Public Library's board of directors has approved opening a temporary branch at the Ruritan, library Director Pamela Coyle said.

A temporary branch is needed because the former Marlowe library, a 100-square-foot trailer erected in 1973, was shut down by library officials last summer because of its poor condition. That trailer was supposed to have been a temporary location.

Sherry Dockeney, a member of Concerned Citizens of Northern Berkeley County, said during the meeting that the Ruritan basement will be "nice and cozy" once it is refurbished.

Community members have promised to do the renovations for free, using $7,000 in Legislative Digest money obtained by state Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley.

Along with 500 square feet of space in the basement, the library also could use the Ruritan's first floor and outdoor pavilion for events. The property is fenced, the building has bathrooms and a handicapped-accessible ramp will be built, said Ruby Foltz, a member of Concerned Citizens of Northern Berkeley County.

The space would be offered to the library for free for up to three years.

Other features of the Ruritan building's basement include a working fireplace and heaters. The basement does not have any windows or air conditioning.

Del. John Overington, R-Berkeley, praised the work done by the Ruritan, but said the basement is "less than adequate" for use as a library.

Better options would be to either place a portable classroom on the existing library site or lease a building across from a campground in Falling Waters, W.Va., along U.S. 11 for $750 per month.

No renovations are needed to move into that building, Overington said.

A parent who attended the meeting said she would feel uncomfortable taking her children to the Ruritan building, which she once termed a "cellar." She urged the commissioners to visit the basement.

Overington, who occasionally holds town meetings with his constituents, said such a meeting should be held dealing with the temporary library branch. At such a meeting, he said, all of the area's residents could voice their opinions.

An agreed-upon goal is to eventually build a permanent library.

Teufel said he had heard of people who might be willing to donate land in the northern end of the county for use as a library.

If land is donated, the library could sell the $65,000 worth of land it owns in Marlowe. That money would be earmarked for a new library in the county's northern end, Coyle said.

If land is donated, a new library could open in a year or two, Coyle said.

A related issue that has generated controversy concerns the library's board of directors.

Per state law, the board can have no more than five members. Per a city ordinance - the main library is in Martinsburg - all five are appointed by the Martinsburg City Council.

Given that most of the library's funding comes from the County Commission and Berkeley County Board of Education, those two entities should be able to appoint people to the library's board, commissioners said.

For fiscal year 2006, which started in July, the library received $429,077 from the County Commission, $425,919 from the Board of Education and $81,335 from the City of Martinsburg.

Another $414,902 was obtained from other sources for a total revenue of $1,351,233, according to paperwork distributed during the meeting.

Coyle said she plans to propose that the County Commission and Board of Education each be allowed to appoint one person to the board, and that the city continues to make the other three appointments.

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