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No decision on Berkeley County library board makeup

August 19, 2005|by CANDICE BOSLEY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The Berkeley County Board of Education shelled out $425,919 for the local library system this fiscal year, while the Berkeley County Commission handed over $429,077.

Yet neither entity is allowed to appoint a member to the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Public Library's board of directors.

All of the members of the five-person board are appointed by the Martinsburg City Council, which contributed $81,335 to the library this year.

"We have, in a way, taxation without representation," Del. John Overington told City Council members Thursday night.

Overington, R-Berkeley, proposed that the County Commission and Board of Education each be allowed to immediately appoint one person to the library's board, and that the other three members continue to be appointed by the city.

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By state law, the board must consist of five members.

"This would be a way to give us a voice," said Overington, who represents the northern end of the county.

Pamela Coyle, the library's director, made a similar proposal, but suggested the county-appointed board members only assume their duties when a vacancy happens.

Martinsburg Mayor George Karos proposed that no action be taken until all five board members have been interviewed by the City Council.

His idea passed with a 5-0 vote.

Councilwoman Betty Gunnoe, who works at the library as a full-time librarian, recused herself without commenting.

The makeup of the board has come into question recently after the library branch in Marlowe, W.Va., was closed last summer. The board recently voted to open a temporary branch in the basement of the Ruritan building in Marlowe, a location that some parents say is of concern.

Cheryl Rodgers told City Council members that the decision to open a temporary branch in the Ruritan basement was made behind closed doors, with no public input.

Parents are concerned, she said, because the basement has no windows and might have mold, which could be a health risk.

Tensions over the library closure, and where to open a temporary branch, might have been avoided if the board had had a county-appointed member, Overington said.

Sally Jackson, a current board member, disagreed.

To imply the board only cares about what happens within the city's limits is "absurd," Jackson told council members.

Members of the board have a five-year plan to open a new library in the northern end of the county, she said.

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