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Opinions differ on process for adding county commissioners

October 15, 2005|By CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.VA.


Whether a petition with the signatures of 10 percent of the county's registered voters is needed to begin the process of increasing the number of Berkeley County commissioners from three to five is being debated.

County resident Judy Malone asked the Berkeley County Commission on Thursday how they plan to get the issue on the ballot to let voters decide whether the county needs five commissioners.

Having five commissioners is an issue that has been discussed for several years, but opinions differ on how it can be accomplished.

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County attorney Norwood Bentley has said that 10 percent of the county's voters would need to sign a petition, the state Legislature must enact a law approving the plan and half of the county's voters must approve it on the ballot.

Malone disagrees.

She said she believes the state's Constitution allows a County Commission body itself to forward a request to the state Legislature asking that the number of commissioners be increased, with no petition required. If approved by the Legislature, the question would then be put on a ballot, she said.

Commissioner Howard Strauss said he would like to have a public hearing on the topic, and said comments from the public could affect whether he supports the idea.

Commissioner Steve Teufel disagreed, saying public hearing after public hearing could be held. He said it might be easier to simply make the request and then see whether it is rejected because a petition is needed.

Teufel asked that any further discussion on the matter be delayed until Commissioner Ron Collins, who did not attend the meeting, can share his thoughts.

Strauss and Teufel both said in January 2003 that they favor increasing the number of commissioners, with Teufel using it as one of his platform issues in the 2002 election.

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