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W.Va. county to buy land for emergency headquarters

March 10, 2006|by ROBERT SNYDER

MARTINSBURG, W.VA.

The Berkeley County Commission on Thursday approved buying 8.6 acres of land along Tabler Station Road to develop a new field operations headquarters for the county's emergency services and law enforcement operations.

Response times in Berkeley County could improve significantly in the coming years with a new complex near Interstate 81 in the southern part of the county, officials said.

The land, which would be bought from the county's Development Authority, is part of the future 326-acre Tabler Station Business Park. County Commission President Howard Strauss said the county's offer will be submitted to the development authority at an upcoming meeting.

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The $500,000 loaned by the commission to the authority for operational expenses last year will be used to purchase the property, Strauss said. At a little more than $58,000 an acre, the land would be bought at below market value, he said.

"The commission wisely had the funds in the last year which (will become) a sale and does not need to apply additional funds for the sale of the property," Strauss said.

The move would relocate much of the county's emergency facilities from their present location on South Queen Street, a two-lane road crisscrossed by railroad tracks at the south end of Martinsburg that becomes heavily congested with traffic in mornings and evenings, Berkeley County Office of Emergency Services Director Steve Allen said.

"(The move) allows us some latitude to travel north, south, east and west fairly quickly," Allen said.

The new center would let the county consolidate two present sites and improve the ability to store the county's fleet of emergency vehicles, as well as allow room to develop a command center, Allen said.

The current facility in Martinsburg houses the county's sheriff's department, 911 center, and fire and ambulance vehicles, as well as a number of emergency services vehicles, including a tractor-trailer for regional response operations and a camper that is used as a command center.

"There is not a whole lot of room to move around in that building," Allen said. "(The move) definitely gives us the ability to expand and breathe a little bit easier," he said.

County Emergency Ambulance Authority Chairman Charles Hall said the proposed center could serve the needs of the county for the next 25 to 30 years.

"The county commission showed a great deal of foresight," Hall said.

The new center would likely be operable in about three years, Strauss said. He also envisions the center serving as a satellite location that could house offices for the water and sewer districts.

The development authority purchased the larger property, which is bounded by U.S. 11 and Tabler Station Road, for $4.1 million, and plans to develop the land to house a combination of commercial, warehousing, industrial and light manufacturing businesses.

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