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Coast Guard operations expand in W.Va.

September 29, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - The U.S. Coast Guard's presence in Berkeley County continued to expand Thursday when officials in U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd's office announced that a new facility which is expected to employ 250 people will be built at the intersection of U.S. 11 and Edwin Miller Boulevard in Martinsburg.

Byrd's office announced that a contract totaling more than $30 million has been awarded to JDL Castle of Winston-Salem, N.C., to build a nearly 60,000-square-foot facility for the operation.

The facility will be built at a 33-acre site where Destiny Church is planning a new worship center and residential, commercial and recreational development.

Carl Que Hickerson, lead pastor for the church on North Raleigh Street, said his church sold four acres for the Coast Guard facility.

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He declined to disclose the sale price.

Construction of the Coast Guard complex is expected to be completed by fall of next year, Byrd said in a news release.

Byrd, D-W.Va., announced last year that the U.S. Coast Guard planned to centralize its Mariner Licensing and Documentation program with its National Maritime Center, an operation which would be moved to the Eastern Panhandle.

The Mariner Licensing and Documentation program is currently run through 17 regional examination centers, Byrd said.

The Coast Guard will maintain a "store front operation" in those locations, but key functions will be moved to the new facility, Byrd has said.

The National Maritime Center, a Coast Guard field unit in Arlington, Va., works on new and innovative ways to assist the maritime community in using services of the Coast Guard, according to a Coast Guard Web site.

Until the Martinsburg facility is built, the Coast Guard operations will be housed temporarily in Jefferson County.

The U.S. Coast Guard agreed to lease space in a two-story office building in the Burr Industrial Park near T.A. Lowery Elementary School and about 50 people are expected to begin working there by mid-October, Byrd said.

Another temporary space will open near Kearneysville, W.Va., in November and is expected to employ 45 people by early next year, Byrd said Thursday.

This week, Congress is expected to approve legislation allocating $12 million for the Martinsburg facility, Byrd said, adding that the legislation is designed to fund the Department of Homeland Security for the coming year.

"The Coast Guard has laid down roots in West Virginia and is ready to add 250 more jobs in the Eastern Panhandle, on top of the more than 500 people already working there. We have the people and infrastructure ready to support this new high-tech challenge and improve security for the nation's mariners," Byrd said in a news release.

The Coast Guard already has a large presence in the Eastern Panhandle, employing hundreds of people.

The Coast Guard's Operations System Center in the Liberty Business Park maintains and supports the information systems and databases the Coast Guard uses worldwide.

Liberty Business Park is along W.Va. 9 in the Baker Heights area.

About 420 people work at the center, officials have said.

A little more than 100 people work at the National Vessel Documentation Center in Falling Waters, which facilitates maritime commerce and financing and provides a register of vessels available in time of war or emergency, officials have said.




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The issue: The U.S. Coast Guard has had a presence in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia since 1991, employing about 420 people at its Liberty Business Park Operations System Center in Berkeley County.

What's new: A new Coast Guard facility which is expected to employ 250 people will be built at the intersection of U.S. 11 and Edwin Miller Boulevard in Martinsburg.

What's next: The facility will be built at a 33-acre site near where Destiny Church is planning a new worship center. The church sold the Coast Guard four acres for the building. The facility is expected to open in the fall of 2007.

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