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Newcomers vies for seat representing Morgan Co.

October 30, 2006|by TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - The 51st District House of Delegates seat is up for grabs in the Nov. 7 general election.

Democrat Gary Lee Nelson and Republican Daryl E. Cowles are running for the position after winning their respective primaries in May.

The 51st District includes the northwest side of Morgan County and the eastern portion of Hampshire County.

The two-year term has a yearly salary of $15,000. The seat is held by Republican Charles S. Trump IV of Berkeley Springs, who is not seeking re-election.

Gary Lee Nelson

Nelson, 63, lives at 4511 Pious Ridge Road in Berkeley Springs. He is a retired ecologist and does consulting work, he said.

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Nelson said the most important issue for Morgan County citizens is rebuilding the Morgan County Courthouse that was destroyed by fire in August.

"That moves the issue to the top," he said.

"We need a state bill to help pay for the rebuilding of the courthouse. We don't have enough insurance money to cover rebuilding. I sent e-mails to our state representatives for Morgan County. Sen. Clark Barnes is also in favor of the bill," Nelson said.

Nelson said Morgan County Commissioner Bob Ford told him the estimated cost to rebuild a three-story courthouse and parking garage is about $12 million.

"If the bill is passed, it will eliminate the need for at least $6 million in long-term county bonds to pay for the rebuilding," he said.

"If we don't have a state bill, Morgan County citizens will have to pay 100 percent of the rebuilding costs. If I am elected, this is my top priority," Nelson said.

Nelson said many local problems need state legislative action.

"As our community continues to grow, we need the correct tools in place to protect our water, our forests and our wildlife," he said.

Nelson said a strong local economy is needed. He said he will work with state legislators to eliminate W.Va. sales tax on food and to allow only a one percent increase in yearly property taxes.

He said he will support bills that increase the W.Va. minimum wage, adequately fund the W.Va. Teacher's Retirement Fund, and allow more education tax dollars to stay in Morgan and Hampshire counties.

Daryl E. Cowles

Cowles, 36, of 2612 Martinsburg Road in Berkeley Springs, is a small business owner.

He said the most important issue still is growth in Morgan County.

"We need to provide some relief for our citizens. Our property tax is skyrocketing. Specifically, we need to eliminate the sales tax on food, which will give a tax break for those that can least afford to pay," he said.

Cowles said, "We need more teachers and offer competitive salaries because growth is bringing in more students to our county.

"Next, we need to improve our job and business climate. We need to encourage small business growth and development by providing quality infrastructure upgrades," he said.

Cowles said state government needs to be decentralized to bring additional authority to local jurisdictions. "I would like to empower counties to better manage growth issues," he said.

"Also local school boards need more flexibility to address their specific issues. As an example, local school boards can do a better job attracting new teachers with incentives to fill critical need positions," Cowles said.

He said, "We are blessed in the 51st District with an abundance of natural resources and we need to protect them. Some of the natural resources I'd like to protect are no Sunday hunting, good timber management practices and additional measures to maintain our streams, especially sediment and erosion control."

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