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City eyeing 7-acre land buy near Martinsburg park

February 01, 2007|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The Martinsburg City Council tonight is expected to consider a proposal by Mayor George Karos to purchase about seven acres adjoining Oatesdale Park for $270,000 as part of a "future investment in recreation."

Karos said Wednesday the wooded property could be added to the 22-acre park off Tavern Road "down the road." A home also is on the property, he said.

In a Jan. 26 memo to city council members, Karos noted the additional acreage was needed to address the recreational needs of the growing community and that Oatesdale Park was nearing its "build out capacity."

"The purchase of these seven acres also adjoins Tuscarora Creek, which would allow for future open space, recreational enjoyment, as well as protecting the stream," Karos said.

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Karos said Wednesday he hoped the council would agree that the purchase price was an attractive offer that shouldn't be ignored, noting the property had been listed for more than $400,000 five years ago.

Karos said the impact of extending Raleigh Street to Edwin Miller Boulevard on Oatesdale Park's existing facilities can be mitigated through reconfiguring them within the recreation area's existing boundary.

In the memo, Karos is asking council members to earmark $250,000 for the Raleigh Street extension project, which would bring the city's commitment to $1 million. The proposed expenditures collectively would spend the $500,000 city leaders budgeted last year for real estate planning and other capital outlays, Karos said. Another $20,000 is available from the city's "general fund," Karos said in the memo.

In a related matter, R. Stephen Catlett, executive director of the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Parks & Recreation Board, confirmed Wednesday that a press conference will be held Feb. 7 to announce a major corporate donation to support public recreation in the community.

The board is overseeing the expansion of the Berkeley 2000 Recreation Center in Martinsburg and has two of three planned building additions under contract with W. Harley Miller Contractors Inc. for about $1.25 million, Catlett said.

"They have yet to break ground," said Catlett, who had hoped to award a contract to build all three additions to keep up with the community's population growth. Catlett said annual spectator attendance for league basketball games alone has reached 40,000.

Catlett has asked state lawmakers for funding to help build the third wing, but at least one process for obtaining state money, known as the Budget Digest, has been scrapped and has yet to be replaced. Legislators are being asked to consider legislation to allow counties to increase the hotel/motel tax in support of recreation.

"Nothing's really changed on that," said state Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, who noted his past successes in getting money for construction of the recreation center.

"Right now, we're dealing with all kinds of pay increase requests," Unger said Wednesday.

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