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Martinsburg sets sights on major projects

April 11, 2007|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Six projects estimated to cost the City of Martinsburg more than $10 million are up for consideration on Thursday, when the City Council is expected to decide whether to advertise for consultants, architects and engineers to help them lay the groundwork.

Money for actual construction hasn't been identified.

But City Manager Mark Baldwin told Mayor George Karos and City Council members in a April 6 memo that money was available to embark upon the initial steps needed to expand City Hall, construct a west-side police and fire substation, redesign the city's Web site, install gateway and other signage, build a downtown parking garage and develop a wastewater treatment facilities plan that results in improvements to the city's treatment plant.

"The time has come to get these proposals out," Baldwin said Tuesday. "They're all very important to the city."

If City Council votes on Thursday to begin advertising for professional services, Baldwin said the deadlines for firms to submit statements of qualifications would be in the first few weeks of May.

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Without professional estimates in hand, Baldwin told city leaders that the City Hall expansion could cost between $2 million and $3 million and the substation could cost as much as $5 million, including personnel, vehicles and equipment.

"We are literally out of space (at City Hall) per se," said Baldwin, confirming the police department had outgrew their first-floor offices.

Baldwin estimated the Wastewater Treatment Plant facility plan could range between $3 million and $15 million, depending on permit requirements and state and federal regulations, particularly those linked to Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts.

A $2 million price tag was attached to the parking garage and he estimated the signage project would cost between $125,000 and $150,000. Three possible locations identified in the city's Parking Plan were listed in an overview of the garage project for the selected architectural/engineering firm to consider. The firm also would be expected to design an option that meshed the facility with the "historic charm" of the downtown area.

Baldwin didn't provide a cost estimate for the redesign of the city's Web site, but he didn't believe it would be nearly as expensive as the other projects.

Mayor George Karos said on Tuesday that City Council's vote in August 2006 to purchase a parking lot from American Legion Post 14 was in anticipation of expanding City Hall.

The city agreed to pay the veterans organization $90,000 for the lot, which Karos estimated last year would provide city officials with an additional 30 parking spaces.

"We are bursting at the seams at City Hall," Karos said.

Council Budget and Finance Committee chairman Richard Yauger said on Tuesday that city leaders had at one time contemplated purchasing the former Martin's grocery store/CVS property off South Raleigh Street for expansion, but ultimately didn't take action.

"Now we don't have that option," Yauger said referring to Berkeley County Commission's recent decision to purchase the property.

Yauger said the city has more than $1 million in its general development "rainy day" fund, but that money is intended for circumstances not anticipated. Aside from bonds issued to pay for upgrades to the municipality's public water system, Yauger said the city had no outstanding debt.

"We're not a rich city, but we're able to hold our head above water," Yauger said.

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