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Future home of Berkeley County's Red Cross chapter uncertain

April 27, 2007|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The Berkeley County chapter of the American Red Cross has been able to rely upon the county commission to provide it with office space since 1976.

But Thursday, the commissioners found themselves struggling to continue their charitable service after learning Circuit Clerk Virginia Sine objected to a plan to relocate court files from a climate-controlled area to accommodate the agency.

"They're going to have to find themselves another place to go," Commission President Steven C. Teufel told commissioners William L. "Bill" Stubblefield and Ronald K. Collins before deciding to revisit the issue in the coming weeks.

"We could put them in the circuit clerk's office," said Collins, indicating his displeasure with Sine's objection.

"Tell him there's a big multipurpose room (in the Judicial Center) not being used and several rooms here on the fourth floor," Sine responded when informed of Collins' comments. The Red Cross now is in the Spring Street building once occupied by family court and prosecuting attorney's offices. It is to be sold at a special surplus auction later this year.

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Responsible for preserving case files for divorces, adoptions, civil judgments and rights of way, Sine said the commission's request to move her files from the first floor to the third floor of the county's old administration building at 126 W. King St. could have disastrous consequences.

Last year, Sine presented the commission a file that she said virtually was destroyed when it was moved from one storage location to another. Dirt found its way into the files and boxes containing records not backed up on computer servers were damaged, Sine said Thursday.

Since being moved a fifth time to the first floor of 126 W. King St., the records were placed in new acid-free boxes and Sine fears the lack of climate control on the building's third floor could pose a risk for deterioration.

Though Teufel said the commission had the authority to move the files, he told fellow commissioners that he was trying to work with the county's other elected officials, particularly Sine, who he said previously made an effort to work with the commission.

Stubblefield was sympathetic to that viewpoint, but felt the commission could not simply abandon efforts to find a new home for the Red Cross.

"They were working under the assumption they were going to (110 W. King St.) until three or four weeks ago," Stubblefield said of a plan for the county's old circuit court and tax office building. County officials later determined that building wasn't feasible because of security concerns.

"I just don't think we have the moral right to change it at the last minute," Stubblefield later said.

The commissioners appeared unaware that the Berkeley County chapter of the Red Cross also provided services to residents in Hampshire, Hardy, Pendleton and Grant counties.

It wasn't immediately clear whether government leaders in those counties supported the chapter.

Karen Sumner, executive director of the chapter, told the commission earlier this month of a longer range plan to launch a capital campaign to establish the agency's own facility.

"Many chapters ... have their own chapter house," Sumner said. "Hopefully, at some point, we can get off the coattails of the county."

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