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Martinsburg, Berkeley Co. tackle issues

Officials discuss possible merger, swimming facility and more

Officials discuss possible merger, swimming facility and more

November 29, 2007|By DAVE McMILLION

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. ? Martinsburg city and Berkeley County government officials on Thursday tackled a number of significant issues, including an indoor swimming facility that could cost as much as $10 million, the importance of keeping the growing Blue Ridge Community and Technical College at a campus downtown and the possibility of merging the governments.

Officials at a joint meeting of the Martinsburg City Council and the Berkeley County Commission also gave a funding update for the Raleigh Street extension, a proposed $32.2 million road project that is being looked at as a way to relieve traffic congestion in the northern part of town.

Council members and the commission met in a conference room at Bowles Rice law firm on Queen Street.

· Swimming pool

There has been talk of building an indoor swimming facility in the area to meet future recreation needs, Martinsburg Mayor George Karos said.

Commission President Steven Teufel said the county does not have the money for a pool and he said perhaps the two sides can explore some creative financing for it.

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There was a discussion that perhaps City Hospital could help with the project and the hospital could use the pool for therapy treatment.

The two sides agreed to try for a meeting involving the city, the county, City Hospital and the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Parks and Recreation Board to discuss the idea.

· College campus

Officials at Blue Ridge Community and Technical College, which is now in the same building as county offices on West Stephen Street, has been considering a new site due to its growth, Karos said.

In considering a new site, college officials are projecting their needs over about a 20-year period, Karos said. "They're talking about football fields ... and things like that," Karos said.

The two sides agreed to send letters to Blue Ridge Community and Technical College expressing their hopes that the school would stay in downtown Martinsburg.

Officials said there are some buildings downtown that would work well for the college and the Boydville property was mentioned.

College officials have said little about their intentions for another site, said Commissioner Bill Stubblefield.

· Government merger

The two sides talked about consolidation of city and government operations as a way to increase the empowerment among the agencies to help them deal with issues, according to Karos and Teufel.

Karos said there are pitfalls to the idea, adding he has been told that county volunteer fire departments could not be used if there was a government merger or the city could not collect a business and occupation tax in the county.

Officials assured that people would not lose representation under any merger and Karos recommended the sides hold off on the idea for now.

"I don't want to scare anybody with this. We're not going to rush into it," Teufel said.

· Raleigh Street

The proposed Raleigh Street extension has long been eyed as a way to relieve traffic congestion in town, and Karos gave an update on funding for project.

Federal and state sources are being eyed for the project and it is within $3 million of reaching its funding goal, Karos said.

Karos expressed confidence in getting the money.

The sides also talked about their state legislative priorities. Berkeley County officials have talked with Jefferson County officials about priorities.

Annexation was talked about Thursday, although the sides said they did not have any major issues relating to annexation.

That is "unless Ranson decides to annex into Berkeley County," said Stubblefield.

His comment garnered a round of laughs.

The Jefferson County town of Ranson has gradually annexed land along W.Va. 9 west in Jefferson County and county officials there have complained the annexations complicate their land-planning efforts.

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