Berkeley County voters could decide on expanding commission

February 22, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The Berkeley County Commission on Thursday voted 2-1 to ask the West Virginia Legislature to essentially allow county voters to decide whether to increase the governing three-member panel to five members.

County Commissioner Ronald K. Collins said he was not opposed to voters having input, but was against the expansion idea altogether.

"I'm just against the concept of even bringing up five," Collins said.

The request, adopted in a formal resolution format, was expected to be faxed by 10 a.m. today to the clerks of the state Senate and House of Delegates in advance of a deadline to amend Senate Bill 740 introduced on Monday by state Sen. John Unger.

The government's name would change to Berkeley County Council if county voters in the November general election approve the addition of two commissioners, who would take office in January 2011.


If lawmakers approve the request, county taxpayers in the November general election would have to consider whether they want to shoulder the additional salary - $36,960 plus benefits - and expense to make physical room for them in the county government's office building off West Stephen Street.

Both Commissioner William L. "Bill" Stubblefield and Commission President Steven C. Teufel said they were mindful of Collins' arguments against the proposal given the county's recent budget woes.

Teufel, however, said additional commissioners could help with lobbying state lawmakers in Charleston, W.Va., and also assure county business would continue in instances when members are absent for health reasons.

Teufel reflected upon the extended absence of commissioners a few years ago due to illness.

Stubblefield said he respected Collins' opinion about the economics of the additional members, but also thought "a good argument" could be made for five commissioners.

"I can live with it either way," said Stubblefield, who said the name change requirement outlined by state Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin and House Speaker Richard Thompson in a letter this week caught him by surprise.

As proposed, members of the new council would be elected from five of the county's six magisterial districts.

Of the three candidates in the 2010 general election, the candidate who received the most votes would serve a six-year term and the second and third place finishers would be expected to serve four and two-year terms respectively as a means to set into motion staggered terms of office.

After the two abbreviated terms expire, all five commissioners would be elected to serve six years.

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