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Martinsburg City Council candidates highlight attributes

June 06, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. -- Businessman Kevin Knowles said he would bring "new ideas and energy" to Martinsburg City Council if elected in the June 10 municipal election.

Retired school administrator Rodney Woods believes his years of experience in education would bring continued credibility to the council and says he would make decisions based on "thoughtful planning and teamwork."

Former City Councilman Glenville L. "Twiggy" Twigg said he enjoyed taking a leading role in cleaning up Martinsburg's blighted properties, among other achievements in 14 years on council and misses "working" for the community's betterment.

Gregg M. Wachtel, seeking his fourth, four-year term on council, said he wants to see projects, such as the extension of North Raleigh Street, to fruition.

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Martinsburg's more than 11,000 registered voters have the option to vote for two of the four men who are seeking at-large seats in the election. Members of city council are paid $200 per month.

All four candidates said they supported at least exploring the idea of including the city's ballot in the primary election as a means to save money and improve voter turnout for an election that some said is overlooked.

And all of the candidates mentioned the importance of the Raleigh Street Extension, a road project that would establish a second, north-south route into downtown Martinsburg.

· Knowles, 49, of 125 Pennsylvania Ave., said he and his wife, Dana, have a vested interest in downtown Martinsburg through their business, Day'Javu, and believe a parking garage in downtown Martinsburg would also serve as an economic development tool for attracting viable business.

"It's been proven over and over again in other areas," said Knowles, who is vice president of Records Management Solutions Inc., a document destruction and storage company in Martinsburg.

One possible solution for making more room available at City Hall would be to put the police department in the ground floor of the parking garage as a means to allay security concerns for the facility, Knowles said.

· Woods, 60, of 906 Hillcrest Drive, said the completion of the Raleigh Street extension is most important to him, followed by support of Main Street Martinsburg revitalization efforts and the sustaining of city services.

"I see (downtown revitalization) as a real opportunity to enhance not only the downtown, but the city as a whole," said Woods, who was appointed to council last fall to serve the unexpired term of Donald Anderson. Woods later added that the city cannot "rest on its laurels" in providing services such as police and fire protection, which are being asked to serve newly annexed 700 acres west of Interstate 81 since 2000.

· Noting his work to enforce the city's building code rules, Twigg, 62, of 110 N. Centre St., said since he had left council, in 2004, efforts to beautify the town have lost steam, particularly the annual "Take Pride" in the community cleanup.

"That program has just fallen off to where its just a day to drop off debris (at the city's recycling center)," said Twigg, who said was retired after recently closing his store.

"I'm a very active person and I enjoyed getting things done for the city," Twigg said.

· Wachtel, 55, of 1401 W. King St., said the lack of money in years past has limited the city from making progress on projects such as the Raleigh Street Extension project, which has been talked about for more than 30 years.

Wachtel, who is vice president of Shenandoah Communications Inc. (WRNR Radio), said a much-needed stormwater management project in the works for a residential area along South Raleigh Street is coming about because of funding from the federal Community Development Block Grant program.

Wachtel said the city's business and occupation tax, although unpopular to some, on gross sales is "necessary" because of limited property taxes returned to city coffers and limitations on what the city can impose.

Recently, Wachtel said the city has been fortunate to have people lobbying U.S. Sens. Robert C. Byrd and Jay Rockefeller to get money for the Raleigh Street extension. The project has been estimated to cost $32.5 million project and the city has contributed $1 million toward the work.

"It's been a monetary thing," Wachtel said.

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