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Manchin doles dollars for Martinsburg, dines with Democrats

September 05, 2008|By DAN DEARTH

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Gov. Joe Manchin on Friday presented Martinsburg city officials with a $300,000 grant to help pay for the revitalization of Town Square Plaza.

Manchin not only was in town to present the grant, but to attend the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner at the Holiday Inn to raise money for the Democratic Executive Committees in Jefferson, Berkeley and Morgan counties. Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and Anne Barth, who is running against U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-2nd, also attended the event.

The grant will be used, in part to install sidewalks, lighting and landscaping on and around town square, Manchin said. The governor praised Martinsburg Mayor George Karos and the City Council for their persistence in trying to land the grant after being turned down at least once before.

"This is a truly significant award ... We're working to get all the infrastructure in place to improve the quality of life," Manchin said. The governor's office "will be right with you."

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City Manager Mark Baldwin said the city will have to match 20 percent, or $60,000, of the grant. That money already has been budgeted and will come from the General Fund, he said.

In addition to the sidewalk improvements, the grant will pay for new pedestrian signals at the intersection of town square, Baldwin said. If everything goes well, construction could begin within the next year.

Baldwin said overhauling town square is one of about six projects that city officials decided to address roughly five years ago. Another of the projects includes installing new signs that would welcome people at the gateways of the city, he said.

"We're grateful for the grant," Baldwin said. "It will help us complete one of those projects."

Manchin also awarded the Potomac Valley Audubon Society a $31,350 grant to build an access trail for people with disabilities at Yankauer Nature Preserve in northern Berkeley County.

"This will allow us to open up the conservation to people who haven't had access before," said Peter Smith, president of the Potomac Valley Audubon Society. "It will make sure the trail is more stable and has handicapped benches."

He said the West Virginia Civilian Conservation Corps will do the work.

The trail will be about one-fifth of a mile long, said Kristin Alexander, the society's executive director. Despite being awarded the grant, state officials still have to give their permission before construction can begin.

Alexander said she hoped the project would get under way in the spring.

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