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Morgan commission head outlines goals

January 25, 2009|By TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. -- The newly elected Morgan County Commission president, Brenda J. Hutchinson, has set goals for the commission, some of which have already been met.

Hutchinson said she wants the county to be run in a more business-like fashion. Since the new commission began, Hutchinson, Commissioner Thomas R. Swaim and newly-elected Commissioner Stacy A. Dugan have made changes toward this goal, and more are in the works.

"A lot of important changes have been made since Jan. 2nd," she said.

Instead of meeting twice a month on Fridays, the commission meets weekly on Thursdays, alternating morning and afternoon start times to accommodate the public.

Fridays were not a good meeting day, Hutchinson said.

Beginning this week, the courthouse offices will stay open Thursdays until 7 p.m. instead of Fridays.

"It was a wonderful suggestion that Tommy Swaim made. It's a terrific idea," Hutchinson said.

Other changes include updating the county Web site to provide more information to the public.

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"Coming from a business background, it is important to make sure everything we do is accountable to the taxpayer and that is why making the county government more accessible was so important to institute right away," she said.

Getting the county employees set up with uniform e-mail addresses is another change in the works. Also, the commissioners now have office space in the commission trailer. Hutchinson and Dugan use the office on separate days. Swaim said he wants to continue to use his home office and will go to the commission office when necessary.

"Our county government should be user-friendly, and that is our goal," she said.

Growing the county in a smart way is at the top of Hutchinson's to-do list.

"Morgan County's infrastructure must be in place, and it is a top priority," she said. A main focus is to provide cell and broadband service where it is lacking in the county. The county's Economic Development Authority is in the process of developing a plan to take to the legislative representatives in Charleston, W.Va., and Washington, D.C., Hutchinson said.

"The county needs to be ready to take advantage of the infrastructure funding that is set to begin with the new administration," she said.

Hutchinson said she also wants to focus on traditional and alternative health care.

"Berkeley Springs is historically a spa town and it promotes good health. With a new hospital with more than 80 acres, we hope to create a nucleus at the complex that will attract more health-care facilities," she said.

One idea for the old hospital building is to use it for secondary education classes, Hutchinson said.

"The arts community here is important. We have to continue to promote tourism," Hutchinson said. "We are a bed-and-breakfast spa town, but at the same time we have to benefit the people who live here by creating economic opportunities, as well," she said.

Swaim said the two main goals he has as commissioner are to "get the hospital deal sewn up so the new hospital can get started, and keeping the courthouse on track."

The sale of War Memorial Hospital to Valley Health of Winchester, Va., which manages the county-owned hospital, was approved by the Morgan County Commission in December. The sale is predicated on the state's approval of Valley Health's Certificate of Need (CON). The certificates are not transferable to a new owner.

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