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Martinsburg gets $329,000 for town square project

October 15, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. -- The City of Martinsburg's project to improve pedestrian areas around the town square was awarded $329,000 in federal stimulus money, state and federal officials announced Thursday.

The project was among 26 in West Virginia that will receive a total of about $6.3 million for the design and development of nontraditional projects such as improving safety for pedestrians and bicyclists through the construction of sidewalks and trails, Gov. Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Division of Highways and the Federal Highway Administration announced.

Two projects are in Jefferson County -- $160,000 for the town of Bolivar to build school-area sidewalks and $500,000 to the City of Ranson for the city's Fifth Avenue Streetscape Improvements, according to the news release.

For Martinsburg, the announcement was "perfect timing," City Manager Mark Baldwin said. The city has received interest from 18 consultants for the town square project, which Baldwin said already was moving forward, thanks to a $300,000 grant awarded last year.

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"We will begin a review process and narrow it down to three to be interviewed and then negotiate fees with the top-ranked firm after interviews," Baldwin said.

The federal grant will be augmented with $82,250 in city funds, Baldwin said.

In September 2008, Manchin presented the city with a $300,000 Department of Highways grant that the city supplemented with $75,000. The two awards and the city's supplemental money combined ($786,250) will make "a good project" that Baldwin expects to be designed by next year.

The city manager said a committee of "stakeholders" will be formed to take part in the overhaul of the square to ensure pedestrian safety at the intersection of Queen and King streets is addressed.

Some residents have advocated for the return of a bandstand and water fountain that were removed from the square many years ago, but design options made part of the 2004 Downtown Plan for the city included neither.

Exactly what happened to the bandstand, which stood in the square until World War II is unclear, but the drinking fountain, which is not operational, stands at the junction of West Stephen Street and Virginia and Faulkner avenues.

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