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Project work to be bid after all

December 18, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Achitectural consulting work for Berkeley County's proposed emergency operations center project will have to be advertised after county commissioners last week mistakenly awarded a $31,517 bid to an Arlington, Va., firm on a 2-1 vote.

Norwood Bentley III, the commission's legal counsel, said at Thursday's regular Berkeley County Commission meeting that he mistakenly advised commissioners that they could award the project to AECOM.

The firm has been working with the county on its three-building judicial center and administration complex, but Bentley said that contract does not include any other projects.

Last week, the commissioners voted 2-1 to pay to have the architect conduct a "test-fit" of the former Martin's grocery store-CVS/pharmacy property along South Raleigh Street in Martinsburg.

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Anthony J. "Tony" Petrucci, who voted against it, had questioned whether a better bid could be obtained for the work and also later wondered if the county should spend money on something it doesn't know if it can afford to build.

After being questioned about the legality of the vote last week, Bentley said he reviewed county records and state law and discovered his mistake. He said he advised Commission President Ronald K. Collins to hold off from carrying out the commission's vote to award the contract.

Collins and Commissioner William L. "Bill" Stubblefield, who both voted to award the bid, said Thursday any action on whether to advertise the consulting work would not be made until January. They also agreed that any decision on a project of such magnitude also should be unanimous.

County commissioners are eyeing the 5.5-acre property they purchased in 2007 for $3.15 million to determine if it could house the sheriff's department and county emergency dispatch and response agencies there.

Stubblefield and Collins have said they had not determined if the county could afford the project, but agreed that financing it without raising taxes could only be accomplished through a bond issue or yet-to-be-received state or federal grants.

If all of the $12.3 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) stimulus bonds that are available to Berkeley County are issued, the county commission would have to budget about $720,000 annually to pay off the bonds in 30 years, according to figures Stubblefield released last week.

That amount would be added to the $2.4 million in annual debt service already owed by the county, according to county records.

Berkeley County Sheriff Kenneth M. Lemaster said in an interview Thursday that the former Martin's grocery store building might not be adequate for the law enforcement division, which has 58 deputies when fully staffed.

While the building is close to the judicial center where a significant amount of the department's work is carried out, Lemaster said he doesn't believe the building's high ceilings and other features would be "structurally accommodating" for a sheriff's department.

As it stands now, work stations used by the deputies are so cramped that some officers can't sit down to work at the same time, Lemaster said.

Two toilets are shared by a department, which has no secure parking for cruisers or a shooting range and is need of in-house training space, a larger reception area for the public and secure processing areas for deputies who have taken individuals into custody, Lemaster said. File and evidence storage are also high-priority needs, Lemaster said.

A needs assessment for the sheriff's department and 911 emergency dispatch center was completed under former Sheriff W. Randy Smith.

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