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Berkeley County might hold town hall meeting

September 24, 2010|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. --The Berkeley County Commission on Thursday tentatively agreed to host a town hall-like meeting in the northern end of the county the evening of Oct. 7 as part of one commissioner's community outreach initiative.

"If we get five people, we get five people, at least we're out there," said Commissioner Anthony J. "Tony" Petrucci, who campaigned on the issue two years ago when he was elected to a six-year term.

The location for the informational session has not been set, but Petrucci expects a few issues pertinent to north end communities, including Spring Mills, Bedington, Falling Waters and Marlowe, will be part of an agenda that includes an opportunity for residents to comment and give feedback.

No action can be taken in such a meeting, according to state code, but Petrucci said he would like to have quarterly informational sessions in different locations of the county on a regular basis.

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County Commission President Ronald K. Collins said he did not object to having the meeting, but also added he would not tolerate abusive comments from the public.

Petrucci said he readily understood Collins' concern that such a session could turn into a "shouting match" and said he is hoping for it to turn out to be a forum for "a decent discussion."

Fellow Commissioner William J. "Bill" Stubblefield's concern about the layout of the Nov. 2 general election ballot, particularly regarding the election of county council candidates, could be explained to voters at the meeting, Petrucci said.

Petrucci said Stubblefield's concerns with the ballot layout was a motivating factor for holding the meetings, which he said was part of his vision to reach out to the public.

A five-member Berkeley County Council will replace the current three-member County Commission at the beginning of next year. Two seats are held by incumbent commissioners not facing election.

The six County Council candidates vying for three available seats on the expanded budget-balancing arm of county government are running in three magisterial districts in the Nov. 2 general election. Yet, the Democratic and Republican party nominee in each magisterial district do not uniformly appear side by side on the ballot, Stubblefield noted.

And no matter how many votes a county council candidate receives in the upcoming Nov. 2 general election, they must defeat the other nominee in their magisterial district to capture one of the three seats.

Legal counsel Norwood Bentley III said last week that state law governing the layout of the ballot would have to be changed to address what Stubblefield predicted could lead to voter confusion at the polls this year.

In addition to the ballot issue, Petrucci said he expects some discussion about ongoing school construction at the Spring Mills campus and efforts to build a new library in the northern end of the county.

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