Berkeley Co. Council member proposes drive-thru service to pay taxes

January 29, 2011|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD |

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Berkeley County Council member Elaine Mauck's proposal last week to institute a drive-thru service for residents to pay their taxes joins a bid by County Clerk John W. Small Jr. to provide voter-registration services in the same manner.

Small said Friday that he hasn't abandoned the concept of allowing residents to register to vote or update their registration information without ever leaving their vehicle, but staffing and equipment improvements first need to be addressed.

The county courthouse annex building at 110 W. King St. was built for a bank in the 1970s, and Small said re-opening the drive-thru window there also would require parking adjustments.

While concerned about the lack of parking for taxpayers at the county's administration building at 400 W. Stephen St., Mauck said the building "is just not functional" and questioned overall accessibility.

"We've got to look at the big picture. We're looking at the customer and I'm working for the customers like crazy," Mauck said.

On a regular basis, Mauck said she bumps into seniors who are "bewildered" by the layout of what is known as the Dunn building, which she maintains is not easy for disabled residents to access.

Mauck told fellow council members Thursday that she believes it would not cost much to offer drive-thru tax service and agreed to talk to Sheriff Kenneth M. Lemaster Jr., who is charge of tax collection, about the proposal.

Lemaster could not be reached for comment about what staffing or equipment he might need for the drive-thru service.

While additional parking at the Dunn building is expected to become available after Blue Ridge Community and Technical College relocates from the first floor of the county building to a new campus, Mauck said that does not entirely address accessibility issues. The parking lots closest to the Dunn building are part of the college's lease with the county, County Administrator Deborah Hammond said Thursday. College officials have said they hope to open the first building at the school's new campus off W.Va. 45 next year.

County officials have previously indicated that certain county services could be moved to the first floor of the Dunn building to improve access when the college leaves.

Until then, Council President William L. "Bill" Stubblefield said he would talk to college officials to see whether some adjustments could be made to the parking arrangement with Blue Ridge CTC.

Legal counsel Norwood Bentley III suggested county council members and staff might want to consider giving up their current parking spaces, which are just outside the main entrance to the Dunn building and relocate to the back of the building.

 "If you want to look at all the options ... I just throw that out," Bentley said.

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