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Berkeley Co. OKs financing plan to turn Martin's into Sheriff's Dept.

Bank offered a fixed 4.56-percent interest rate on 30-year loan

August 04, 2011|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthew.umstead@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The Berkeley County Council signed off Thursday on a $5.5 million financing plan to renovate a former Martin's Food Market for the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department.

The money for the project at 510 S. Raleigh St. would be loaned to the county by MVB Bank, and the county would be expected to repay the money over 30 years, officials said.

The bank offered the county a fixed 4.56-percent interest rate on the loan, which county Attorney Norwood Bentley III said was "surprisingly good."

MVB Bank was the only bank to respond to the county's invitation to offer an alternative to the county's initial plan to issue up to $7 million in bonds for the project, and the bank's interest rate was significantly lower, Bentley said.

The arrangement with MVB Bank is contingent on the outcome of a property appraisal, Bentley said.

"They won't lend us more than 80 percent of the appraised value (of the property)," Bentley said.

Berkeley County obtained a loan for about $3.1 million in 2007 from City National Bank to purchase the grocery store building and the vacant shopping plaza where it is located.

Since then, county officials have paid about $300,000 in interest on the one-year loan, which County Administrator Deborah Hammond said was extended three times for the 5.5-acre property.

Officials have said they hope the sheriff's department's law-enforcement division could move into the 35,791-square-foot building by late next year.

The relocation of the sheriff's department would free up space for the county's 911 emergency dispatch center.

Sheriff Kenneth M. Lemaster has said he expects the new headquarters will improve morale among the more than 60 staff members and deputies who now share cramped working areas, where some employees sit inches apart from one another.

In other business Thursday, council members learned that 21 parcels in Sportsman's Paradise along the Potomac River near Falling Waters, W.Va., are targeted in the latest buyout plan for flood-plain property.

Donna Seiler, the county's litter-control and code-enforcement officer, told council members that 12 of the parcels have homes on them, while the remaining nine are vacant lots.

Property owners still must decide whether to accept the government's offer to buy their property, Seiler said.

If all of the owners participate, Seiler said the county ultimately would have the title to nearly half of the lots in the flood-prone area, which also has been targeted by Seiler for illegal dumping activities.

Of the remaining privately owned lots, a majority are vacant or have seasonal homes, such as RVs, on them, Seiler said.

Since becoming the county's first litter-control officer, Seiler said she has spent a substantial amount of time in Sportsman's Paradise working with property owners to clean it up.

"Sportsman's has come a long way," Seiler said.

Council President William L. "Bill" Stubblefield lauded Seiler for her efforts, saying he received numerous comments from people about her work there.

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