W.Va.'s county leaders share wishes with state lawmakers

November 29, 2011|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD |

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — County leaders in the Eastern Panhandle told the region’s delegation of state lawmakers in a legislative “summit” Tuesday that they need relief from spiraling regional jail bills, which are costing the three counties more than $4.1 million annually.

The jail bill issue was highlighted as a top legislative priority for the county commissioners in Morgan and Jefferson counties and Berkeley County Council members.

Berkeley County Council President William L. “Bill” Stubblefield, who presented the counties’ legislative wish list, said a portion of property transfer tax now collected by the state, if returned to the counties, would go “a long way” to offset some of the regional jail cost.

Collection of tax on beer, wine and liquor sales of on-site consumption in a particular region for the jail bills also was suggested as an option to reducing the burden, but Stubblefield said he expected “phenomenal push back” from potentially affected beverage lobbyists.

Morgan County Commission President Stacy Dugan presented a request for one or two more judges in the 23rd Judicial Circuit, which is comprised of the three counties.

Dugan noted that a formal request had already been submitted in October by 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Christopher C. Wilkes to the Supreme Court of Appeals administrative director, Steven D. Canterbury.

Having a circuit judge on the bench more often in Morgan County for criminal sentencings would reduce the jail bill, according to Dugan, who requested lawmakers to support Wilkes’ request.

Other legislative changes sought by county leaders include:

• Increase homestead exemption for seniors and permanently handicapped.

• Recalculation of prevailing wage.

• Coordination of the closing of bars/clubs with bordering, out-of-state counties.

• Home Owners Association rights in bankruptcy proceedings, taxation questions concerning common property and development bond releases

• Creation of a sheriff’s tax office reimbursement fund, requesting municipalities and boards of education share in cost of tax collection on pro rata basis.

• Continued opposition to depletion of wireless 911 fees collected.

Berkeley County’s funding priorities are for completion of renovations of a building for the relocation of the law enforcement division of the Sheriff’s Office, Phase II of the county’s Judicial Center to house additional magistrates and circuit judges and infrastructure improvements along Edwin Miller Boulevard and Tabler Station Business Park.

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