City undecided on funding for statue of Martinsburg founder

December 06, 2011|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD |

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The City of Martinsburg could soon have an official flag.

Martinsburg Mayor George Karos said Tuesday that the city is in the “infancy stages” of having a flag designed, but expects it will bear the official seal of the city.

Karos said the flag will join the state and U.S. flags that now fly on two of the three flagpoles in the redesigned town square, which was fully reopened to traffic over the weekend.

“We have nothing in concrete, we’re just in the discussion stage,” Karos said.

While the landscaping and pedestrian safety improvements of the $1.6 million town square project appear substantially complete, city officials have not decided how a statue of the city founder, Revolutionary War Maj. Gen. Adam Stephen, planned for the town center will be financed.

The pedestal for the statue was built as part of the contract that was awarded to Triton Construction Inc., but officials said the sculpture could not be included in the cost because of limitations on the use of state and federal grant funding that financed 80 percent of the project.

Karos said he plans to give a report to the Martinsburg City Council Thursday about plans for the statue, but declined to elaborate.

The council in August agreed to set aside $50,000 for the statue project and last month appointed a committee to select three finalists for the artwork, but has not committed to spending the money that was set aside.

Councilwoman Betty Gunnoe suggested in August that the money for the artwork be privately raised in the community, given the tax increase enacted last year to balance the city’s budget.  

“They should be able to go out there and raise $50,000 in private funds,” Gunnoe said. “I mean, if they come up $5,000 short, fine. But I don’t know why they have to look to us to fund the whole thing.”

LouAnn Church, owner of King & Queen’s Styling Salon, said she felt the money spent on the square could have been directed to a more worthy project, but added the work that was done “looks great.”

Church lauded contractors on the project for helping her customers get in and out of the salon in the 100 block of East King Street during construction.

“I have a lot of little ladies that have walkers and canes ... and they have all but carried them in,” Church said Tuesday as workers put a large bronze plaque in place that commemorates the square’s redesign.

While appreciative of the contractors’ assistance, Church said the construction effectively cut her business in half and now is hoping her business will rebound in the year ahead.

Looking ahead, Church said she has concerns about whether the improvements, which included the installation of multiple benches and tables, will attract vagrants.

“I’ve never had to worry in 27 years, and now I’m thinking I’m going to have to worry,” Church said.

As part of efforts to address security concerns, the council on Thursday is expected to consider an agreement with the Berkeley County Council to integrate a new “town square area” camera security system with a county security system that was previously installed for the historic county courthouse at the square.

The agreement, if adopted by ordinance, would authorize a connection of the two systems, and the Martinsburg Police Department would monitor the town square area security system.

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