The Eastern Panhandle Legislative Summit was held on Wednesday in Martinsburg, for local officials to address their concerns with state lawmakers.
State delegates and senators met with commissioners from Berkeley and Morgan counties.
“It gets everything out there in the open, and everyone knows what the concerns are locally,” said Doug Copenhaver, president of the Berkeley County Council.
One of the first topics addressed was the property tax roll-back calculation. County officials requested that it be revised to help out high-growth jurisdictions, like Berkeley County, continue to provide support for public safety.
“One of the biggest things we’re in office for is public safety,” Copenhaver added. “That’s number one. If you don’t have the revenue, you can’t provide the service.”
Also discussed was funding of Regional Jail costs. The budget for the Eastern Regional Jail took up 11 percent of Berkeley County’s total budget last year, and officials would like to see that be lowered.
They also talked about creating more addiction counseling programs within the jail system.
“We need to prevent people from committing crimes, or work with them to address the addiction early on, so they don’t commit the crimes that get them in jail in the first place,” said Sen. John Unger (D-16th District).
Unger also made a point against allowing the divisive political climate nationally to affect their work in government.
“If we do not get beyond parties and start looking at people, we’re going to continue to get what we’ve always got – and that is not the direction that anybody wants to go,” he added.
The West Virginia House of Delegates and Senate will reconvene on February 8. The new governor, Jim Justice, will also give his State of the State address that night.