Cedar Lakes has long fight ahead
The state Department of Education appears to have struck a nerve with its proposal to gut funding for the Cedar Lakes Conference Center in order to meet a potential 7.5 percent budget cut mandate for the upcoming fiscal year.
The budget request the department submitted to the State Budget office earlier this year called for cutting about $918,000 out of the facility's $1.1 million budget, basically leaving enough money to keep the gates open and grounds tended during the next fiscal year.
After employees were told two weeks ago that they could lose their jobs should the cuts take place, a "Save Cedar Lakes Conference Center" Facebook group popped up and quickly gained members. Membership stood at just over 7,500 Wednesday.
The group is planning a rally at Cedar Lakes next Thursday, Oct. 3, at 6 p.m. to show support for the facility.
While there is already a public outcry over the proposal - and at this point it is just one proposal - the matter has a long way to go before it's settled.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's office hadn't even reviewed the department's budget request when the news broke two weeks ago.
Tomblin has since met with local representatives on the matter to hear their concerns about the Department of Education plan. He has until his State of the State address on Jan. 8 to come up with his own budget plan.
Also, once that proposal is submitted, it will have to go through the usual committee process in the Legislature, which won't pass the budget until after the session ends next March.
Hopefully, lawmakers will use this latest brouhaha to address the larger matter at hand: Why is the Department of Education still running Cedar Lakes in the first place?
The recent education audit said the facility would function better under an agency that has "appropriate resources, expertise and mission to support such an endeavor." Translated: Somebody with the experience and vision to operate, market and grow the facility to its fullest potential.
Most people would agree the state Board of Education's top priority should be turning around the poor performance of the state's education bureaucracy. Taking Cedar Lakes off their budget would help them better focus their resources.
Finally, with a heavy heart, I'd like to wish a fond retirement to Beckley Register-Herald reporter Mannix Porterfield.
For two decades, Mannix has been a cornerstone in the statehouse media corps.
In between hours of legislative committee meetings and tracking down politicians with his tape recorder, Mannix churned out story after story that not only captured the business of the day, but held the reader's interest.
Former Daily Mail Capitol Reporter Ry Rivard and I used to marvel at the way Mannix could turn a lede. I sure will miss those.
Here's wishing you all the best, Mannix - and more importantly - Roll Tide!