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Group's proposal would transfer ownership of Cedar Lakes

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Supporters of Cedar Lakes Resort and Conference Center are working to counter looming budget cuts that could threaten it.

At a state Board of Education meeting last week, state Sen. Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, proposed a plan to save the struggling resort. The proposal was composed by a group of stakeholders from the region near the center in Ripley.

The Board of Education has had control of Cedar Lakes since 1950, when it was given to the state, and covers its costs. It costs about $3 million annually to run, and only generates around $2 million in revenue.

Officials say, in part, that's because the Board of Education is ill equipped to run the conference center -- it's outside the department's area of expertise.

They propose that ownership of Cedar Lakes be transferred from the state to the Cedar Lakes Foundation, freeing the department of its financial obligations, and the business from the restraints of the department's bureaucracy when leadership makes business decisions.

"We realize that long-term viability is probably best suited with a foundation," Carmichael said. "That's probably the salient point to contemplate."

Carmichael wants the process to happen gradually, so the transition is not too harsh. He proposed that it begin in July 2015, and continue over the course of five years, when the Foundation will gain full control.

That means that the board's financial contributions will decline over a five-year period too -- which Carmichael argues will save the department money over that period, and in the long-term.

If the department left its contribution to Cedar Lakes stagnant for five years, he says, they would spend about $5 million on it in that time. This way, they only contribute $3 million over that period.

"I think it's a win-win scenario for the taxpayers of West Virginia and for the region that depends on Cedar Lakes," Carmichael said.

The board took no action on the proposal last week, but plans to do so in January. Board members were vocally supportive of it, though, saying it could represent a desirable outcome for a difficult decision.

"I only wish that more of the hard choices that have to be made could be addressed this way," board member Wade Linger said. "So that the community gets what it needs, the state gets what it needs and we get to execute these efficiencies."

Contact writer Shay Maunz at shay.maunz@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-4886.


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