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Transfer responsibility to save Cedar Lakes

THERE is a move on tap to save Cedar Lakes Conference Center. And why not? Many people love the 400-acre facility in the scenic rolling hills of Jackson County.

Thousands of adults today have great memories of their experiences in 4-H camp, band camp or other educational programs when they were kids.

Tens of thousands became acquainted with the place through the annual Art & Craft Festival held every July 4th weekend. The delicious roasted corn, among other sights, sounds smells and crafts, brings many a West Virginian back year after year.

Yes, it would be nice for Cedar Lakes Conference Center to remain open. It also would be nice for the facility to receive significant upgrades of existing buildings and some new facilities to help make it competitive with other conference centers.

It would be even nicer if state agencies were not facing another 7.5 percent budget cut. It would be nice if West Virginia's severance tax revenues were increasing instead of dropping.

But West Virginians must look at current realities.

It shouldn't be up to the West Virginia Department of Education to save, own or even operate Cedar Lakes. The recent education audit recommended the center be transferred to another state agency that could better manage it.

Good idea. The mission of the state Department of Education is to help counties operate school systems to educate the state's youth, not to run a lodging and conference facility.

If Cedar Lakes were transferred to another agency or even a private firm, educational entities could still use it, just as any other client could, and pay for it on a per use basis.

Those working to save Cedar Lakes have good intentions. It brings a nice economic boost and is a point of pride for people in the Ripley area.

But there is bound to be an answer that doesn't involve continued operation by the Department of Education. How about a public private partnership? How about selling it completely to a private concern?

Hats off to those working to save Cedar Lakes. Here's hoping they succeed by developing creative new approaches that don't rely largely on state funds.



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