THE Cedar Lakes Conference Center in Jackson County is a beautiful place. The 400-acre facility in the rolling hills near Ripley is owned and operated by the state Department of Education, which uses it partly for an educational mission, including 4H, Future Farmers of America and more. The site also is home to the annual Art & Craft Fair every Fourth of July weekend.
As nice as the place is, it didn't belong with the state Department of Education, particularly since the facility consumes more than $1 million in state education funds each year. Its revenue from events and conferences doesn't come close to covering its operating costs.
One of the recommendations of the 2012 Education Efficiency Audit called for the facility to be transferred to another agency with the resources, expertise and mission to support its operations.
Upon hearing that recommendation, a group set out to save Cedar Lakes.
It looks like they have made great progress on that objective while also accomplishing the state's objective of removing the facility from Department of Education ownership.
The state Board of Education on Wednesday approved a resolution to transfer ownership and operation of the conference center to the Cedar Lakes Foundation by July 1, 2015.
The Conference Center's mission will remain the same and the foundation will develop a five-year self reliance and sustainability plan. The transfer must still be approved by the governor and the Legislature, but considering the alternative is closure of the facility or a continued drain to the Education Department, approval is likely.
It's a good outcome for both the conference center and the state.
Congratulations to state Sen. Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, and state School Superintendent Dr. Jim Phares, as well as all involved, for making it happen. It's a good example of creative thinking to reduce the size of government and boost local involvement.
Now, if the Department of Education can have similar success on all those other recommendations from the efficiency audit . . .