The retreat is underutilized by the state. Cedar Lakes gets only a fraction of the annual conference and training business from the Department of Education and the rest of state government, even though it's only 40 miles from Charleston.
The public doesn't know about Cedar Lakes. A 2008 study by Marshall University found "a lack of awareness by potential visitors of the range of services that are offered. Before you can expand any business, potential customers must know you exist."
These may be solvable problems, but not by the state Department of Education. Its hands are full trying to fulfill the Constitutional mission of a thorough and efficient education for our children.
The audit suggests Cedar Lakes would be better managed, "by a department with appropriate resources, expertise and mission to such an endeavor, such as the Department of Administration, or even the Department of Education and the Arts."
Maybe, but would another government agency be any more successful in the conference business?
Cedar Lakes officials told the auditors that it's extremely difficult to operate the center as a business. "The constraints associated with state government procedures and policies sometimes limit management's ability to function effectively."
Naturally, the best way to make ends meet at Cedar Lakes, or any other conference center, is have the private sector run it, but it's going to be hard to find a willing buyer for a place that's losing money.
This is a painful but necessary debate about the costs and obligations of government.
Kercheval is host of TalkLine, broadcast by the MetroNews Statewide Radio Network from 10 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday. The show can be heard locally on WCHS 580 AM.