CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The wheels are in motion to transfer the Cedar Lakes Conference Center in Jackson County from under the control of the state Department of Education to the private Cedar Lakes Foundation. The state Board of Education approved a resolution Wednesday.
State School Superintendent Dr. Jim Phares told MetroNews this is a direct response to the 2011 education audit that said the department should no longer financially support the center.
“It’s another one we can check off that we’ve met the call to the audit response,” Phares said.
Since 1950, the state Board of Education has owned the 228-acre conference center near Ripley and has covered the $3 million a year cost to run the facility, which only generates $2 million in revenue a year. With state budget cuts looming, the board was considering closing down the facility.
Superintendent Phares gives a lot of credit to the foundation, which is made up of several community members. He said they stepped up after a meeting last year when it looked like Cedar Lakes could close.
“I laid out a call to them right there that if they wanted to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem we needed to meet and get together and come up with something. It is an impressive effort made by those groups,” Phares said.
The resolution allows the foundation five years to become fully self-sustaining with declining annual support from the state over those five years. Phares said the state board’s move is the first step. He said there would also have to be corresponding steps from the legislature and state Board of Public Works to complete the transfer.
Phares said Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin is fully on board with the transfer.
The school board’s resolution also includes the following requirement:
“Before the facility is officially signed over to the Cedar Lakes Foundation in July 2015, it must agree to maintain the original mission for education enrichment at the center. The transfer of property must also be endorsed and approved by the governor, the West Virginia Legislature, and, if necessary, the West Virginia Board of Public Works.”