FRANKLIN –West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin refused to authorize the Division of Corrections (DOC) to accept the NIOC Sugar Grove Naval Base. The Sugar Grove Naval Base had been awarded to the DOC after it had applied for ownership of the property to the United States General Services Administration (GSA) in early May 2015. The Sugar Grove Naval Base is scheduled to close on September 30, 2015.
“This is pure incompetence by the Governor. His unresponsive and do nothing governing style has only increased the disaster in Pendleton County. The county wanted to avoid the base going to a public auction due to the odds that the reserve bid may price all bidders out of the market. Early last year the DOC, with the blessing of the Governor, came forward with a solution to the disaster. This action eliminated other possible solutions to avoid an auction. DOC was awarded the base in May. The Governor delayed his final approval for over four months, only to pull the plug just 26 days before the closing. He has successfully steered the base directly to an auction. His procrastination and failure to act, will now cost the State of West Virginia over $200 million dollars and hundreds of jobs. This is a great example of fiscal recklessness by state government,” said West Virginia Delegate Isaac Sponaugle.
The Sugar Grove Naval Base is a 122 acre facility with 105 buildings including residential housing. The approximate value of the entire facility is in excess of $200 million dollars. The base had employed in excess of 300 people. DOC had planned on utilizing the base as a prison that would have housed 613 women. The prison would have employed approximately 250 people directly and provide numerous indirect employment opportunities for support services. The estimated cost of modifying the base to a prison was $19 million dollars to be phased in over three years. DOC’s annual net operating budget would have increased between $3 million to $5 million with the acquisition of the base. It would have eliminated the need of DOC to annually pay approximately $10.8 million to the regional jails to house inmates. The state currently faces a prison overcrowding issue with approximately 1,200 inmates being housed in regional jails due to a lack of space within DOC facilities and that number is expected to increase to 1,800 over the next three years. The estimated minimal cost for the state to build a new prison to completely eliminate the prison overcrowding issue is $220 million dollars.
“Since 1949, the year the GSA was established, no state government has ever turned down federally awarded property until now. Only a small parks and recreation board from a rural county in North Carolina has ever turned down property after it was awarded to it by the GSA. It will now have a companion in carrying this dubious honor,” said Sponaugle.
The Sugar Grove Naval Base will now proceed to a public auction. The GSA will conduct an appraisal of the property and then, based on the findings of the appraisal, set a reserve bid for the property at the public auction.
“The final outcome of the base is anybody’s guess right now. It’s disgraceful that the citizens of Pendleton County had a suitable outcome to this disaster only to have been hoodwinked and now forced to play a game of Russian roulette, by their own Governor. They can only hope and pray that an individual or company will have the necessary resources to purchase this beautiful facility at auction, which is very much in question at this time,” said Sponaugle.