Delegate Isaac Sponaugle has some harsh words for Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, after the chief executive announced last Friday the state Department of Corrections (DOC) would not take possession of the soon-to-be-closed Sugar Grove Naval Base in Pendleton County.
Although both Sponaugle and Tomblin are both Democrats, the Pendleton County delegate did not hold back his criticism.
“This is pure incompetence by the governor. His unresponsive and do nothing governing style has only increased the disaster in Pendleton County,” Sponaugle said in a press release Tuesday.
The state had considered turning the naval base into a correction facility for female inmates. After examining the costs of converting the facility, the state might instead take over a West Virginia National Guard facility in Point Pleasant. From the governor’s press release:
Proposed upgrades to Sugar Grove would have cost the state approximately $19 million, with annual operating costs of $14 million to $16 million. The proposal for the Point Pleasant site includes estimated upgrade costs of $8 million, with operational costs of $3.9 million.
West Virginia currently houses 524 female inmates at its Lakin Correctional Center in Mason County, but many female inmates—the fastest growing segment of the state’s incarcerated population, Tomblin says— are held in regional jails. “This plan provides the most cost-effective means of managing that growth,” the governor said in his press release.
Sponaugle says the state took too long to make its decision, however. From his statement:
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.
The property will now go to auction. Other groups have expressed interest in the base, including KVC Health Systems, which wants to create a career college to help young people leaving foster care.
Sponaugle says his constituents 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.