RIPLEY - A rally is planned 6 p.m. Thursday at the Cedar Lakes Conference Center near Ripley to show support for the 400-acre facility which could be impacted by proposed state budget cuts.
"The intent is show our support for Cedar Lakes," Ripley Mayor Carolyn Rader said.
The West Virginia Department of Education owns the center and is considering cuts to its budget which could cut back Cedar Lakes' operations to "maintenance-only," resulting in the loss of about 35 full-time employees.
The annual Mountain State Art and Craft Fair is one of the largest events held at the Cedar Lakes Conference Center near Ripley. With possible cuts to the facility’s budget under consideration, supporters are planning a rally at 6 p.m. Thursday at Cedar Lakes. (File Photo)
Liza Cordeiro, spokesman for the Department of Education, Friday said the budget process is in its early stages and much work remains, All departments of the state have been asked to prepare two budgets for the upcoming year, one at current funding levels and another involving a 7.5 percent cut.
"As we looked and asked where is it that we can cut, our main focus during the entire process was keeping money in the classroom. While these were tough decisions, they had to be made," she said.
In discussions and interviews regarding the proposed cuts to Cedar Lakes, Cordeiro said she has been stressing that the cuts are only considerations at this point, and "there is a long budget process ahead." Final decisions are not expect to be made until early next year, during the annual session of the West Virginia Legislature.
Rader said Ripley folks plan to do everything they can to show support for the conference center, which has a big impact on the Ripley area and Jackson County overall. There are people, businesses and organizations throughout West Virginia that use the facility on a year-round basis, she said.
In addition, a Facebook group called "Save Cedar Lakes Conference Center" has been created online.
Cedar Lakes hosts the annual Mountain State Art and Craft Fair and also offers space to organizations such as 4-H and the Future Farmers of America. It also provides lodging, crafting courses, a swimming pool, dining facilities and additional meeting space.