The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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January 8, 2007

Manager, artisans defend Tamarack

Close to 100 defend facility to committee

CHARLESTON — Turnpike Manager Greg Barr joined artisans Monday in defense of Tamarack in the wake of a scorching audit, saying the Beckley facility creates jobs and positively impacts many islands in the larger tourism ocean.

Tamarack came under fire in a report issued by Legislative Auditor Aaron Allred over its annual need to siphon some $2 million from concessions at Turnpike facilities to keep it afloat.

Over its 10-year life, Tamarack has been given support cash that amounts to one-half of what the Turnpike exacts in tolls in a single year, Allred told the Joint Committee on Government Operations. The audit insisted this money could have been applied to road upkeep and that that an “alternative use” should be found for Tamarack.

“Government does a poor job of running a business,” he said.

“And that’s what Tamarack is — a business. They need to stop and think outside the box.”

Allred disputed what he said was a press release issued by the artisans claiming that his office was attempting to shut down the facility, which has operated in the red in all 10 years of its existence.

“We’re not politically stupid,” he said. “Politically, Tamarack is going to stay open.”

Barr said Tamarack creates about 150 jobs a year and has some 1,000 artisans with products on display at any given time. The facility has a ripple effect, bringing positive results to the whitewater and skiing business, he said.

One part of the audit faulted the West Virginia Parkways Authority for dishing out “donations” to a variety of local tourism projects for which there was no return directly to it.

“We don’t look upon those projects as donations,” Barr said. “We look upon those as tourism promotions.”

Close to 100 artisans, all wearing colorful Tamarack buttons, filled the committee room, and two of them arose to defend the facility as a positive means of helping them capture a side income of money.

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