All that stands between giving Tamarack a new landlord in the Department of Commerce is about $2.5 million.

Before the transfer can be effected in Gov. Joe Manchin’s shakeup of the West Virginia Parkways Authority, so that it focuses entirely on maintaining the Turnpike, a plan must be cemented to satisfy the bond holders.

In Tuesday’s board meeting, bond counsel Roger Hunter acknowledged that the $2.3 million profit from the impending sale of the CASCI building in Charleston would be applied to the bond debt, which Turnpike Manager Greg Barr put at $8.2 million.

CASCI is an acronym in Charleston for Capital Area Service Co., Inc., a division of the tenant, General Hospitalization and Medical Services Inc., and some 650 people work there processing federal medical claims.

The authority has been getting $100,000 a year over the past 16 years in rent, and with the sale of its interest, it will get $2.3 million.

Toward finalizing the sale, the board agreed to extend the closing date to July 31. Under the plan, Parkways Enterprise Limited partnership will be dissolved, leaving as the old Sears building’s sole holder Enterprise Partnership Inc., a subsidiary of the Charleston Area Alliance. The authority invested $2 million in the structure in 1991.

“There are, through unwinding and getting out of other economic development tourism activities, funds that had been previously available and earmarked for those purposes that would also, in part, be able to redirect toward paying down bonds,” Hunter said.

“So, the last piece of the puzzle that we’re working on would be approximately $2.5 million, or $2.6 million, that range, that we would have to find a way to come up with to complete the payoff of the old bonds.”

Initially, the authority put the bond indebtedness at $7.9 million, but Manager Greg Barr said the more accurate figure to retire the bonds early is $8.2 million.

Just where the remaining $2.5 million will be found is another matter.

“That’s the question mark,” Barr said.

Hunter advised the board he hopes to provide some “concrete proposal” for it to consider at either the August or September board meeting. The next one is set for Aug. 2 in Charleston.

Joe Martin, the board chairman appointed by Manchin, emphasized the governor’s plan is to move Tamarack out of the authority’s control and leave the board with the single task of running a safe highway.

Tamarack came under intense scrutiny in a legislative auditor’s report last winter, showing the facility has had to dip into some $2 million a year from money earned by concessions along the highway to stay afloat. That money, the auditor’s office opined, could have been directed into road upkeep.

“We’re hoping to try in the next board meeting or two to come up with a plan of how we pay those bonds off,” Barr said afterward.

“We’re a lot closer than you would think.”

In other board business, Princeton funeral home director Bill Seaver was named to the board, succeeding Tom Winner, who decided a few months ago to resign and give full attention to other endeavors. Winner is familiar figure at the Capitol, where he has been a lobbyist for a number of interests.

On other matters, the authority:

- Agreed to discuss with Transportation Secretary Paul Mattox the prospects of saving money with a new standard maintenance salt building.

- Approved the replacement of a worn, 4-inch water line at the Bluestone Travel Plaza with a 6-inch line. The cost is estimated at $300,000. Plans would be prepared by HNTB.

- Decided to work with Mattox on installing crossovers at Mileposts 29, 30 and 59 for salt trucks, a $230,000 project.

- Agreed to spend $100,000 on replacing 4,284 feet of guardrail.

- Authorized HNTB to prepare plans to overlay four bridge decks with Flex-O-Grid designed to reduce slickness and seal cracks at a cost of $1.125 million. Two bridges are in Cabin Creek, the other two are at Skitter Creek and Standard.

- Asked HNTB to prepare specifications for full-depth concrete repair, and a $750,000 project to replace aging culverts, some of which date back more than half a century when the toll road was initially constructed.

— E-mail: mannix@register-herald.com





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