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Berkeley County board to invest newfound wealth

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The Berkeley County Development Authority is faced with an enviable dilemma – what to do with all its money.

The Development Authority had struggled to keep the lights on at times, but after selling 458 acres in the Tabler Station Industrial Park to Procter and Gamble for its newest plant, the BCDA has been able to pay off some loans and bills, and buy a 75-acre tract adjacent to the Cumbo Yards Industrial Park.

The BCDA now has $8 million on hand, James Welton, the authority’s treasurer and chairman of the authority’s financial committee, told members Wednesday at their regular monthly meeting.

“We’re an entirely different organization,” he said. “The financial committee met to discuss how we can invest that money that will perpetuate the organization, maximize the return and safeguard the investment.”

The answer he and the committee came up with is putting $6 million in the West Virginia Investment Management Board’s care, and keeping $2 million locally, Welton said.

The state Legislature created the WVIMB in 1997 “to be a professional, apolitical, financial management organization” managing pension, insurance and endowment funds. The Development Authority’s investment would be an endowment fund.

Welton said that according to WVIMB records, he estimated that the BCDA could conservatively earn close to $500,000 annually in interest on the $6 million investment, which would be enough to cover the authority’s yearly operating expenses.

The authority would no longer have to ask for funding from the Berkeley County Council and Martinsburg City Council, which is reflected in its budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. No funds from the county and city have been requested.

He said the $2 million left over could be invested with local banks and used for special projects or emergencies if needed.

Welton added that the BCDA has about $10 million to $20 million in land assets, some of which is likely to be sold over the next couple of years, adding to the authority’s liquid assets.

It would take several months before the deal with the WVIMB can be finalized, he said. In the meantime, the authority can make the local investments with the $2 million, he said.

BCDA member Charlene Gilliam asked if the committee had discussed investing a lesser amount than $6 million, which she pointed out was 75 percent of the authority’s windfall from the P&G land sale.

Welton said the committee considered investments of $6 million, $6.5 million and $7 million. The committee looked at what the BCDA needs on a yearly basis to operate, which historically has been between $400,000 and $500,000, he said. Starting with that figure, the committee worked backward, arriving at the $6 million investment.

He said the authority could always take money out of the account if it had to, and the authority can add to the initial investment, also.

The members of the BCDA voted unanimously Wednesday to begin the process of investing $6 million with the WVIMB.

– Staff writer John McVey can be reached at 304-263-3381, ext. 128.

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