WVPA Sharing

Statehouse Beat: Problems haunt state building

By Phil Kabler

The Charleston Gazette

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Though he died in 2010, Charleston real estate developer Al Summers continues to haunt the state.

The Greenbrooke Building, which Summers sold to the state in 2009 for $10.5 million although it was assessed at the time for $1.5 million (he also got the state to pay $388,487 of $479,874 in back taxes to the county after failing to get the building reappraised following upgrades), has serious roof leakage issues.

I’m told the rubber roof on the building — officially designated as the Albert T. Summers State Office Center as part of the terms of the sale — is rotting and has at least one 18-inch long split, and the resulting leaks are playing havoc on the top floor of the four-story office building.

That includes having to cover the table in the fourth floor conference room with plastic sheeting, and replacing more than 150 damaged ceiling tiles in recent weeks.

Department of Administration spokeswoman Diane Holley-Brown said the General Services Division is preparing design documents to take out to bid for a replacement roof, and has workers patching the roof for the short-term.

In 2010, the department budgeted $300,000 for a roof replacement for the building, located on Smith Street in the East End, but the project never came to fruition. Apparently, none of the three appraisals the state had conducted prior to the building purchase raised issues about the condition of the roof.

(The building is adjacent to Appalachian Power Park, which incorporates another storied Summers property, Morris Square. Summers sold Morris Square to a group of investors in 1988 for $7.8 million. Ten years later, the state paid $12 million for the property to get out of a 20-year, $19 million lease. After it sat vacant for a couple of years, Summer re-bought Morris Square from the state at auction for $1 million, and in 2004 sold it to the city of Charleston for $6 million.)

• • •

Speaking of proverbial thorns in the side of state government, Jesse Bane of Oak Hill is convinced that last year’s crackdown on “faux fraternals” by the Lottery Commission was a mere slap on the wrist, and did not stop Limited Video Lottery machine distributors from operating LVL parlors under the guise of being a fraternal organizations, in order to have 10 machines instead of the maximum of five permitted in bars or clubs.

(Last fall, after a year-long investigation, the commission imposed more than $250,000 in fines on LVL distributors and retailers, and set stricter standards for fraternal organizations, including requiring that the “lodge” with LVL machines be located in the same county where the fraternal is chartered.)

Acting on behalf of the West Virginia Veterans Council, Bane is now arguing that the faux fraternals, particularly those claiming veterans’ organization affiliations, are violating IRS regulations for non-profit veterans’ organizations.

He notes that the faux fraternals are open to the public, with the purchase of a $2 or $3 “associate member” or “social member” card.

However, Bane notes that in order to maintain non-profit status, the IRS requires that at least 75 percent of the membership of veterans’ organizations be current or former members of the Armed Forces, and that 90 percent of all other members be spouses, children or survivors of veterans, or be cadets in military academies or in R.O.T.C. programs.

In other words, under IRS regulations, only a small fraction (2.5 percent) of members of veterans’ organizations can be non-veterans that have no affiliation with the membership.

“Allowing patrons to walk into a video lottery location, and selling the public a $3 social member card to play lottery machines…is definitely against the law,” Bane said in a letter sent to the governor and the state’s Congressional delegation on behalf of the Veterans Council. (Full disclosure, Bane operates two LVL locations in Fayette County.)

To date, Bane said he has only received one response, from Congressman Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va.

• • •

Finally, I got inundated with calls following last week’s article on PEIA’s “Healthy Tomorrows” mandate, mainly because I made a critical error of failing to clarify that it applies to active employees only, not retirees.

While some insurees have groused at the prospect of having a $500 increase in their medical deductible if they don’t designate a primary care physician this year, and in future years report — and eventually keep within moderately healthy levels — their vital numbers, including blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol, I could probably be a poster child for why that’s important.

I was blissfully ignorant of my numbers, and had no family physician until well into my 50s, when a visit to a doc-in-the-box for an earache revealed that my blood pressure was a little high.

With the help of then-Sen. Dan Foster, I was able to find an excellent primary care physician, and now, a couple of years later, I’m well within compliance for all the Healthy Tomorrows thresholds.

In retrospect, it was foolhardy, and possibly dangerous, to have gone all those years without an M.D. or regular checkups — which I gather is the whole point of the PEIA initiative.

Reach Phil Kabler at [email protected], 304-348-1220, or follow @PhilKabler on Twitter.

– See more at: http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20150427/GZ01/150429450/1419#sthash.n5soI3VB.dpuf

Comments are closed.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter