By ALAYNA FULLER
CHARLESTON - The West Virginia Public Port Authority board, during a meeting Wednesday, gave Wayne County officials until the end of the month to submit proposals to save the $32 million Heartland Intermodal Gateway facility from being sold.
At the beginning of the Port Authority meeting at the state Capitol Complex, Transportation Secretary Byrd White said the implications of a long-term lease on the facility just became too complicated, so the board thought it would be best to sell it.
However, after hearing pleas from members of the Wayne County Commission in attendance, the board moved to postpone a decision on the public sale of the facility.
The Heartland Intermodal Gateway is a 100-acre road-to-rail cargo transfer station at Prichard in Wayne County. As the only intermodal facility in West Virginia, the complex uses giant stacking machines to move 20- and 40-foot cargo containers between rail cars and flatbed trucks.
White said funding for the facility has run out and that's the main reason there was discussion of selling it.
Wayne County commissioners at the meeting informed the board why they thought the facility shouldn't be sold, but instead stay in Wayne County and help both the county and state economically.
"We're invested in that facility," said Commissioner Jeff Maddox. "We're a 40,000-population county. Our economy is not the greatest in the world, like many other counties in West Virginia, and the idea of taking an asset such as this and selling it - potentially for pennies on the dollar just to wash your hands of it - we think is a grave error."
"Do not move today to proceed with the sale of the property until we're absolutely sure that there is not someone out there that wants a long-term relationship, so that we can use that for what it's intended for, and that's for us and Wayne County to grow," said Robert Pasley, Wayne County Commission president.
After consideration of the Wayne County commissioners' comments and discussion among the board members, three motions were given.
The first motion was to postpone consideration of selling the facility until the next meeting.
The second motion was to accept proposals for a long-term lease on the property and meet again in a few weeks to evaluate those proposals.
The third motion was to solicit bids for the sale of the property for an auctioneer or a real-estate agent to sell the property, while also soliciting bids for a lease of the property.
"At least if we don't get a decent lease proposal, we're that far down the road on selling it," White said. "It's just following both paths at the same time."
The board gave Wayne County commissioners until Aug. 30 to have proposals on the facility ready.
The board will meet in the first week of September to further discuss the future of the facility.