CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Members of the Kanawha County Commission have approved a proposal to timber about 400 acres in Camp Virgil Tate.Commissioners Kent Carper, Dave Hardy and Hoppy Shores voted in favor of the timbering plan at a regular County Commission meeting Thursday. But Carper insisted that county officials be informed of the exact logging plan before the first twig is disturbed in the park.Earlier this month, county officials found out about an unauthorized logging operation in Coonskin Park, after a contractor who agreed to remove storm debris from last year's derecho allegedly went beyond the scope of the agreement and cut and sold timber from the park.State forestry officials have since suspended the license of contractor David Bowen until he repairs the damage caused by the alleged poaching. Also, the Kanawha County Sheriff's Department is conducting a criminal investigation.Carper doesn't want a repeat performance of the Coonskin mess in Camp Virgil Tate.Officials for the camp and the West Virginia University Extension Service say the 400 or so acres to be timbered in Camp Virgil Tate will be selectively and carefully harvested, with as little damage to the park as possible and forestry officials involved in the planning and monitoring of the work. All plans will be shared with the County Commission before any logging is done.
Although most of the property to be timbered belongs to the county instead of Camp Virgil Tate, Carper, Hardy and Shores agreed that all proceeds from the timber sales will go back to the park. Camp officials hope to raise about $300,000 from the sales to help pay for a new swimming pool.Camp Virgil Tate's pool has been out of service for about five years, and is too badly damaged to repair.Also Thursday, commissioners voted to give the Sheriff's Department $35,000 to pay for body armor. This past legislative session, the Legislature passed a law requiring all counties in the state to provide bulletproof vests for their deputies.In January, Kanawha County Sheriff Johnny Rutherford passed his own policy requiring all county law enforcement personnel who carry a gun to also wear bulletproof vests. He spent $28,000 to buy new vests for deputies and replace worn-out vests, about half of the money coming from a federal grant.Carper said the $35,000 from the county would reimburse Rutherford for the vests he already bought, and fund vests for new deputies or replace old vests as they wear out.Also at Thursday's meeting, U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin presented the County Commission and Sheriff's Department with an award for their work to promote school safety following the Sandy Hook school shootings last year. In the aftermath of the shootings, the County Commission gave Rutherford money to send deputies to every school in the county to provide a police presence and come up with plans specifically geared toward each school in the event of an emergency. Reach Rusty Marks at email@example.com or 304-348-1215.