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EDITORIAL: Oklahoma State Needs to Get out of Lodging Business;
Key Operational Needs of Facilities are not Met in Timely Fashion

Muskogee Phoenix, Okla.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Aug. 09, 2010--We are glad to see the state is renovating Western Hills Lodge in Sequoyah State Park on Fort Gibson Lake. But in the long run, the state needs to get out of running hotels and lodges and hospitality in general.

It takes the state too long to address key operational needs of its hotels and lodges. Have you stayed at Western Hills before the renovations began? Some of the Phoenix staff members did during a planning retreat a few years back.

We found overnight rooms badly out of date. Everything from old lumpy bed mattresses to the furniture in the room was badly worn.

And the meeting room at the main lodge was not much better. Wasps and other flying insects were penetrating the window areas, and the air conditioning was insufficient.

The quality of food also rated one star out of four.

A 2006 piece of legislation authorized by State Sen. Jim Wilson, D-Tahlequah, is funding the renovation. Tony Presley, park manager at Sequoyah State Park, said the facility is halfway through a six-year $600,000 project. While the renovation is definitely needed, six years to complete it is another reason the state should get out of the lodging business. In today's exponential times, six years for badly needed renovations is a lifetime.

The state leases the 2,200 acres of the land which makes up Sequoyah State Park from the Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps built Fort Gibson Lake. We maintain the state should lease the land it leases from the Corps to a private business that focuses on lodging and tourism, and let that private business be responsible for upkeep of facilities.

If the business wants to stay competitive, it will maintain the lodges and dining to generate needed profits. And most likely the facilities will remain nicer, newer and attractive. If the private business does not keep up the facilities, the state could cancel the lease. At any rate, it would not be taxpayer money going to pay for new carpet and drapes when more pressing things are needed statewide like money for roads, education, bridges and prisons to name a few.

The state government surely provides many needs for its citizens. From law enforcement to higher education, state agencies do a good job. But in areas such as running hotels and restaurants, it is past time to turn out the lights.


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