CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The West Virginia Department of Agriculture plans a comprehensive review of its property holdings in 22 counties.
The department owns about 10,000 acres across the state. But spokesman Buddy Davidson said that the property records haven't been reviewed in at least a decade.
"We want to take a new stock of what property the department holds and what interests we have in it,'' Davidson told the Charleston Daily Mail. "Some of the properties are well documented, others need research.
"It's basically just a housekeeping function.''
The department plans to hire outside lawyers through the Attorney General's Office to conduct the review.
Bids from lawyers interested in conducting the review will be accepted until Aug. 19. Ferro said he would not know how much the review would cost until the bidding process is complete.
A complete review is not likely this year because of budgetary constraints, he said.
The department's properties range from quarter-acre lots to a 3,000-acre farm near the Huttonsville Correctional Facility in Randolph County. Ferro said there could be mineral rights that could provide money-generating opportunities for the department.
Outside lawyers also will be hired to conduct a property review for the West Virginia Conservation Agency, which wants to determine what land it owns and doesn't own near it 170 flood-control dams statewide.
The Attorney General's Office determined that both reviews will require expertise in real estate law, a large time commitment and extensive travel around the state.
"It is not feasible or cost-effective for the Office of the Attorney General to provide the requested legal services,'' chief counsel Dan Greear wrote in an order earlier this month.
In July, Attorney General Patrick Morrissey announced that he'll require competitive bidding and issue written justification of the need when his office hires outside lawyers to ensure the contracts are cost-effective and in the public's interest.
The Conservation Agency's property review will be conducted in two phases. The first will focus on the Potomac Valley Conservation District near Romney, where the majority of the state's dams are located. Other dams in the state would be covered in the second phase, agency spokesman Andrew Stacy said.
He said the state might eventually have to buy some properties where homes and businesses have been built in easements.