The Stuart Town Council rejected a request to fund the Patrick County Business Development Center’s (BDC) $358,000 design contract at its July 20 meeting.
Sean Adkins, the county’s director of Economic Development, made the request. The funds would be used with grant money and other revenues for design work on the BDC project.
Adkins said the contract is usually 15 percent, but the firm the Economic Development Authority (EDA) is working with capped it at 10 percent.
“The justification I would say for this is I’ve looked that this as a hopefully a unifying project between the county, the town, and the EDA,” Adkins said when making the bid.
He announced at the Patrick County Board of Supervisors July 11 meeting that the county received $700,000 from the Appalachian Regional Commission for the center. The EDA previously received $500,000 from the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission for the project. He said Patrick County has pledged $700,000 towards this project.
While the Tobacco Commission is not comfortable using the entire grant to cover the design contract, the organization will allow some funds to be allocated, according to Adkins.
“Truth be told, with the way supplies go, I think we’re going to need to squeeze every cent out of that, especially if the estimate climbs to the point they think it will,” he said.
Town Manager Bryce Simmons asked Adkins if he was asking for the $358,000 without the council ever having seen an estimate.
“That’s just how these (projects) work. I don’t know what else to say,” Adkins said.
Thus far, Simmons said the funds allocated for the project have been leveraged against another grant or as a match.
“This is the only funds that are basically being pulled from local coffers,” he said.
Adkins said it could be argued that American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds came from local coffers.
Simmons said he believes this could have been a conversation held a long time before the meeting.
“I just got this,” Adkins said.
“You’re talking about 20 percent of our entire yearly budget; 20 percent. That’s significant. We’re in great financial shape, but not that great,” Mayor Ray Weiland said, adding the council is happy to help out when and where it can, “but this is kind of a blind side.”
Vice-mayor Rebecca Adcock said the design plan and contract should have been first.
Adkins said if the county and EDA didn’t get any of the grants the project wouldn’t happen.
“So, we had to wait to find out if we were going to get funded. Otherwise, this money would be completely wasted. We have a nice design, but we have nothing to do it with,” he said.
Councilman Terry Dalton said he was not in favor of giving the money and believed the council was wasting its time on the discussion.
“We’re dragging a dead horse here,” Dalton said.
Adkins said his idea was to get everyone to work together and split up the $358,000 design cost.
“I’m not going to jeopardize this project by not trying to make it work. We’ll figure it out as we apparently need to, and we’ll probably go after more than we anticipated for the downstairs because now we have most of the construction costs for upstairs done,” he said.
Adkins said a portion of funds from the Tobacco Commission, as well as funds from the EDA, county, and town could be split four ways, with each to pay an estimated $90,000 instead of the full amount he initially requested.
Simmons said it’s hard for him to support anything without a breakdown of where the money is coming from, where the money is, and what the town is actually getting for its allocation.
“It’s a big IF. So, we’ll just have to postpone it for the moment, which is understandable,” Adkins said.
Dave Hoback, council member, said “If we take a different tact and get the town involved in some of the discussions, then speaking only for myself, maybe there’s some financial component that we can help with, but it’s going to have to be scaled down radically.”
In other matters, the council:
*Approved giving $10,000 for this budget year to the Patrick County Economic Development Authority’s (EDA) façade grant program. Adkins said the funds will only be used for projects in the town of Stuart. EDA funds will also be used for in-town façade grant projects.
* Heard from Sarah Wray, of the Patrick County Young Professionals about Spooktacular, and approved giving $1,800 to the group for the 2023 Spooktacular that will take place on Main Street in October.
*Approved contracting with the West Piedmont Planning District (WPPD) to create a strategic plan for the town.
*Approved the town’s updated refuse policy to go into effect September 1.
*Scheduled a public hearing for the Wednesday, Aug 17 meeting to discuss rezoning the hospital property.
*Scheduled a blight committee meeting for 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug 17.
*Discussed EMI Security camera installation.
*Heard from Wayne Kirkpatrick about the need to keep the Stuart Farmers’ Market Parking Lot clear and available for customer use.
*Approved the meeting minutes.
*Heard an update on the wastewater treatment plant.
*Heard an update on recent public works.
*Discussed goat scaping.
*Paid the bills.
Dean Goad did not attend the meeting.