By Taylor Boyd
The Patrick County Business Recovery Center has $700,000 in earmarked funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), and more funds are being sought, the Economic Development Authority (EDA) Board heard at its meeting last week.
The EDA received $700,000 in earmarked funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The Patrick County Board of Supervisors voted at its Monday, Feb. 7 meeting to allocate the funds for needed construction on the center.
EDA Director Sean Adkins said he applied for $500,000 from the Tobacco Regional Opportunity Fund (TROF). He expects to hear from that application in about six months.
An application for $700,000 from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) also was made. Adkins said, adding the county funds will be used as a match for the ARC funds.
He said “$700,000 was the max for ARC leveraging ARPA funds as our match, and then the remaining $500,000 from the Tobacco Commission” will essentially mean “the total project is matched.”
Adkins said funds will be used for phase 1 of the Recovery Center’s renovation, which includes the upstairs main floor, all the infrastructure requirements like heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, and electrical systems.
Adkins also plans to pursue other funding opportunities to reduce the money the locality has to give towards the project.
Stuart Town Manager Bryce Simmons said he believes the town would have some interest in seeing the project be successful and operational.
Bill Clark, EDA Authority board chairman, said the EDA owes the Board of Supervisors a huge thank for the allocated funds. “To the point where when we get specifics on this, I would almost like to do a resolution of this board as an official thank you, because this is one of the first times in a long time that we’ve had this level of support from the Board of Supervisors,” he said.
In other matters, the authority:
*Introduced attorney Mark Popovich, of Guynn, Waddell, Carroll & Lockaby, PC. Popovich, or another lawyer from the firm, will begin attending EDA meetings to ensure the meetings operate smoothly.
Popovich said the firm specializes in local government law and strives to educate localities on proper legal procedures. “One of the first things we noticed when we took over the role as county attorney here in Patrick County was the way in which the governing body, specifically the Board of Supervisors, would enter into closed meeting,” he said.
Popovich said there is a specific way governing bodies are required to go into closed session, otherwise the closed meeting could be deemed illegal. To prevent this from happening, and to make sure that everyone is on the same page, he also will touch base with the other boards.
When entering into a closed meeting, Popovich said a board must cite the actual statute and reference the exemption that allows it to go into closed session. “You also have to give some level of specificity as to what will be discussed,” he said.
In a 2020 case, Popovich said a locality entered into closed session to discuss a lawsuit that had been filed against the county legal counsel. “The problem is while they were in closed meeting, they started talking about how to get rid of the lawsuit by disbanding the library. Apparently, the library was part of the underlying reason the lawsuit had been filed,” he said.
Popovich said that locality’s board eventually voted to disband the library. The library’s director then filed suit, alleging the board had illegally entered into a closed meeting because it did not specify what was going to be talked about.
Popovich said the lawsuit was heard by the Virginia Supreme Court, which “upheld its standard rule that you need to specify what you are talking about.”
As the EDA sometimes has business and property matters that it needs to keep secret, he said the normal practice in other jurisdictions is to create a project name to and refer to all matters concerning the project by that name when entering closed session.
*Approved the consent agenda.
*Approved the Jan. 26 meeting minutes.
*Heard the finance report.
*Paid the bills as presented.
*Heard EDA updates.
*Discussed the Rich Creek Shell Building and the property on Martin Farm Road.
*Appointed Dave Lusk to the sites and buildings committee.
*Discussed broadband progress.