Board asks citizens to trust them on $1.9 million IDA expenditure

Published 10:49 am Friday, March 13, 2020

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Trust us.

That was the response given to members of the public who questioned the county’s plan to transfer $1.9 million to the Prince Edward County Industrial Development Authority (IDA) during a public hearing Tuesday, March 10.

Wade Bartlett

The Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve the request from the IDA.

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A memo from County Administrator Wade Bartlett said the $1.9 million will be used by the IDA to strengthen and expand the economic development efforts of the IDA.

The board of supervisors and IDA Chairman Brad Watson indicated during the meeting that, at this time, they could not give the public any more specific details about the purpose for the money.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Prince Edward County Administrator Wade Bartlett described in positive terms the county’s financial situation if the board were to approve the IDA’s request.

“We have the financial wherewithal to provide the IDA with the amount that’s requested,” he said. “Now the recent events surrounding the stock market are not necessarily the economy, but can the economy slow down? Yes, it can, at any time.”

Watson told the board this was an investment that could better the future for every citizen in the county.

Brad Watson

“There’s a lot to be said for not spending money and being good stewards of it,” Watson said. “I think this board has been a very good steward of money over the years. There is also a time to be said that things happen when you haven’t budgeted for them and opportunities present themselves where you can better the future of every citizen in the county by investing in the county. I think it’s time for us to do that.”

He said the IDA has been studying this particular opportunity in question for eight months.

He acknowledged that there will be many people who will say, “Why did you do this?”

“I think it’ll be apparent later on when we can discuss a little bit more in more detail,” he said. “Until that time, I think that citizens are going to have to trust that you have a group of people that have the best interests of this community at heart, both from the Industrial Development Authority and from the Prince Edward Board of Supervisors, and you have to do what you think is best. But we think it’s a really good idea, because we want to see this community grow, not just in number of people, but in revenue and in opportunities for the citizens.”

Sam Campbell, of Prospect, was skeptical about the wisdom of the county’s decision.

“Over the years, I’ve followed this really, really closely, and I see so many of these things,” he said. “It’s like chasing butterflies. They do not work. And we get hit with a big tax increase.”

Rodney-Daryl Jones, who is planning to retire to Prince Edward County, also opposed the transfer.

He said that just because the money is there to spend does not mean it has to be spent, and he urged the board that if it is going to spend it, it should spend it wisely on things like economic development, job training and business incubators.

“There’s a lot of things that could be done to actually raise this county up, but what’s going on with $1.9 million, giving it to a board that says, ‘Trust me’ — really?” he asked. “Is this how business is operated?”

Farmville 701 District Supervisor Jim Wilck addressed the members of the public who criticized previous projects, and he defended the current one.

“While I was in agreement with you on all the other ones and whatnot, I think this is an excellent investment, and I think it will have a lot to do with the growth of Prince Edward County from here on out,” he said.