Town asks county for funding help

Published 6:00 am Friday, January 29, 2021

The Town of Dillwyn has seemingly exhausted all options in an attempt to find funding to pay for the Dillwyn Streetscape Project and is now asking the county to help.

At the Monday, Jan. 11, Buckingham Board of Supervisors meeting, Town of Dillwyn Mayor Linda Venable Paige stepped up to the podium to address the board regarding funding issues for the transportation enhancement project.

The streetscape project, which aims to enhance the appearance of the U.S. 15 corridor, improve safety and make necessary updates, began construction in 2006.

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The town was awarded $1.3 million in grants to complete the project. 80% of the project was to be reimbursed by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), and the other 20% would be a local match.

But Paige told supervisors Monday night Dillwyn officials had no idea they would have to pay contractors the money before VDOT could reimburse any funds, and the town doesn’t have the funding to do so.

Paige told the board the town had cashed in nearly all of its certificates of deposit (CD) in order to find the funding necessary to pay its match, remarking that $125,000 had been paid as of Jan. 11.

As the match has been lessened over time, and with one CD left to cash out, the town, according to Paige, as of Monday had matched all local funding save for $86,000.

Paige said the town’s final CD, at just over $60,000, would still leave the locality short almost $26,000.

Paige said a VDOT representative had assured officials the 80% match, once paid, would be turned around within 30 days.

The town looked for financial assistance from several sources, including First Bank, Farmers Bank and the Virginia Municipal League, but was ultimately told Dillwyn did not have enough revenue coming in to qualify for help.

“So, we’re coming to you to ask the county what they can do to assist us with giving us the money for (paying) off the transportation enhancement project, and then within 30 days it’s supposed to be returned back to you,” she said.

The mayor and several supervisors did not appear to be on the same page Monday night regarding the amount of money which would be returned or the town’s ability to repay the county. Although Paige first insisted some of the town’s match would be returned by VDOT, District 2 Supervisor Donnie Bryan stated the local funds would not be reimbursed.

Bryan told Paige even if the county was willing to bail the town out of what VDOT owes Dillwyn, the county would still be “stuck holding the bag” for the remaining $26,000.

“Okay, but no, we would plan to repay you,” Paige replied.

“But I don’t see, looking at your budget, Mayor Paige, I don’t see how you can repay us when your revenue is $148,746 and your expenditures are $148,746,” Bryan said. “So basically, if you take in everything, you’re giving out everything. There is no excess money in your budget.”

“No,” Paige agreed.

“You don’t have any cushion at all,” Bryan said.

“Now we don’t,” she responded.

The Commonwealth Regional Council (CRC), the organization which has been assisting the Town of Dillwyn with the streetscape project, acknowledged through a letter in its Jan. 2021 meeting packet the troubles the town is facing in finding money to pay contractors.

“It is our understanding, in speaking with the mayor, that the town is having difficulties paying vendors while they wait for reimbursement,” officials wrote in the letter dated Jan. 7. “It should be noted that the contractor has threatened legal action if additional payments are not made in a timely manner … We have been assisting the town in trying to identify solutions. So far, none of those potential solutions have been fruitful.”

County Administrator Rebecca Carter told supervisors the county had recently been contacted by contractors on the project after hearing word the county may assist in payment. Contractors notified Carter there were likely some change orders associated with the project.

CRC Executive Director Melody Foster, who was present virtually at Monday’s meeting for a separate matter, told supervisors the change orders associated with the project may actually lower the overall cost.

Bryan said he would like to see the total cost of the project after change orders had been taken into account before taking action on such a request. Foster advised the project is slated to be completed by mid-to-late February, adding the total amount of money owed by the Town of Dillwyn may be more clear come the next board meeting.

“My concern is, the town takes in $148,746, and that’s cashing in a CD that you no longer have,” Bryan stated, “and your expenditures are $148,746. That’s based on you getting all the revenue in from everybody that owes you. And what happens if you don’t?” he asked Paige.

“Nothing positive,” she replied.

Paige did not respond to several requests for comment via phone or email regarding the matter.