Beach looking to entice businesses
A three hour and thirty-five minute Town Council work session last Thursday produced more conversation than results for the town of Colonial Beach.
The seven member council wants to establish an Economic Development Authority that would allow the town to purchase Rankin’s shopping center. The center could be used for the police department, zoning administration and possibly a town hall. Some buildings could be rented to local businesses.
By law a town cannot be a landlord in this manner, but an EDA can purchase the land, then allow the town to use parts of the property and rent the rest out. Any such authority can be started by the town government then turned over to itself to run as an entirely separate entity.
EDA can also attract new businesses, create jobs, while retaining existing ones, help to keep and expand current businesses and help to promote the revitalization of the town.
Town Attorney Andrea Erard explained how one EDA had purchased a shell building and sold pieces of it to various businesses as they became ready. Erard said this helps new businesses by allowing lower start up costs. For example, a business can rent a smaller space instead of a whole building.
If the EDA is approved, it would consist of seven volunteer members and take approximately six to 12 months to get up and running.
But it wasn’t the EDA that took up the greatest portion of the evening. Members disagreed on what sort of generator, or generator contract, the town needs for the high school, which functions as the town’s emergency shelter. Marion Miller, a town volunteer and retired public procurement official, has been working with several generator companies to get information for the town.
She said options include renting upon demand, a contingency contract and purchasing a generator. According to Miller, generator experts said renting upon demand, until a generator could be purchased, would be the town’s best option.
Renting upon demand means the town would call the company, prior to an incoming storm, and set up to have a generator delivered for that particularly storm, however the town would not be guaranteed a generator. A contingency contract allows for the town to the ability to have a generator brought in within 24 hours of need, however the contract costs approximately $4500 per month, and is set for the main months of the normal hurricane season and would not allow for off season generator needs.
Purchasing a 350 KW generator would cost approximately $200,000, but would allow for the town to have it at the school at all times. Public Works manager Rob Murphy was asked about the servicing needs and contracts for generators currently owned by the town. Murphy said the town has six generators in service. These six are exercised weekly, with regular load tests done at a yearly cost of $12,000 total. The added cost, Murphy stated, would be between $800-$1,200 per year. The town will first have to purchase and install a switch before a generator can be installed.
Foundation Wants Klotz Building
The Council considered a proposal by the Paul Stefan Foundation to take over the Klotz building. The foundation’s original proposal asked for the town to allow a lease of the building, with all repair work done by the foundation with an option to terminate should the town pull the lease. According to Erard the Virginia state constitution has a debt clause which limits local governments ability to enter into contracts of this sort.
Instead of the planned lease the foundation has asked for the town to give them the building in exchange for them rehabilitating the building and using it solely for their charitable work. The benefits Erard listed included that the town would not be liable for anything that happened on the property and that a historic building would be saved from demolition.
Council member Tim Curtin said the building is in disrepair, has not been used in several years, and that no one else has surfaced with any plans to save the building.
“Everyday that no one is in there, the building deteriorates,” he said.
PSF founder, Randy James, had local contractor Steve Cirbee go through the building prior to any offers being discussed. The building, which was the original school for Colonial Beach, is in need of at least $100,000 worth of work.
Council member Gary Seeber asked that it be put on the September meeting agenda for a public hearing prior to any decisions being made. Jim Chiarello, council member, said he had been in the building and that the upstairs had been gutted, a heater had fallen through the flooring, among other issues. He asked that a contract be drawn up that would involve a time limit for the foundation renovate the building.
Goforth suggested putting in a clause that if the building is not to used for the charity’s purpose, or should they try to sell it, the land should revert to town ownership. As a public hearing was set no further decision was made.
The meeting ended with two of the seven members leaving prior to adjournment. Council member Wanda Goforth at 7:30 and Gary Seeber just a few minutes before the close of the meeting.
The meeting is set for Sept. 12 at 7 p.m. All meetings are open to the public.