The Greene County Economic Development Authority (EDA) approved July 20 a $15,000 grant to the Stanardsville Area Revitalization (STAR) program. The grant will be used toward the match required from the Perry Foundation that will help to begin Phase II of the Main Street streetscape project.
Two people submitted comments on the request during the public comment section of the meeting. Gwen Baker said she had unanswered questions about the grant.
“I’m concerned about giving that kind of money when we really aren’t seeing where the money is going to,” she said. “We’re only seeing pictures; we aren’t seeing layouts and financials of who’s creating the bids and who’s getting those bids. I’d like to see more up front and more information disclosed to the public before we give money away.”
Mike Kilpatrick, who sent in comments via email to the board, said to date he has been unimpressed with what the STAR program has accomplished: “I just believe that there needs to be a bit more transparency on how this money is spent—what is the bidding process, if there is one? And what are the administrative/consulting fees and to whom they are being paid? Is the budget being responsibly managed, as it would be in a profitable private corporation?”
Kilpatrick also expressed a desire to see publicly available visual conceptions of the next phase of the streetscape project.
“For anyone that has been involved in these kinds of grants, you should know that it is a painstaking process of working with DHCD [the Department of Housing and Community Development], VDOT [Virginia Department of Transportation] or the Virginia Main Street Program, who take a great deal of care to add oversight of every step that you make along the way,” said Don Pamenter, president of STAR. “So, please rest assured that every grant has been seen, watched over, audited and checked before we go out for bidding.”
“We were required by VDOT to hold a couple public hearings to show folks the details that Don was referring to on the streetscape (project),” said Roy Dye, executive director of STAR. “If people want to see the details and the cost estimates and so on—because we do have to keep that confidential from contractors—if folks want to arrange a meeting with me at the town hall, I’d be happy to share that information with anyone who would like to see it.”
In response to questions of what has been done by STAR, Pamenter referred to a handout which was distributed to meeting attendees listing all the projects funded in part by STAR since its inception in 2006.
“Those that have been around and visited Stanardsville 20 years ago will have then seen a town that had broken sidewalks, poor lighting, no safety crosswalks and numerous other buildings that were falling down or in bad state of repair,” Pamenter said. “Since STAR has been working on these projects, we’ve replaced sidewalks in the three core blocks of Stanardsville; we’ve replaced the street lighting and provided a great improvement there; we’ve built crosswalks to cross from the school to the shopping center; we’ve built small gardens to make it somewhat more attractive; we’ve fixed some of the commercial buildings.”
According to the document, Phase I, which was completed in 2013, included five VDOT grants with required local funding matches to improve the sidewalks, crosswalks, streetlights, stone retaining walls and landscaping downtown. Phase II, expected to begin construction this fall, will extend the new sidewalks to the east and west along Main Street, providing safe walking access to the grocery store in the west and the pharmacy in the east. This project includes 14 new streetlights and a pedestrian bridge across Mitchell Creek.
The Downtown Revitalization project, funded by three DHCD grants, rejuvenated downtown through restoration of historic buildings, painting of apartments and storefronts, removal of abandoned buildings and construction of the pavilion and stage at Greene Commons.
Community Development projects aided by STAR over the years have included: helping to found the Art Guild of Greene; organizing the Blue Ridge Heritage Project; helping secure grant funding to build the memorial to families displaced by Shenandoah National Park; and the creation of the organization that manages Greene Commons as a farmers market and entertainment venue for the town.
Upcoming events in Stanardsville include: the weekly farmers market at Greene Commons every Saturday; a Groovin’ in Greene concert July 31 to benefit Greene Care Clinic; summer marketplace at American Legion Aug. 21; Tommy Wood concert Aug. 28; Virginia Clay Festival Sept. 18-19; Paint the Town Greene event Oct. 2; Oktoberfest celebration Oct. 23; and Haunted Tours of Stanardsville Oct. 30.
“I’ve acknowledged a conflict of interest, so I cannot vote in the matter of the STAR board if it should come before the committee,” said Mike Payne, who serves on both boards as well as running the Stanardsville Independence Day Committee. “I can, however, speak as a free and private citizen and as a resident of Stanardsville. … I’m very comfortable with where STAR is headed. Of all the speculative things that we talked about, STAR is accomplishing what they set out to do and I think that there is a great deal to be proud of.”
Payne encouraged anyone who is interested in learning more to attend a town council meeting (the second Monday of every month at 7:30 p.m.), where he and Dye regularly present STAR updates, or to walk through the town with him on Oct. 30 as part of the Haunted Tours of Stanardsville event.
“So much of the good things going on in Stanardsville have STAR’s handprints on it,” said James Tsikerdanos, chairman of the EDA. “Having worked with other nonprofits, I’m astonished at how much they’ve been able to raise and what they’ve been able to do … and I definitely think it’s worthwhile moving forward with it.”
Paul Reickert motioned to approve the grant request and Abbey Heflin seconded. The motion passed unanimously, with Payne abstaining due to his stated conflict of interest.