Board Kicks in To Help With Sharp Increase in Foodbank Meal Costs

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By Carol Vaughn —

The Accomack County Board of Supervisors at the April 15 meeting approved giving $21,000 to the Foodbank of the Eastern Shore, after the foodbank provided more than 23,300 meals, at a cost of nearly $81,700, in Accomack County between March 1 and April 10.
The number of meals served is a more than 63% increase over the same period last year, mainly due to effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Accomack County Administrator Michael Mason.
“The differences are striking,” he said.
Additionally, 1,025 meals were provided to senior citizens through the Eastern Shore Area Agency on Aging, and 360 backpack meals were provided through ESAAA/CAA Head Start and the public school system.
“We anticipate the need for emergency food growing in the weeks and months ahead,” a letter from the foodbank to Accomack County said.
In addition to distributing more meals due to the pandemic, the foodbank’s cost per meal has skyrocketed, from 40 cents per meal to about $3.50.
That’s in part because the foodbank is having to purchase more of the food it distributes. Food industry donors, who typically donate excess product to the foodbank, do not have that excess at present, and residents also are not donating as much.
The Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore typically uses more than 9 million pounds of donated food each year.
“Their existing inventory is being depleted, and that’s forcing them to purchase food,” Mason said.
The money, which will cover the cost of 6,000 meals for Accomack residents, will come from the county’s fiscal year 2020 undesignated operating contingency fund, which had $43,000 left in it for the year.
Mason asked foodbank officials to provide a final report to the board of supervisors once the pandemic has subsided, detailing how the money was spent.
Aviation Grant Authorized
The board authorized Mason to execute grant documents to accept $30,000 from the Federal Aviation Administration for the Accomack County Airport.
The grant is part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security act passed by Congress.
The money will support continuing operations and replace lost revenue at the airport as result of the pandemic.
Money may be used for both capital and operating expenses at the airport, according to Mason.
“We have also been notified that the local match requirement for the (airport) apron rehab construction project that we’ve been anticipating may be waived,” he said.
Budget Amendment Approved
The board approved an amendment to the budget for fiscal year 2021, which starts July 1, to close a budget gap of nearly $189,000 to pay for medical and mental health services for inmates at the Accomack County Jail.
The sheriff is required to provide the services for inmates, and to pay for inpatient care at the hospital, if needed, Mason said.
Medical services at the jail until now have been provided by two fulltime employees and by third parties, including a doctor who comes to the jail.
Staff turnover and issues with future availability of third-party providers led to the county issuing a request for proposals earlier this year.
Most Virginia jails outsource medical services, according to Mason.
The request resulted, after negotiations, in a proposed $739,000 contract for inmate medical services — a figure higher than was expected.
After factoring in savings from eliminating two positions at the jail, one of which currently is vacant, and from a lower-than-expected increase in employee health insurance cost, there was still the gap of $189,000.
Part of the money will come from eliminating $93,585 for construction of a pavilion at Sawmill Park, and the rest will come from the contingency fund — meaning 43% of the entire fiscal year 2021 contingency fund will be committed from day one of the new fiscal year.
“Frankly, I don’t really see any viable options out there, and there is a significant potential liability if we don’t take some action on this matter,” Mason said.
Approval of the contract likely will be on the board’s May agenda.
Hazard Mitigation Grant Accepted
The board voted to accept a $1.5 million FEMA hazard mitigation grant to elevate nine structures and acquire one parcel.
The properties are in Saxis, Sanford, and near Onancock.
The board tabled action on the grant at its February meeting.
The intent is to, at a later date, replace the property to be acquired, which is on Holly Cove Road, with another property on the waiting list for elevation, according to Mason.
The grant requires a local cost share, which individual property owners will repay as a condition of receiving the grant-funded services. Completion of all the projects is expected to take three years.
Joint Application for
Electric Power Upgrade Approved
The board authorized Mason to submit a grant application related to an electric power upgrade needed for the Navy’s Surface Combat Systems Center and other users on Wallops Island.
The Navy requested Accomack County to submit the grant application jointly with Accomack-Northampton Electric Cooperative.
Supporting the grant requires no monetary contribution from the county.
The Navy is a tenant of NASA on Wallops, and has nearly $1 billion of combat systems on the island, according to a presentation to the board by Commander Anthony Holmes, SCSC Commanding Officer.
The electric upgrade is needed because the Navy has specialized needs, and there have been “a number of power issues, whether it’s quality, capacity, reliability, that have really been taking a toll on the Navy for quite a while,” Holmes said.
“We just have higher requirements,” he said.
The electricity issues have cost from $1 million to $2 million in damage per year, “whether that’s material, labor, or both,” Holmes said.
Additionally, it is anticipated that by around 2022, demand is going to exceed the current electric capacity on Wallops Island.
“Our requirements are going up; NASA’s requirements are going up, MARS’ requirements are going up. We all share that same common feeder,” Holmes said.
The Navy is investing around $30 million in technical solutions within its fence line.
The grant could help pay for an additional feeder line to the island to improve reliability, at a projected cost of around $10 million to $13 million.
A new Defense Community Infrastructure pilot program could make around $25 million in federal funds available to rural communities to help them coordinate with military entities on infrastructure projects of mutual benefit.
“This is something that is absolutely needed by the Navy,” Holmes said.
Supervisor Robert Crockett said the Navy’s request is “extremely positive, because whenever you see an entity like the Navy want to invest millions of dollars, that makes our facility up there even more secure, as far as the future goes. You can’t have progress without proper infrastructure.”
Supervisor Ron Wolff made the motion to authorize Mason to apply for the grant.