By Carol Vaughn —
Chairwoman C. Reneta Major began the first in-person Accomack County Board of Supervisors meeting since March by speaking about the coronavirus pandemic and recent civil unrest in the nation.
“A lot has transpired since we last had a chance to meet in person,” she said.
The board has met via electronic means since a local state of emergency was declared in March because of the pandemic.
Major noted the nation “is still in the middle of a pandemic.”
While people view the pandemic “in many different ways,” Major said her perspective is shaped by the death of a best friend from the virus.
Her friend retired on April 30, “only to succumb to COVID-19 on May 25 — a friend who had been there 29 or 30 years.”
Regarding protests and civil unrest around the nation in the wake of police killings of George Floyd and other African Americans, Major said, “We are seeing things happen right here in Accomack County.”
She noted there have been peaceful protests in the county.
“My prayer is that we all come together as one,” she said.
The board voted to amend the state of emergency ordinance to again allow for in-person meetings, which for the time being will be held at Metompkin Elementary School, where there is room for social distancing.
Supervisors also approved making Juneteenth, which is Friday, June 19, a holiday for county employees, after Gov. Ralph Northam declared it a state holiday.
Major gave a brief history of the holiday, which celebrates the day in 1865 when enslaved people in Galveston, Texas heard from Union soldiers they had been freed by federal order.
“Especially in African American communities, it’s almost like our Fourth of July, because we are celebrating our independence…but it encompasses all,” she said.
Adding the holiday will cost the county $17,174, mainly for holiday pay for employees who have to work that day. The money will come from savings due to vacancies in county positions, County Administrator Mike Mason said.
COVID-19 Relief Grants for Watermen, Small Businesses
Accomack County received 83 applications from working waterman whose pay suffered due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Deputy Accomack County Administrator Rich Morrison.
At a June 3 work session, supervisors approved a plan to pay out $1 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funding directly to local businesses and watermen harmed by the pandemic.
Supervisors voted then to give grants of up to $5,000 each to eligible watermen, along with approving similar grants for eligible small businesses.
Online applications through the county website were accepted between Monday and Wednesday this week.
The county has allocated money for 20 grants to watermen.
Staff will review the applications and email the awardees, who will need to provide W-9 tax forms to the county.
“We could have money in the hands of almost all of the watermen that were successful by July 6 — it can be sooner” if the county receives the necessary tax forms, Morrison said.
A similar grant program for small businesses will start accepting online applications Monday, July 6 at 10 a.m.
Morrison advised anyone interested in applying to go to the county website to review the information at https://www.co.accomack.va.us/departments/building-planning-economic-development/cares-act-grant-information
The board also approved amending the Fiscal Year 2020 budget and to appropriate $2.8 million in federal CARES Act funding.
Proposed uses of the money include a nearly $780,000 allocation to towns; $1 million in small business grants; $100,000 in waterman assistance grants; $250,000 to renovate the former Saecker dentist’s office for 911 dispatch use; $75,500 to develop a business continuity plan; $178,500 for county building improvements to promote safety of employees and customers; $135,000 for stipends for frontline workers; $135,500 for technology to improve remote working options; and money for personal protective equipment, cleaning and extra staffing related to the pandemic.
Mason also announced Sawmill Park in Accomac will reopen on Thursday, June 18, but for now will be open only weekdays; the playground will remain closed.
Library Construction Change Order Approved with Conditions
Supervisors approved a request from the Eastern Shore Public Library Foundation to allow a change order to the library construction project, which will make it possible for the library to accept a federal grant award.
The library was among the 20% of 146 applicants offered the National Endowment for the Humanities grant, Director Cara Burton said.
The $483,000 grant comes with a match requirement, and a requirement that the project comply with the Davis-Bacon Act, which sets rules for wages and benefits to be paid to workers.
To make the existing construction contract compliant requires paying subcontractors an additional nearly $240,000, which requires a change order.
The library foundation committed to repay the county the amount, which leaves nearly $243,000 in grant money to pay for items removed from the original library construction budget, including furnishings, security features, and other items.
Supervisor Paul Muhly noted the additional worker pay required by the Davis-Bacon Act “is going to be pumped into the local economy.”
Supervior Robert Crockett made the motion to authorize Mason to sign the change order on condition that the county receives official notice of the grant award; that a binding, written agreement is executed saying the library foundation agrees to repay the additional cost to the county by Sept. 30; and that library officials acknowledge that if the county is not able to be repaid the money the board will recover it from future funding to the library.
The motion, seconded by Supervisor Jackie Phillips, was approved unanimously.
Accepting the grant could open the door for the library to receive future awards from the NEH, according to Burton.
County Property Naming Policy Approved
The board of supervisors approved a naming policy for county-owned property.
Supervisors in February directed staff to develop the policy, after Eastern Shore Public Library trustees asked the board to consider allowing the new library building in Parksley and its interior rooms to be named after individuals who have contributed or will contribute significantly to the library’s construction.
The policy includes streets, structures, facilities, and the interior spaces of buildings.
Requests to name or rename county-owned properties must be made in writing to the county administrator and an application must be filled out.
Requestors must provide information about the rationale for naming the property, including biographical information if it is to be named after a person.
Documentation providing evidence of local support for the proposed name should be submitted at the same time.
The county administrator or someone he designates may forward an application to the department head responsible for the property for a recommendation on whether to approve the request.
In general, the guidelines say properties should be named “in accordance with geographical, cultural, historical, or ecological features indigenous to the site or to the immediate vicinity of the site.”
Conditions for naming a property, excluding buildings, after a person or a business include circumstances where the person made “a significant gift of land or money to the county” or are someone, alive or deceased, who has made a significant contribution to the protection or enrichment of a natural, cultural, educational, or horticultural resource of Accomack County; has substantially contributed to the advancement of recreational or educational opportunities within Accomack County; or has made a significant contribution to the betterment of a specific county-owned property.