Wolff to Chair Accomack Supervisors, Board Approves Grant to Sentinel Robotic Solutions

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By Carol Vaughn —

Ron Wolff will be the chairman and Billy Joe Tarr will be vice-chairman of the Accomack County Board of Supervisors for 2021.
The two men were elected unanimously at the board’s organizational meeting Wednesday, Jan. 6.
The board also voted to continue holding the regular monthly meetings on the third Wednesday of the month at 5 p.m.
The board will continue to meet at Metompkin Elementary School in Parksley rather than at the board chambers in Accomac for the time being to provide adequate space for social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sentinel Robotics Solutions will receive the county’s first Economic Development Investment Program grant, after the board approved awarding a $236,500 grant and voted to appropriate the amount to the Economic Development Authority to award to the company.
The board in November voted to establish the incentive program, which allows the EDA to make, and the county to fund, grants to businesses seeking to locate, relocate, or expand in Accomack County.
SRS, which provides services related to the unmanned aircraft systems industry, currently is located on Chincoteague Road in Wattsville.
SRS is proposing that the EDA purchase property adjacent to the Accomack County Airport, in the industrial park, and then lease the property to SRS.
The grant will be used to pay for improvements, including a gated service road from the property to the airport taxiway, that SRS needs to bring government and commercial UAS business to the county airport for testing, operations, and training.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the cost of the improvements must be paid by SRS.
Del. Rob Bloxom, speaking as a member of the EDA, said there is an old hangar on the property in question. The developments under discussion are related to a hangar project for which Bloxom introduced a funding request during the General Assembly special session.
The $1 million funding was in the budget amendment Gov. Ralph Northam signed into law Nov. 18.
“It’s going to hopefully create a hub of business,” Bloxom said, noting the EDA and SRA will enter into a performance agreement.
Bloxom said the road to be built will be on county property.
“We think with this investment in Melfa, instead of going to Salisbury, we can entice more businesses to Melfa,” Bloxom said.
SRS in grant application materials said the company expects to ramp up over the next two years to 24 to 36 operations annually involving unmanned aircraft systems classified by the Department of Defense as Group 1 to Group 4. Around 75% will require runway access.
The runway will not need to be closed for the operations, according to the materials.
The company’s operations are projected to generate fuel sales at the airport of at least 272,000 gallons within the first 80 months, along with property taxes and airport fees, according to the agenda item.
The money for the grant will come from funding set aside in the Fiscal Year 2021 county budget for a capital grant at the airport that did not materialize, according to Accomack County Administrator Mike Mason.
The board also approved having the county serve as fiscal agent for a utility assistance grant of around $10,000 awarded Parksley by the Department of Housing and Community Development.
The town agreed to administer the grant, which is to assist residents who have water and sewer accounts in arrears due to COVID-19.
The county’s role is confined to receiving the grant funding and disbursing it to the town.
The board also approved accepting a grant of $101,158 from the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Service to establish a regional pretrial services program in Accomack and Northampton counties.