By Alex Bridges -- email@example.com
The state agency that handles bond sales remains mum on why it pulled a controversial regional jail project this week.
The Virginia Resources Authority had as of May 11 included $45.36 million in bonds for the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail Authority in a spring financing pool slated to go on sale Tuesday and Wednesday. The VRA removed the RSW jail project from its list of bond requests only days before the financing activity.
Asked on Thursday why the VRA pulled the RSW request from the list, Jean F. Bass, director of policy and intergovernmental relations for the agency, referred questions to the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail Authority. Bass also referred to a statement issued Tuesday by Douglas P. Stanley, chairman of the RSW authority board.
VRA Director of Debt Management Shawn B. Crumlish did not return messages left on his phone Wednesday. By later that day, questions about the bond sale were referred to Executive Director Suzanne S. Long. The director did not return a call for comment on Wednesday or Thursday.
Stanley in the statement cited a "threat of legal action" made to the VRA which prompted the agency to pull the bond sell for the jail project. Stanley noted that the jail authority board had not yet discussed the threat nor the bond's removal from the sale. The jail authority board meets again Thursday at 1 p.m.
The "threat of legal action" likely came from Cindy Bailey, a longtime, vocal opponent of the regional jail project. Bailey sent e-mails to VRA officials last week urging the agency to not sell bonds for the project.
In an e-mail dated May 15 to William G. O'Brien, chairman and director of the VRA board, Bailey cites a clause in the regional jail authority agreement which states if Virginia does not agree to fund 50 percent of the anticipated eligible construction costs the jail authority would not proceed with the project unless the governing bodies of the three participating localities approve to move forward. According to Bailey, Shenandoah County Sheriff Timothy Carter, with support from residents, suggested the resolution because no local cap on the funding for the construction had been established. However, according to the e-mail, the state funding cap of $32.8 million fell below the 50 percent "we were promised." Another consultant estimated the state would fund less than 45 percent, according to Bailey.
"The citizens of Shenandoah County are prepared to take legal action if our BOS Does not withdraw from this agreement as stated above," Bailey states in the e-mail to O'Brien.
Long responded to Bailey via e-mail and explained the VRA acts as the municipal bond bank for Virginia, receives and processes requests from localities for loan assistance through the pooled financing program. Long states the VRA "evaluates the credit worthiness of such projects."
"The decision to finance a proposed project is strictly one of the local governing body(s)," Long states in the e-mail dated May 15 and provided to the Daily by Bailey. "At no time does the Authority become involved in that process. We appreciate you sharing your opinions regardingthe project and would ask that you contact your County Administrator or Board of Supervisors with any future questions regarding the project."