Strasburg town manager to ask about changes to grant

STRASBURG — The Strasburg Town Council voted on Tuesday to have Town Manager Wyatt Pearson discuss a variety of potential proposals with the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development that would reduce the amount of money that the town has to spend on its Community Development Block Grant.

The decision comes after KEE Construction provided an estimate for the project to build a community park and event space across from the  Town Hall that would have left the town with a funding gap of over $250,000.

During Tuesday’s meeting, council member Don LeVine described the planned park as a major project aimed at developing Strasburg’s downtown.

“This to me is a very important decision, because for me it’s the last major thing we the council can do to affect the downtown,” LeVine said.

The town had previously received an estimate that the town park would cost $650,000 to build.

That version of the park was one of four scenarios that the council considered during their meeting on Tuesday. KEE Construction, which provided the most recent estimates for the cost of the park, projected that the three other scenarios would all cost the town less than $900,000 to build.

But all four would cost more than the original projection of $650,000.

Pearson said during a work session last month that the changed costs came because of rising construction costs. The version of the park that was previously estimated to cost $650,000 would now cost over $900,000, according to a more recent estimate.

The recent cost projections left a number of council members concerned about what they perceived as a high cost for the town park.

Council member Jocelyn Vena said that $900,000 was too much for an event space.

“This project is just for an event space,” Vena said. “I mean, I really have an issue with it.”

But other members were supportive of providing enough funding to make an event space that looks good. Council member Barbara Plitt said that she would support spending the full $900,000 on the park.

“I think it will benefit us in the long term,” Plitt said.

Tuesday’s decision did not come with any financial commitments from the town. Instead, the council decided to have Pearson discuss some of the potential scenarios with the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development.

The Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development has a large amount of say in the end project because the town is building the park through a grant. Under the three new scenarios, the town would have to reach an agreement with the department to eliminate something that they had promised in their grant application to build.

Any one of those agreements might come with a decrease in state funding. But Pearson said during the meeting that he believed most of the changes would result in few changes in state funding.

Once the town has heard back from the department, the issue will come to the town council once again. At that time, the council will have to vote on how many changes to the planned event space it is willing to make, and how much money to spend.