FRONT ROYAL – The Town Council during a virtual Monday work session continued discussions regarding a proposed pavilion in the town commons, a project for which the construction costs are significantly over previous estimates.
The low bid was $283,349, compared to the $143,000 set aside as part of a state Community Development Block Grant.
If the town proceeds with the project, the work session’s agenda states that the town can request a block grant budget amendment that would allow construction to be funded through an even split of town and block grant funds.
If that amendment were granted, Interim Town Manager Matt Tederick explained the town must find $75,000 for construction.
Tederick said he identified line items from this year’s budget that could be directed to the pavilion. Those line items include money from the Community Development, Clerk of Council and the Horticulture departments. Both the Clerk’s and Community Development departments were part of a downsizing in which the positions for former Clerk of Council Jennifer Berry and former Community Development and Tourism Director Felicia Hart were eliminated.
Finance Director B.J. Wilson explained over the phone the $75,000 identified from this year’s budget was found in money set aside for departmental operational and salary expenses.
Wilson said the $19,466 the town has set aside over years for Community Development may be used while $19,631 that was budgeted for that department’s operational expenses could be used. Meanwhile, he explained that $10,921 could be used that was budgeted for the Horticultural Department, which recently had an employee retire. The remaining $25,000, he said, was budgeted for the Clerk of Council Department’s operational and salary expenses.
Ultimately, Tederick said the council must decide whether to move forward with the pavilion.
Councilwoman Lori Cockrell said that although the pavilion has been on the town’s radar for a while, she “is a little nervous” pursuing a project that may be a want opposed to a need during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m just nervous right now from, you know, maybe watching too much news about the economic impact that the pandemic may have in our country,” she said.
Tederick said that “without a doubt, I think we’re going to have significant hit in this year’s budget.”
“So we’re going to have to make up a deficit for sure, probably coming out of reserves or finding additional areas to cut,” he said.
Councilman William Sealock noted that since the pavilion is part of the Community Development Block Grant, there could be “long-term reprimands” such as potentially losing future state grants if the project is not completed. He added that if a façade improvement program – which is also part of the grant – does not go as planned, some of the money budgeted for that may be directed to the pavilion.
The council reached a consensus to vote on Tederick's proposed budget amendments at an upcoming meeting.
Wilson noted that one downside of delaying the matter further is construction costs potentially increasing.