Bath Board of Supervisors Reject Visitors’ Center Bid
The Bath County’s Visitors Center bid was rejected at the last Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, March 10th. The bid was from Nielson Construction based out of Harrisonburg for 2.83 million dollars. Nielson submitted the bid in January of this year and had agreed to this price until March 15th.
All public comments regarding the Visitors Center were opposed to the bid. Wally Roberston, Kes Phillips, Sharon Lindsay, and Carl Chestnut urged the board to postpone the project saying it was too costly.
Jay Trinca resubmitted a petition from 2016, saying that some kind of veterans’ memorial or park should be included in the project if and when it is done.
No taxpayer money would have been used for this project. There are two Lodging tax funds. The reason for having two funds as opposed to one is to better comply with the state law and the county code establishing the additional 2 percent transient occupancy tax which subdivides the tax 50/50 for two separate tourism-related purposed.
Last month, the board considered the bid but tabled it for this month’s meeting. Nielson’s bid was the only bid received for the Visitor Center project. All board members shared that they’ve had plenty of people share their concern for the cost, saying that with the Omni Homesteads renovations currently happening, there will be less revenue coming in for tourism. Board member, Ron Shifflett, said quote,
“People have told me they are not opposed to the building but are opposed to the cost.” Unquote. Supervisor Lee Fry said he believes the time isn’t right for building the center and that he’s like to see more than one bid on the project. Member Roy Burns said that a lot of people are concerned about the drop in tourism revenue and that he is in favor of the location for the project, sharing that if we have a building that catches the eye, it will be easily accessible and noticed.
Eddy Hicklin and Shelton Burns all had the same concerns the other members shared.
Ashton Harrison, the county administrator, said he’s had two people tell him they are opposed to building it at this time.
The tourism development plan from 2015 and the economic development strategic plan from 2016, indicate that the county should have a visitors center. Here is the timeline of the project so far-
In July 2015, the county purchased the property in Mitchelltown for the purpose of constructing a visitors’ center and event grounds using only lodging tax dollars in the amount of 310,885 thousand dollars.
In March 2017, the county issued a request for proposals for a master plan. At the beginning of that year, residents were invited to participate in a survey considering additional amenities on the sight and their vision of what they would like to see done there. After this project kickoff, the design developed through a series of public visioning meetings. The vision and feedback from residents along with the county comprehensive plan, the economic development plan, and the tourism plan all shaped the final design concept.
In April 2017, the county issued a demolition permit to remove the existing structures from the property.
In October 2018, the Visitors’ Center conceptual design and master plan were submitted to the county.
In February 2019, The board directed the county administrator to work with Glave & Holmes to design and bid a scaled-back version of the center.
In August 2019, the county solicited bids with a due date in September, that was quickly postponed because the site was rejected due to an erosion an sedimentation plan being required and for additional soil borings. No bids were received before or after the notice of cancellation, and in December of 2019, the county re-issued the invitation to bid with a due date of January 15th, 2020.
The next Board of Supervisors meeting will be on April 14th at 6 pm at the courthouse in Warm Springs. The public is always welcome to attend.
For AMR News, I’m Abby Dufour