Highland County Economic Development Authority’s February Meeting

The Highland County EDA held it’s monthly meeting February 21st.  An update was presented on the Industrial Revitalization Fund Planning Grant, that may provide funding for the Highland Inn renovation project.  The application was submitted for the first step, the planning grant, which awards up to $100,000.  No match is required and the money is to be used for getting drawings and final plans in place for renovation.   The grant awards will be announced at the end of February.

If awarded a Planning Grant, a full IRF Grant for construction can be applied for this summer.  Full IRF Grant awards will be up to $5 million dollars, with a dollar for dollar match, if the grant is over one million dollars.  There’s a rough estimate of $3 million needed to complete the Inn’s renovation.  The EDA is the applicant for the grant and the non-profit Blue Grass Resource Center, the Inn’s owner, will write the grant and will complete the Planning Grant requirements.

At the meeting, EDA member Henry Budzinski passed out a document with a list of questions summarizing his thoughts on the grant.   He said the EDA is being asked to support millions of dollars in grants to get the Inn completed and with the EDA actually applying for the grants, the EDA is financially responsible.   He said if the EDA and the Blue Grass Resource Center don’t meet the obligations of the grant, the county would be responsible for financial costs.   Budzinski said there should be answers for his basic questions if the EDA is going to obligate the county to back millions in funding.  Budzinski requested that the Board of the Blue Grass Resource Center attend the EDA’s April meeting and present a briefing and answers to the list of questions he presented.  Budzinski’s handout contained a list of sixteen questions regarding the Inn’s business plan, fundraising plan, cash on hand, projected donations, construction cost estimate, plans for finding an operator and plans for if the grant is not fully funded, among others.

EDA Economic Development Officer and Blue Grass Resource Center Representative Betty Mitchell said they won’t have answers to all the questions by April.  EDA member Jamie Collins, along with other EDA members, said that part of a Planning Grant is to develop answers to these questions.   Mitchell said this is a competitive grant and if they don’t have good information on the application, they won’t get the grant.  EDA member Kirk Billingsley said the grant will require that the Blue Grass Resource Center have the matching funds, otherwise the grant wouldn’t be awarded.  Billingsley said he did not want the EDA to send the document to the Blue Grass Resource Center Board, because this seemed like a roadblock for an organization that is trying to do something for Highland.  He said getting all the questions answered by April is premature.

Jamie Collins made a motion to table action on the document, to not take it to the Blue Grass Resource Center and to not ask that a presentation be made to the EDA until the Blue Grass Resource Center is prepared to do so.   The motion passed, with Budzinski opposed and EDA member Valerie Lowry saying she saw no reason to not have some type of presentation to get some questions answered.

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Bonnie Ralston

Bonnie Ralston is the Assistant Station Coordinator at WVLS and a Highland County news reporter. She began volunteering at Allegheny Mountain Radio in the fall of 2005. In 2006 she became an AMR employee and worked in Bath County for eight years as the WCHG Station Coordinator and then as the news reporter there. She began working in radio while in college and has stayed connected to radio, in one way or another, for more than thirty years. She grew up in Staunton, Virginia, while spending a lot of time on her family’s farm in Deerfield, Virginia. She enjoys spending time outside, watching old TV shows and movies and tending to her chickens.

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