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Supervisors approve land giveaway for HELP Center on split vote

LoBugio flip-flops again and provides swing vote

King George Supervisor John LoBuglio left numerous constituents with whiplash last week after he slammed on the brakes and again reversed his position on his vow to delay a vote on giving county land to Project FAITH for a HELP Center.

The action on the land giveaway took place at last Tuesday’s meeting of the Board of Supervisors on May 1, passing on a split vote of 3-2. 

The day before, LoBuglio had met informally with 20 residents on Monday, April 30, 

vowing he would seek to delay a vote scheduled for the county to give away 5.53 acres of land fronting on Route 3 (Kings Hwy). The land is located in the county’s new Government Center east of Route 205 (Ridge Road) and across from the Sheriff’s office building under construction. 

Most of those members with whom LoBuglio had met were present at the Tuesday meeting, with several of them speaking against the proposed action during public comment time.

LoBuglio hadn’t promised to vote against giving the land giveaway at the citizens meeting, though some who heard or spoke with him, might have gotten that impression. 

But LoBuglio had firmly stated on the day before the scheduled vote that he would urge a delay to allow for details of the proposal and its ramifications for the county to be revealed and understood by both Supervisors and the public. 

But at last week’s meeting, there was no discussion of delay by LoBuglio. He instead gave a long-winded, confusing account about the “investigating and analysis” that he said he had done that day, specifically several times citing his conversation with county attorney Matt Britton. 

LoBuglio said he spent “the entire day today checking out and looking into” it. He added, “I’m not influenced by people just saying things. What drives me to my conclusion are the hard facts, and that.” 

Yet, following the meeting, The Journal asked if he had actually read the proposed deed and performance agreement contained in the meeting packet that was distributed to board members late last week. LoBuglio responded, “Not all of it.”

Though the facts appear to contradict it, LoBuglio also stated that the county will be paying less rent for housing the departments in the new HELP center, than currently, saying, “We’re not going to be shelling out as much as we currently have to rent.” He added, “The language pretty much satisfies me that if something were to happen with this, it reverts back to the county and we would then negotiate with the creditors of Project FAITH.”

Chairman Cedell Brooks and Ruby Brabo voted with LoBuglio. Joe Grzeika and Dale Sisson voted against the action. 

Grzeika particularly had problems in regard to the point about the county’s potential to be in the position of negotiating with creditors, should the project fall through down the line. 

After stating that he thought the Help center was an admirable concept, Grzeika stated, “But giving land to achieve this I think is in direct conflict with best practices, from a government standpoint.” He added, “I believe this concept could work in the commercial market without any county aid.”

Grzeika added, “I take issue with this whole reversion clause. I got caught up in the performance agreement and then I went back to the deed and the county is subordinate. If we did take it back we also get the liability. And to my knowledge, I don’t know where the funds are to fund that liability. So, if something goes wrong, we end up with the property that we end up having to pay for that we gave to somebody. We have two vacant buildings today. We have Ralph Bunche and we have the old middle school. If we are intent on putting up the places that we are leasing today, we have options. We can support them on property that we already own, and actually are looking for some viable use for.” 

Grzeika also said, “So I’m not going to be able to support giving this property under any condition for this project and I don’t want it to say that I don’t value and support what the Help center could be.  I just think it’s the wrong approach.”

Sisson said that it was an admirable concept, but wanted to review more information about it.

He added that he had not had time to review a bunch of documents related to the matter that had been forwarded to members of the Board that day. 

But Sisson didn’t realize that he was wrong in that respect. He had likely reviewed them the first time they were provided from Project FAITH executive director Froncé Wardlaw, because what was sent that day was more than two years old, and even addressed locating the building on another piece of property. (See last week’s issue for article for more information about the project or click here to see last week's on-line article or here for earlier article)

 

Phyllis Cook

 

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