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King George officials are talking publicly again about plans for a complex with a raft of services for low-income residents
Above is a rendering of what the King George help center facility would look like.
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By CATHY DYSON
A proposed state-of-the art center where low-income residents in King George County would get a raft of services under one roof is being discussed again publicly, after more than 18 months of negotiations.
"We had some paperwork we had to get straight," said Cedell Brooks Jr., chairman of the King George Board of Supervisors.
Brooks was talking about the performance agreement between the county and Project FAITH, a nonprofit group headed by Fronce Wardlaw.
She has agreed to the county's terms, and the county is considering giving her 5.5 acres in the Government Center, off State Route 3, for the project.
The next step is to gather public comments during a hearing, set for 6:45 p.m. Tuesday in the boardroom of the Revercomb Administration Center.
Wardlaw wants to build a new complex, called the HELP Center, that would include offices for health and social services, a free clinic, community college classes and a commercial kitchen serving free meals, all under one roof.
The 42,000-square-foot center would cost up to $9 million. Wardlaw has offered to build and maintain it at no cost to the county.
Even though supervisors endorsed the idea more than three years ago--Brooks called it "one of the greatest things that ever happened in this region"--the project hasn't moved forward since October 2010.
That's when King George officials agreed to give the land if the county and Wardlaw signed off on a performance agreement.
With past projects, Wardlaw, who has brought $20 million worth of low-income housing into the county, has created entities through which grants, low-interest loans and tax credits were funneled.
She planned to do the same with the HELP Center, but county officials balked at giving county-owned land to a for-profit agency.
So Project FAITH, which is a nonprofit, agreed to be the agency that will handle the grants and loans.
"We've spent the last year making sure measures were taken to protect King George County and to address the concerns of development of the center," Wardlaw said. "I'm very pleased with what the county's done, and I'm very happy with what we've done."
But issues remain.
Last month, Supervisor Joe Grzeika stressed that the HELP Center is to be used for nonprofit groups only.
KING GEORGE PUBLIC HEARINGS SET FOR NEXT WEEK'S MEETINGFEBRUARY 2009: King George supervisors unanimously support design and plans for the HELP Center. MARCH 2010: Supervisors request state and federal grants, tax credits and low-interest loans for construction. The county won't provide money for the project but has to apply for the various grants because Project FAITH, which will build the center, is a nonprofit and can't. OCTOBER 2010: Supervisors agree to give 5.5 acres in the Government Center to the project. The county and Project FAITH sign a memorandum of agreement. DECEMBER 2010: About 30 supporters of the HELP Center encourage supervisors to move forward, but they say little publicly about the project. JANUARY 2011: As Supervisor Cedell Brooks Jr. recovers from a stroke, he meets with fellow Supervisor Dale Sisson Jr., and the two share their support of the project. That is all that is said about the center during public meetings in 2011. FEBRUARY 2012: Brooks says he has met with Project FAITH's Fronce Wardlaw about the center to "see what we can do about that to try and make it happen." MARCH 2012: Supervisors get the signed performance agreement from Wardlaw and agree to hold a public hearing on the matter on April 17.