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King George residents offer support for the HELP Center, ask for FRED bus service to stay and say they aren't opposed to a tax increase
By CATHY DYSON
King George supervisors didn't vote Tuesday on the HELP Center, a proposed complex that would provide services for low-income residents, but a majority favors giving the center county land.
Chairman Cedell Brooks Jr., Ruby Brabo and John LoBuglio said they support giving 5.5 acres in the Government Center on State Route 3 for the complex--with some minor changes to the performance agreement between the county and Project FAITH, the nonprofit organization that will build the center.
Brooks asked County Attorney Matt Britton to add a clause that said no commercial or for-profit ventures would be allowed.
He also asked county officials to survey the property and have a plat recorded so the issue can be voted on in two weeks.
"We've been dealing with this for a long time," Brooks said. "If we're gonna do it, we need to go ahead and do it."
More than three years ago, Project FAITH's director Fronce Wardlaw unveiled a proposal for a 42,000-square-foot center with offices for health and social services, a free clinic, community college classes and a commercial kitchen, all under one roof.
She planned to use grants, low-interest loans and tax credits to pay for the project, whose cost is estimated at between $8 million and $9 million.
No county funds would be spent, although King George offices would rent space in the new complex.
The hearing to give Project FAITH the land was one of four Tuesday during a four-hour session attended by about 50 people.
Eleven residents spoke about the HELP Center, nine talked about the elimination of the FREDericksburg Regional Transit bus service in King George, eight spoke about the county's proposed tax rate and six commented on the budget.
'A VITAL RESOURCE'
Most speakers on the HELP Center echoed resident Maurice Cumberlander, who liked the idea of multiple sources under one roof.
"Consider this as a vital resource for the community," he said.
Ruth Herrink, publisher of the King George Journal, was one of two people who opposed the transaction. She questioned why the county would give away "a prime piece of property" without letting anyone else bid on the chance to provide a building with similar services.
Brooks reminded the group that the county gave land for the King George YMCA, which opened in fall 2008.