By Greg Jordan
For The Register-Herald
Funding for a multi-use event center/equestrian park and a request for funding from an area transit authority were on the agenda Tuesday for the Mercer County Commission.
The commission voted unanimously during its February meeting to authorize the Development Authority of Mercer County to return approximately $84,000 to the volunteer EQIC committee so it can consider hiring a project director. The director would focus on the development of a multi-purpose park/ equestrian center.
Members of the development authority and volunteers have been working for several years to find a site and funding to develop the park. Possible sites have been found in the vicinity of Interstate 77 Exit 14 near Gardner. A study by Stafford Consultants has determined that the project is still feasible, according to Janet Bailey, the development authority’s executive director.
Neither the county nor the development authority was in a position to hire a project director, Bailey said. The EQIC committee will consider options during the development authority’s board of directors meeting on Feb. 19.
“It’s not to say the equestrian park is dead,” said Bailey, who could not attend Tuesday’s county commission meeting. “There’s still a lot of talk about an equestrian center, just maybe on a smaller scale. We just have to do more research to see if we can find the funding and actually have a project, if maybe on a smaller scale.”
The EQIC committee is made up of volunteers from Mercer County with one volunteer from Bland County, Va., Bailey said.
In other business, General Manager Patrick McKinney of the Bluefield Transit Authority requested $9,000 from the county commission. The authority is trying to offset funds it will lose when it moves into its new facility along John Nash Boulevard in Bluefield.
“We’re getting a new facility which was fully funded through state and federal funds,” McKinney said. “We’re a big part of the community.”
Last year the transit authority, which has stops throughout Mercer County, carried approximately 206,000 passengers, he said.
The transit authority will lose $36,000 in federal funding when it moves to John Nash Boulevard, McKinney said. The authority is now in a building owned by the city of Bluefield and allowed to stay without paying rent.
“The value of that rent is called in kind,” he stated. “The city doesn’t charge us any kind of rent, but I could take that value – which is $36,000 – and pull down $36,000 in federal funds.”
County Commission President Mike Vinciguerra said after the meeting that the commission would not know if $9,000 will be available until it compiles its next budget.
“We would love to do it if it’s at all possible,” he said.
The commission appointed Paul Hodges of the Mercer County Board of Education to fill the seat on the Mercer County Board of Health vacated by former commissioner Jay Mills.
The commission also voted to accept the resignation of Nelson Walker from the Development Authority of Mercer County board of directors. Walker said in a letter to the commission that he was resigning for health reasons.
— Greg Jordan is a writer for The Bluefield Daily Telegraph