King George supervisors pondering county’s support of Fredericksburg Regional Alliance

by | May 9, 2024 | ALLFFP, Business, Government, King George

Update – The Free Press received the following statement from FRA President Curry Roberts Friday at 1:11 p.m.: “While we are disappointed by the BOS action and whatever their final decision might be, we wish county residents and businesses nothing but the best.  We will continue to provide services to citizens and employers of King George County through our Partnership Agreement with NSWC Dahlgren Division; our newly created entrepreneurial support organization that will serve as a one stop for assistance to entrepreneurs looking to start or grow their business across the Greater Fredericksburg, Northern Neck, and Middle Peninsula regions; and through our operating agreement with UMW which calls for us to assist the Dahlgren Campus as needed.”

It amounted to a minuscule amount of funds in the grand scheme of King George County’s $132.5 million approved fiscal year 2025 budget, but the Board of Supervisors were intent on firing a shot at the Fredericksburg Regional Alliance and Amazon Data Services. 

The board voted 4-1 Tuesday night to move $26,228 of the $26,229 reserved for the FRA to a contingency fund, leaving $1 to the nonprofit organization formed to help localities in Planning District 16 attract businesses. 

Supervisor David Sullins said that does not mean King George is withdrawing from the FRA, which also includes Caroline, Spotsylvania and Stafford counties and the city of Fredericksburg. 

The supervisors left the door open in case new County Administrator Matthew Smolnik wants King George to be a part of the alliance when he takes office June 1. 

However, in an interview with the Free Press, Sullins said the supervisors were making it known they are unhappy with the FRA, believing that it did not do its part in helping the county negotiate a beneficial performance agreement with ADS. 

Charlie Payne, a lawyer for Hirschler Fleischer, which represents Amazon, is the chair of the FRA. 

“We’re basically trying to make a point that when we were trying to get Amazon to work with us, the FRA was very much in the Amazon camp of trying to help them out and not look out for what we felt like would be the best interest of King George,” Sullins said. “We were giving a little over $26,000 a year to be a part of the FRA, and the organization did not do anything to try to advocate for us … Our stance is if you’re not going to help us on that which is your stated mission, why are we giving you $26,000 a year?” 

The King George supervisors, led by Chair T.C. Collins, voted in January to renegotiate a performance agreement with Amazon to construct the first phase of an 869-acre data center campus at the Birchwood power plant on State Route 3 in the Sealston area. 

The previous board — before three newcomers including Sullins arrived — signed the performance agreement in December following months of negotiation. 

Payne and Amazon contend that the performance agreement remains legally enforceable and that the board’s Jan. 2 vote does not revoke or affect the enforceability of the agreement. 

King George Supervisor Ken Stroud is a sitting member of the FRA, while Sullins is an alternate member. Stroud cast the lone vote against the transfer of the funds. He did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment on his decision. 

“I don’t understand why we left $1 in there. I guess that keeps the account open for the potential that we will go back later and reappropriate the money over to them as originally planned,” Sullins said. “We were not seeing any return on the investment as a board. We were giving them money, and nothing was coming back.” 

The FRA helped the localities in the area attract ADS. In March, Gov, Glenn Youngkin touted a $6 billion investment in the region during an event at Germanna Community College’s Spotsylvania campus.  

The FRA also provides services to help local businesses expand, gives detailed statistics on workforce and business trends in the region and promotes events in the area to attract tourists. 

In other business Tuesday, King George set its real estate tax rate at 68 cents per $100 of assessed value, the same rate as FY 2024. Approximately $66.6 million goes to the school division, a $3.7 million increase from last year. Supervisors transferred approximately $2.5 million from the general fund to balance the budget.

Hirschler Fleischer, an individual or organization central to this story, is a major donor to the Free Press. Donors do not influence newsroom operations.

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