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Another marathon session of the Rappahannock County Board of Supervisors ended close to 11 p.m. Wednesday night with a 4-1 vote to table consideration of the Schools Connector Trail until its organizers can deliver an irrevocable letter of credit.
Hampton district supervisor John Lesinski was the only supervisor to vote against the motion.
With that vote the BOS refused to sign the legal documents that would authorize the necessary agreements between the county, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), the PATH Foundation, and RappTrails, the founding organization led by Rappahannock County resident Jane Whitfield.
The idea for the letter of credit cropped up in the August BOS meeting as the latest ploy by the opposition, including Jackson district supervisor Ron Frazier, to attempt to block the project. An irrevocable letter of credit is a financial instrument with a bank guaranteeing funds.
Frazier and others claim that taxpayer funds would be used to build the 1.2 mile trail connecting the Rappahannock County elementary and high schools, despite explanations surrounding financing by County Administrator Garrey Curry, Whitfield and others close to the project.
Whitfield tried to explain in both the August meeting and last Wednesday that RappTrails would have access to over $1.1 million dollars in VDOT and PATH Foundation grants and private donations, so no taxpayer funds would be necessary.
Over $200,000 in cash would be available to the county as soon as the legal documents were signed. The money, said Whitfield, would be deposited in the county’s bank account. Having the money in hand is better than a letter of credit, she argued.
In an email Thursday to the Rappahannock News, Curry said: “I believe my core purpose as the County Administrator is to provide objective information to the Board of Supervisors in a transparent manner so they can make informed decisions on behalf of the citizens . . .
“I believe that facts informed the Board’s decision, not hyperbole and personal attack, and as such I ask that we collectively support an objective process as I continue forward working with the Rappahannock Trails Coalition to identify changes to the agreement with the County that provide protection against a scenario in which project costs could burden our locally collected tax revenue.”
In a separate email, Whitfield said on Thursday: “To date, in partnership with the schools and the county, RappTrails has raised nearly $1.1 million for the Schools Connector Trail. This is a terrific accomplishment, and shows the potential that Rappahannock County has for leveraging outside funds for projects that benefit our community.
“At [Thursday’s] meeting,” she continued, “many people spoke passionately on both sides of the issue. It is clear that there is still work to be done and that some members of the community want more detailed information. In the end, the Supervisors asked RappTrails to consider providing even more financial backing, over and above the $1.1 million we have already raised. We will consider our best course of action over the coming weeks.”