One lender canceled the debt, but not the other, leaving the Lewis & Clark Exploratory Center and the Albemarle County Economic Development Authority still working on a repayment plan for a long-standing East County loan. ‘Albemarle.
Albemarle and Charlottesville each loaned the nonprofit center $130,000 in 2013 to build its facility at Darden Towe Park. Charlottesville voted to cancel the loan in 2015, subject to the loan being canceled by Albemarle, but the county has not forgiven the loan.
The center provides a hands-on educational experience using historic shipping as a gateway to Indigenous history, exploration, transportation, arts, science, environment and cultures.
On Tuesday, members of the Lewis & Clark Exploratory Center board spoke with the county development authority board, mostly behind closed doors, about the center’s financial situation.
Malou Stark, chairwoman of the Lewis & Clark Exploratory Center Board, told the county council that the pandemic “has taken a toll on us” and the center reopened last fall with private small-group tours.
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Center board member Sarah Gran said the board had met to specifically address the issue of loan repayment.
“I’m not going back to the past. I was not a board member at the time,” she said. “There is no reason to dwell on this, because we want to move on.”
Gran said they would discuss more details about the center’s finances behind closed doors because “there is information that the executive director and the board did not want to share”.
“Personally, I take it seriously that our debt is repaid to the best of the center’s abilities and what we currently have and what we can do in the future, but we also want to be realistic in what we are capable of. do,” Gran said.
The board did not have a discussion or vote after the hour-plus closed session, where it also discussed two other projects.
Construction on the more than $1.75 million Lewis & Clark Exploratory Center project began in 2011. The center received an $800,000 Virginia Department of Transportation Enhancement Program grant, as well as private donations and grants additional capital and operating expenses.
After a contractor encountered rock while excavating the center’s road and parking areas, the center’s board applied for and received loans of $130,000 from the city and county, resulting in allowed to complete the project.
In 2015, the center demanded that the localities waive the obligation to repay the loans. The city council voted on November 16, 2015, to cancel the loan, which came from the city’s Strategic Investment Fund. The pardon, however, was conditional on Albemarle canceling the loan.
Despite several requests from the Lewis & Clark Center and its board members, the County Board of Supervisors did not approve forgiveness of the loan. The Board of Supervisors gave the money to the County Economic Development Authority for the loan, and the Albemarle EDA is responsible for collecting payments for the loan.
The center paid $4,375 to the county but has not made any payments since October 2017, Albemarle spokeswoman Emily Kilroy said late last year. Since the original loan, there have been two modifications to try to put a payment plan in place.
“That hasn’t been acted on, so the loan is technically in default,” Kilroy said.
Chris Engel, Charlottesville’s director of economic development, said late last year that the city’s loan remains unresolved and continues “to carry the loan as a note receivable until until there is a resolution”.
No ongoing payment to the city was required, he said.
Board members discussed the loan twice in closed meetings at the end of 2019. In January 2020, two board members volunteered to work on loan repayment discussions. ready with the center council, but that was cut short due to the pandemic.
These two members of the Board of Directors are no longer in office.
In January, Albemarle’s director of economic development, Roger Johnson, told the authority it must take action by June 2023 or “lose its legal status”, and the EDA board has decided to invite the center to its March meeting.
At the authority’s meeting in February, board member David Shreve said a loan repayment schedule had not been included in any of the centre’s budget documents that board members county had received.
“One of the things we’re going to have to address is their perception, which seems to be that they’re still looking to get the loan forgiven,” he said. “Our position is that he’s a non-runner, so we’re going to have to get through that very quickly with them.”
The center got into trouble in addition to working on paying off its debt. Stark said the center was “overrun with people using our facilities [for] free, vandalism, tramps, the whole nine meters.
“We were lucky last fall to have a barrier installed,” she said. “It definitely reduced that significantly.”
She didn’t say how the gate was funded.
Stark said she spent time “dealing” with someone on center property who was “injecting heroin right in front of” a mother and child. She said people were sleeping in the life-size replica of the Keelboat in the center.
“Needless to say, we have now ended this little free exposure at campsites,” Stark said.