By Callie Hietala
A new pavilion, located behind the Henry County Administration Building, was built using federal funds to help during the pandemic.
While it has been the topic of recent discussions, partially due to requests for pay raises to law enforcement officers and funding for new equipment for local volunteer fire departments, the new outdoor meeting area was built because the county lacked suitable meeting space for employees, according to Brandon Martin, the county’s public relations and community liaison.
“We have the Summerlin Room where the board meetings are held,” said Martin, “but that room is often booked up. Given that our work encapsulates pretty much everything that goes on in the county, meetings never stop.”
“This problem was only compounded when COVID hit, and it became a health concern to have groups of people in close contact with each other. Under the guidelines for use of the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) funds, constructing an outdoor meeting space was not only considered an allowable expense, but it was also an encouraged one. So, to comply with health guidelines, and an in an effort to keep our workers safe, the outdoor space was built,” he said.
The space is open for schools, courts, constitutional officers, and any other department to use, Martin said. Most recently, the Board of Supervisors used the space on September 28. It also was used by the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court for a meeting on October 8, and county officials met in the space before the SCHOCK economic development announcement last month.
Martin said “the project was approved by the County Administrator (Tim Hall) under emergency procurement, which allows for capital projects under $200,000 to be approved” without a formal vote by the supervisors. “However, the board was made aware of how the county spent all of the CARES funds.”
The total cost of the construction was $176,567, Martin said, and it was funded “completely through CARES money received by the county.”
Work on the building began in 2021. It was completed near the beginning of 2021. Norris Construction, Worley Machine Enterprises, Light Electric Company and Gary Smith, a contractor, were all involved in the construction process, he said.
Documents related to the construction of the pavilion indicate that Smith was paid $49,230 for the concrete foundation and slab for the new facility. Light Electric Company was paid $11,810 to install the pavilion’s electrical service panel and Norris Construction, which built the pavilion, was paid a total of $114,787. Worley Machine Enterprises received $740 for 40 custom plastic spacers for the project, according to the documents.
Martin said a request for proposals (RFP) was not issued for the project because it was not required under emergency procurement guidelines.
The process required for an RFP “inherently does not allow for the speed necessary to respond to an emergency,” he added.
According to documents related to the project, the county received $8,821,806 in CARES funding. The largest expenses were salaries for the Public Safety Department ($6,338,203.76) and $1,102,223.51 for personal protective equipment (PPE), protective shields, and upgrades to bathrooms and entrances; $645,197.28 was used to replace desktops with laptops to facilitate telework and $304,729 was tapped for small business grants. An additional $137,839.89 went toward housing and food assistance, which was primarily done through the United Way of Henry County & Martinsville and the Henry-Martinsville Department of Social Services. About 2 percent of the CARES Act funding went toward construction of the pavilion.