Chester County tables vacant property purchase

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By Kendall Patterson

The controversy on whether the county should or should not spend the county’s American Rescue Plan money (COVID-19 Relief money) on the vacant Regions bank building continues.
Mayor Barry Hutcherson asked the commission to table the decision until more guidelines are released. Hutcherson said that the U.S. Treasury is expected to give final guidance on the ARP funds in September.
In the last commission meeting, it was passed that the commission would consider use of the funds to purchase the vacant Regions bank building. Additionally, it was previously said that the comptroller indicated the building could be purchased with the funds to provide county employees offices more space for social distancing and the drive-thru would allow for help if another pandemic was to arise.
In voting, the motion passed to consider the purchase of the vacant building with nine for considering buying the building and eight against.
Commissioners for considering the purchase of the regions building were: Larry Blackstock, Andrea Holland, Ann Moore, Carolyn Higgins, Russell Clayton, Jerry Emerson, Sandra Highers, Diane Jordan and Mike Alexander.
Commissioners against the motion were: Johny Garner, Jerry Lowe, Al Mckinnon, Jackie Butler, Joseph Melaro, Barry Smith, Tim Crowe and Todd Lewis.
Now Hutcherson says that the comptrollers say to wait to finalize any plans to spend the funds.
The vote to table the consideration passed in a vote of 13 for and one against with Jackie Butler voting against it.
While the commission discussed the situation, Commissioner Joseph Melaro addressed Mayor Hutcherson about sending the wrong information out in regards to if the county does not spend the money.
“Besides the information you shared, Mayor, you shared some inaccurate information as well,” Melaro said, adding that mail from the Mayor’s Office said unused portions will go to other counties.
“It clearly says on the guidance… that unused portions will go back to the federal government.”
Melaro also addressed Hutcherson about why the last Budget Committee meeting minutes were not in their packet.
“The budget committee meeting was on some other subjects,” Hutcherson said.
When asked if there was anything discussed about the regions bank building by Melaro, Hutcherson asked Commissioner Tim Crowe if there was anything discussed about the vacant Regions building.
Crowe said, “It wasn’t what was officially on the agenda for the night but yes there was discussion about the Regions building. There was no vote or action taken that night, but there was discussion.”
Melaro pushed having a public forum on how to spend the COVID-19 relief funds as well, because he said that was another guideline from the comptrollers.
“Sounds like a lack of transparency to the citizens in this city,” an audience member said aloud.
Later in the meeting, the commission appointed Terry Bell to the commission to fill in the empty District six seat. Bell won the seat after getting the majority of nine votes. Other citizens running for the position were Ronald Moton and Renee Phelps.
The Litter Grant Resolution was passed.
The county approved giving each Dixie Youth team going to the World Series $500 each.
At the end of the meeting, Hutcherson announced that the Chester County Carl Perkins Center sent in a letter that COVID-19 impacted the center’s ability to provide services on top of the current obstacles in their current location.
The letter stated that the Carl Perkins Center is interested in the Regions Bank Building, and did tour the Regions building in March to see the center could utilize the building with minimal renovations. “We do not want to interfere or create additional burdens or discourse around the decision of the Regions bank building, we graciously come to you, asking the commissioners and the county Mayor, Mayor Hutcherson to review and consider here marking American Rescue Plan funds, which would allow us the ability to secure a building for the Chester County Child Advocacy Center. The Regions Bank Building serves as a template for what the center needs in order to provide all services.”
Hutcherson said that it would be considered.
Commissioner Tim Crowe and Chester County Sheriff Blair Weaver expressed support of the center’s role in the community.
“They do an amazing job… They provide a very strong asset to the community and county,” Crowe said.

Joseph Melaro questioned Mayor Barry Hutcherson during Monday’s meeting concerning possible incorrect information distributed to commissioners by the mayor’s office.
Terry Bell was appointed to the empty District Six seat during Monday’s County Commission meeting.

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