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Tobacco Commission trims county’s request for Riverstone funding request

SoVaNow.com / April 19, 2010
Halifax County’s request for $2.25 million to upgrade electrical capacity at Riverstone Technology Park was knocked down a few pegs by a Virginia Tobacco Commission panel on Thursday.

The Southside Economic Development Committee, heeding advice from staff, recommended an award of $471,000 to the Halifax County Industrial Development Authority (IDA) for a building upfit at Riverstone Technology Park’s Building One, and also to start work on a power upgrade to accommodate data centers that may locate there.

The IDA had requested $2,250,000 for the infrastructure upgrade, which officials argue is needed to lure potential data centers to the park. The majority of the money would have been used to upgrade an existing Dominion Power substation and run a 24 KV power line to Riverstone to provide 20 MW of power.

In making the application for Tobacco Commission funds, the IDA pointed to inadequate electrical capacity as a potential stumbling block to recruiting data centers to the site. IDA officials said that work needs to begin now to increase capacity from 9 to 20 MW.

IDA Executive Director Mike Sexton, said the funding is needed because “it takes a long time to get these things done” and “we don’t want to lose a project because we’re not in a position to win it.”

The IDA application listed two aspects to the $2.25 million grant request — $271,000 to be used for mechanical and electrical work and a minor upfit at Building One, and $2 million to add a transformer to the Riverstone park substation and complete other infrastructure.

On Thursday, the Southside Economic Development committee recommended awarding the $271,000 for the building upfit, contingent on an executed lease agreement for the Riverstone One space prior to the disbursement of funds. The other $200,000 would pay for engineering design work for the power upgrades. The Tobacco Commission has asked for a detailed budget from Dominion, justifying the power upgrade expense.

Halifax IDA Chairman John Cannon, who also serves on the Tobacco Commission and attended Thursday’s committee meeting in Roanoke, said the recommendation for $200,000 will allow the IDA to go forward with the engineering design of the power upgrade. Design work should take at least six months, Cannon said, noting that the entire project would likely take one and a half to two years to complete.

“This (the design) is a necessary step we needed to make,” Cannon said.

He added that the IDA will likely go back to the Tobacco Commission once the design is completed and ask for more money, depending on what prospects the County has for potential users.

On another Halifax County application, this one from the Halifax Educational Foundation, Inc., the committee recommended approval of the $185,000 request for the balance of construction funds needed for achieving a LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certification. The funds would be used for a gray water collection system ($98,160), casework and maple flooring certified by the Forest Stewardship Council ($34,200) recycled materials for conference center (auditorium), seating and bathroom partitions ($24,764) continuing waste recycling program on the jobsite ($5,876) and for a LEED manager to complete and submit documents and reporting for certification ($22,000).

The total cost of the project which is scheduled for completion in December includes $4 million from Kasper Mortgage Capital for historic tax credit and $6 million from the Tobacco Commission’s special projects.

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