Culpeper Star-Exponent: Three big checks: Culpeper officials accept $1 million in federal earmarks

CULPEPER STAR-EXPONENT

Local government leaders last week happily accepted more than $1 million in federal budget earmarks for three Culpeper projects during a visit to town from Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-7th.

The local congresswoman presented two large ceremonial checks, “not legal tender,” she said Wednesday at Lenn Park, recipient of $132,777 of the total award. The popular Stevensburg gathering place will see improved accessibility with the funding.

“The investments that we are celebrating here today would not have been possible without the planning, the advocacy and the leadership of local community and organizational leaders,” said Spanberger. “We are here to celebrate the impact that these federal dollars will have on Culpeper, impacts in improving our spaces for community residents or educational events to gather together and to spend time outdoors.”

The Carver Center was a bigger winner in the federal earmarks announced in March, receiving $500,000 to improve the original, 75-year-old auditorium at historic George Washington Carver Regional High School.

The funding will help the Carver Center continue to be a hub for educational and agricultural programs, Spanberger said.

“I am very proud of what has been done in Carver so far,” said Jane Pollard of the George Washington Carver Regional High School Alumni Association.

She praised the work of the Carver Center with particular attention paid to its museum which occupies the space which was once the library in the African-American school serving four counties. With the latest earmark, the Carver Center, auditorium — which also serves as the district’s voting site — will get additional fixed seating, lighting, stage repairs and audio-visual improvements.

A local church has been leasing the auditorium space for years.

At Lenn Park, the federal earmark will bring it in compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards, ensuring residents of all ages and abilities can enjoy the trails, fields and gardens. The 85-acre park currently has gravel and crushed stone parking lots and trails, making amenities inaccessible to many residents, according to a release from Spanberger’s office.

Culpeper County will use the money to grade and pave parking lots and trail loops around the softball fields, dog park, fitness equipment, amphitheater, pollinator garden and shelter.

“It has really been one of the board’s priorities to address access to recreational services for all, regardless of ability and or age,” said Andrew Hardy, director of the Culpeper County Department of Parks and Recreation.

“It has been a priority of the board to increase quality of life services to the residents of this community,” he said.

Later in the day at the police station, Spanberger gave a third check for $380,000 to Culpeper Police Chief Chris Settle, for developing a critical incident vehicle to respond in times of crisis. Funding came from the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program.

“A vehicle that will have a lasting impact on our community, not just Culpeper but Culpeper County and our neighbors, the counties next door to us. It will provide a pretty robust platform for our UAB drone program as well,” Settle said. “This vehicle will provide support, command and control for critical incidents, those incidents that we don’t plan for but also provide a platform for our planned special events.”

Settle said that there would be no armor on the vehicle, a grant restriction.

The federal earmark will improve citizen safety and keep federal dollars local, said Culpeper Mayor Frank Reaves Jr.

Charles Junior Perryman, President of the Culpeper County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association, agreed, remarking on the police department drone program, which will be part of the critical incident vehicle.

“It has been extremely beneficial to us. I don’t know if you know what it’s like to put your arms around 265 acres when it’s on fire. It’s very difficult to know where it is moving and where it’s going and what’s in its path and the drone program really helped us assess the situation when we were well into the incident,” he said.

The $380,000 critical incident, sprinter-type vehicle will be used as a mobile platform to provide first responders with real-time intelligence during critical situations. It will also be used as a central command post during large community events, such as festivals and parades, according to the release.

Three weeks ago, the Culpeper County Board of Supervisors sent in another round of budget earmark requests for some more community projects.

The county has been successful in receiving federal budget earmarks for three rounds of funding since the program was renewed in Congress, including the latest awards.

The new funding requests would support construction of the long-anticipated Simms Drive extension, providing a needed transportation link for two elementary schools; improvements and expansion of the county’s public safety and E911 center; and entrance improvements at the Carver Center.

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