County commissioners delayed a vote on a partnership with the Research Triangle Park Monday night that would establish Frontier Warren, an entrepreneur center in the county seat. The delay frustrated Chairman Tare “T” Davis, who made it clear he expected approval of a Memorandum of Understanding in regard to the project before the board’s monthly meeting was adjourned.
After introducing the item, which Davis said he had added to the agenda, Commissioner Jennifer Pierce asked that it be tabled until the commissioners’ Dec. 12 work session because she hadn’t read the MOU.
Davis asked that County Attorney Hassan Kingsberry give an overview.
Kingsberry explained that Frontier Warren is a collaboration with the Research Triangle Foundation, which oversees the Research Triangle Park, the town of Warrenton and the county that will serve as a business incubator and partner with schools. He said that the MOU looked fine for the county to enter into and that he had made some changes to the document, including adding a sentence that it was not legally binding and specifying Warrenton as a collaborator.
Kingsberry said that “the meat” of the issue—financial obligation—wasn’t in the MOU.
Vice Chairman Victor Hunt questioned the urgency for a vote and said he was leery of voting on something he had not had an opportunity to read.
“What I’ve seen and what I’ve heard, I fully support the concept,” Hunt said. “I don’t know what the vision is, the goal is, and the expected outcome.”
He asked for clarification for why the vote couldn’t wait a week.
Davis said he wanted the county to let the Research Triangle Foundation know that Warren County is interested in doing business. He said if the board moved forward, he planned to appoint a five-member committee to work out other details of the partnership.
Pierce said she didn’t want the county to miss an opportunity, after learning that the Research Triangle Foundation board had approved the MOU last month, and she was OK with it.
The Warrenton Town Board also approved the MOU last month.
“I definitely would want to be involved, so the county isn’t on the hook for anything the county doesn’t need to be on the hook for,” Pierce added.
Commissioner Berta-dean Baker said she needed more understanding and to read the document.
Economic Development Director Stacy Woodhouse, who had answered several questions about the project, said it was the same one he had presented to the commissioners in closed session in the fall.
Still pushing for a vote, Davis, who confirmed during the meeting that the MOU had been sent to commissioners’ county email addresses, described the partnership as a once in a lifetime opportunity and a chance for the county to grow. He admitted that he asked the county attorney to explain some parts of the MOU that he didn’t understand.
“You said you read it and didn’t understand it and went to the attorney,” Baker retorted, still pushing for a delay.
At that point, Davis gave up.
“In the spirit of transparency, I called every single commissioner that’s at this table and talked about this,” he said. “So I don’t want anybody to leave out of this room thinking that Commissioner Davis just threw this on the agenda without any conversation with all of you all.”
He said the item would be on the agenda for a vote at the board’s work session on Thursday, Dec. 12. The meeting will be held at the Warren County Armory Civic Center starting at 6 p.m. with a broadband public forum. The work session will follow.
Also during Monday’s meeting, the board took action including the following:
- Approved a five-year lease extension for the Heritage Quilters on the county-owned Hendrick House through Dec. 1, 2024 at $1 per year.
- Made appointments to the Facilities Review Ad Hoc Committee, Local Emergency Planning Committee, Board of Health and Keep Warren County Beautiful Committee.
- Authorized up to $1,000 for a Veterans Services Gala on Dec. 28 at the Warren County Civic Center Armory.
- Approved employee bonuses of $300 plus a flex day off this month.
- Approved the 2020 schedule for commissioners’ meetings.
- Changed next week’s broadband forum and board work session to Thursday, Dec. 12, at 6 p.m. at the Warren County Armory Civic Center.
In the annual organizational meeting that preceded the board’s meeting, Tare “T” Davis and Victor Hunt were unanimously re-elected chairman and vice chairman, respectively. Other standard appointments were made without personnel changes including the county attorney, clerk and deputy clerk to the board, finance officer and tax office personnel.