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Tensions continue over the proposed HELP Center, and one supervisor wonders if race is the reason people are so negative
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By CATHY DYSON
THE FREE LANCE-STAR
Tensions are simmering again over the HELP Center, a proposed health and human services complex in King George County, to the point that one supervisor suspects race is the reason.
"There's a lot of animosity because we gave this woman--an African-American woman--some land, and people got a problem with that," said Supervisor Cedell Brooks Jr., the only black member of the board. "Why are they so hard on this woman and her project?"
"This woman" is Fronce Wardlaw, director of the nonprofit group Project FAITH.
She presented her annual report to the Board of Supervisors Tuesday and asked to delay the start of construction of the HELP Center from Feb. 28 to
After Wardlaw's brief remarks, supervisors Dale Sisson Jr. and Joe Grzeika started asking questions--at which point Brooks said he was tired of hearing "all the negativity" associated with the project within the King George community.
"The woman's working hard to get this thing done, and everything's got to be so negative," said Brooks, who told The Free Lance-Star recently that he's seeking re-election in November because the HELP Center is one of several projects he wants to see completed.
This past May, after more than three years of discussions, the county agreed to give Project FAITH 5.5 acres of land for the center. The 42,000-square-foot building would cost $8.4 million to build and includes offices for health and social services, a free clinic, community college classes and a commercial kitchen serving free meals, all under one roof.
It took months for King George and Project FAITH to sign off on a performance agreement, which stated the county would get the land back if Wardlaw didn't meet the terms.
At the May supervisors' meeting, several residents said they opposed the county giving up prime land off State Route 3, next to the new Sheriff's Office. Others, who currently rent space to some agencies that would relocate to the proposed center, said the new development would take business away from them.
It was the first time during the three-year discussion that anyone voiced opposition to the center. Also in that time, no one came forward with a proposal, as Wardlaw did.