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The renovation of the Educational and Cultural Center (ECC) Auditorium, which was one of Pittsylvania County's largest projects with CARES Act funding, has been completed. The Pittsylvania County School Board has already hosted two meetings in the facility, which can safely seat dozens of spaced out audience members and has hardware installed to livestream meetings across platforms, and the Board of Supervisors are slated to meet in the new venue for the first time on Tuesday, Jan. 19.
“The renovation of the ECC Auditorium brought on many unforeseen challenges, but Pittsylvania County governing bodies and the public are already benefiting from having this state-of-the-art and spacious facility available for meetings,” said Pittsylvania County Project Manager Nick Morris, who oversaw the renovation. “Pittsylvania County can now allow for in-person, public participation without compromising safety during the pandemic.”
Before the pandemic, the Board of Supervisors would complete committee and work session meetings at the County Administration Building and then host evening business meetings in one of the courtrooms. The Board of Zoning Appeals, the Planning Commission, and other county boards and commissions also utilized the courtroom, while the School Board would meet in a smaller room in the ECC building.
During the pandemic, the ability to have in-person public participation has been tested, as each of the locations used were relatively small and did not allow for many in-person attendees.
"The School Board was able to use the ECC auditorium for its January 2021 meeting," said Pittsylvania County Schools Superintendent Mark Jones. "Each board member and speaker had a microphone and the video equipment toggled between cameras well as the meeting was live-streamed using YouTube. We appreciate this partnership with the Board of Supervisors to hold meetings in this facility."
Pittsylvania County received roughly $10.5 million from the Federal CARES Act, the March stimulus bill that sent $1.8 trillion through all levels of the economy. With those funds, which were targeted for COVID-19 response and items that were not originally in the budget, Pittsylvania County has made significant investments in public safety with purchases of new ambulances and quick response vehicles, assisted Pittsylvania County Schools by providing enough funding for 2,000 laptops to allow for remote learning, and taken on infrastructure projects like the ECC Auditorium renovation, the construction of a new EMS station in Hurt, and the development of a modern, spacious elections center.
“With our federal CARES Act Money, the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors made strategic investments that are not only helping during the pandemic, but will remain useful for years to come,” said Bob Warren, Chairman of the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors. “We are pleased that the newly renovated ECC Auditorium will allow for more public participation in meetings, both in-person and virtually.”
Formerly the home of Social Services, 18 Depot Street will soon be the Pittsylvania County Elections Center. With large training spaces, significant storage, and ample space for spaced out, in-person casting of ballots, the facility will is a major change from the previous facility, which could not house training or hold more than a few voters even before the pandemic. The EMS station in Hurt is still being developed and is slated to be completed later this year.
Originally $200,000 was set aside for the auditorium renovation, but unforeseen issues with the ceiling caused an increase in the price tag. That increase is being offset by other projects like the elections center coming in under budget.
The deadline to spend CARES Act funds was recently extended from Dec. 30, 2020 to Dec. 30, 2021.
The Board of Supervisors has several meetings scheduled at the new facility, which is located at 39 Bank Street, on Tuesday, Jan. 19.