IDA

Members of the Halifax County Industrial Development Authority hear from Lynchburg doctor and hemp farmer in the Nathalie community Dr. Brenda Waller as they meet for the last time in 2020 Friday morning in the IDA boardroom.

A community member, Dr. Brenda Waller, queried the Halifax County Industrial Development Authority about her offer to purchase the former Daystrom building at the board’s Friday morning meeting in the IDA boardroom.

Waller, a Lynchburg doctor and hemp farmer in the Nathalie community, told the board she had recently sent an email to the IDA renewing her offer to purchase the former Daystrom building (also known as the Southern Virginia Advanced Manufacturing Center) on Greens Folly Road, and had never received a response to that email.

“I made an offer again to purchase the building as is, and I’d like that to be entertained by the board,” Waller said. “I was entertained by the chairman of the Halifax County Board of Supervisors, Mr. Hubert Pannell, and Mr. Jeff Francisco (board member) a couple of months ago. We had a brief discussion about it, and that’s where the conversation has ended. So, I’m here today to petition you to renew my offer and to give me a response, one way or the other.”

Earlier this year, Waller had had discussions with former IDA executive director Brian Brown expressing her interest in purchasing the former Daystrom building, which she viewed as an ideal home base for her medical practice as well as a life science research center.

But the former Daystrom building was taken off the market in the spring of this year, as the IDA board voted to accept a $50,000 grant from the Virginia Brownfields Restoration and Economic Redevelopment Assistance Fund to do additional environmental assessment at the former Daystrom site.

At the IDA board’s Oct. 16 meeting, Brown shared with the IDA board and the Halifax County Board of Supervisors the results of a Phase II environmental assessment of the former Daystrom site conducted by Draper Aden Associates. IDA’s former executive director said 11 areas of concern were identified, including reddish stains seeping through the concrete floor in the two largest portions of the building.

Brown said no tenant could occupy those portions of the building until that problem was addressed. At the meeting, the two boards discussed the pros and cons of pouring more money into the former Daystrom building to bring it up to a clean bill of health versus demolishing the building.

“I think it would be a shame if you would entertain demolishing the building,” Waller told the IDA board at Friday’s meeting. “First of all, I don’t think it would serve this county well, I don’t think it would serve your image well…I petition you to seriously consider my offer.”

Another community member, Jamie Morton, also addressed the IDA board in the public comments portion of Friday’s meeting regarding a grant for which she had applied. Morton identified herself as the owner of a “minority-owned farm here in the Halifax community.”

Morton told the board she had submitted an application for the grant, and her application is now “nowhere to be found.” She said she had met with Brown in July and in August regarding the grant application.

“We have put in a lot of work,” Morton said. “We are asking that we are reconsidered.”

Before Friday’s meeting adjourned, board members commented that they were thinking forward to 2021, and moving past the challenges of 2020.

“It has been a somewhat difficult year, but we are hanging in there and moving forward…looking forward to a bright, bright new year,” said board chairman Robert Bates.

The IDA is starting the New Year with new leadership and has lost some old faces that were there at the start of 2020. This month, the noticeably absent seat belonged to former member Brandon Scearce, who submitted his resignation from the IDA board earlier this month.

J. Michael “Mike” Davidson is the current leader of the IDA; he assumed his role as interim executive director in November, after the October firing of former executive director, Brown. Previous IDA executive director Kristy Johnson also has attended the past couple of board meetings, although in an unofficial capacity.

The IDA’s former assistant director, Tracy Mallard, submitted her resignation effective Nov. 9. Mallard told the Gazette Friday that she resigned from her position as IDA assistant director to “seek career opportunities that were more in line with my long-term goals.”

“COVID-19 and other factors changed the scope of my position, and I felt it no long aligned with my long-term goals,” Mallard explained.

The remaining board members are Robert Bates (chairman), Rick Harrell, Mattie Cowan, Nancy Pool, Jeremy Satterfield and Ryland Clark.

Miranda Baines is a staff writer for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact her at mbaines@gazettevirginian.com.

Miranda Baines is a staff writer for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact her at mbaines@gazettevirginian.com.