The Waterford Foundation will receive $150,000 from the county government to help it recover from the cancellation of the village’s fair in October.
The foundation cancelled the Waterford Homes Tour & Craft Exhibit for the first time in its 72-year history amid a declared state of emergency around Hurricane Joaquin. Loudoun escaped damage from the hurricane, but the foundation, financially, did not.
Waterford Foundation Executive Director Tom Kuehhas wrote to the county asking it to help defray the sunk costs of the cancelled fair, which he estimated at $250,000. Kuehhas wrote that the foundation estimates the Waterford fair pumps $4.5 million of visitors’ money into Loudoun businesses each year.
“There is no available cash within the foundation to fund this, so the likelihood that the fair will not happen if we don’t fund it is very possible,” said Supervisor Geary M. Higgins (R-Catoctin). Higgins lives near Waterford and has been involved with the foundation, including recently serving as honorary chair at the foundation’s Valentine’s Sweetheart Ball.
The money comes from the county’s transient occupancy tax on visitor stays at hotels, motels and other businesses offering guest rooms. Part of the revenue from that tax is set aside for promoting tourism and travel to Loudoun.
Some supervisors were hesitant about giving the Waterford Foundation the money.
“I really think that in doing this for 72 years, that the Waterford Foundation would have put aside a little bit of reserve each year, because in 72 years, something’s going to go wrong sooner or later,” said Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn). Buona said he supported the allocation only because the money comes from the restricted transient occupancy tax fund, which is set aside for economic development.
Supervisor Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) suggested the money come with a caveat: that the foundation purchase event insurance. That amendment was incorporated into Higgins’ motion to grant the request.
Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) said it would have been wise for the foundation to purchase insurance. Nonetheless, she supported the payout because it is the first time the Waterford Foundation has requested public funds for the event.
“There are sometimes reasons for exceptions to the rule, and a hurricane is a pretty good exception to the rule reason,” Randall said.
“Being a bailout fund for nonprofit events, I think, falls well outside the scope of our county government,” protested Supervisor Ron A. Meyer Jr. (R-Broad Run).
The motion passed 8-1, Meyer opposed.