By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: Nov. 24, 2017 | 4:15 p.m.
PRINCE GEORGE – When paying a visit to the Prince George County Administration building, it is hard to miss the extensive exhibit to the county’s role in the Civil War with significant artifacts and imagery adorning the walls and display cabinets of the first-floor alcove. Now, officials are considering changing out the fixture with one that would honor the county’s namesake.
Prince George Deputy County Administrator Jeff Stoke, along with the Prince George Regional Heritage Center and interior design company Riggs Ward proposed a renovation of the alcove to feature a 3D bust of Prince George of Denmark, along with a number of exhibits in and around the bust.
During a Prince George Board of Supervisors work session, Stoke walked through the proposal to replace the current American Civil War sesquicentennial exhibit with one that would house the bust of Prince George of Denmark, along with exhibits that would focus on the 1700s, The New World, the naming of the county, and other subjects with the bust centered in the middle.
“There is currently no place in the county that looks at our namesake,” Stoke remarked during his presentation. “When most kids think Prince George, they think it’s the kid over in the U.K.,” referring to Prince William and Princess Charlotte’s young son, Prince George of Cambridge.
George of Denmark, who was born in April of 1653 to then-King of Denmark Frederick III and Sophie Amalie of Brunswick-Lüneburg, would eventually marry Queen Anne before dying at age 55 following a recurring lung condition in 1708.
Following the county’s formation in 1703 after being created from a vast area of Charles City County that rested south of the James, it was named in honor of George roughly five years before his death.
According to data provided by the county, cost estimates for the renovation of the alcove and creating the bust of Prince George of Denmark would cost approximately $116,400, with the creation of the bust itself carrying the largest price tag of an estimated $50,000.
Also included in the costs were estimated media and audio/video figures totaling $14,500 for what Riggs Ward’s Mike Radtke explained would be an experience that would “focus on Prince George, his legacy, and connection to the area.”
The proposed funding source for the project is the county’s tourism fund, which is financed through the collection of transient occupancy, or lodging taxes. According to the county, as of 2017, there were 15 properties in the county contributing to that revenue account, which had an unaudited fund balance of $296,896 as of June 30 of this year.
Funds from the tourism fund can only be used for tourism-related projects in a similar vein to how funds from the county’s economic development fund, which receives its revenue through the collection of meals taxes, can only be used for economic development-related projects.
With the largest price tag resting on the centerpiece of the alcove renovation, the bust itself, Prince George Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Robertson questioned if different materials could be used to help drive the cost down some.
According to Radtke of Riggs Ward, there are several options in terms of materials that can be used to create the bust, including fiberglass but, he noted that the decision to use a different material needs to be made early on in the process and that different materials could force alterations to the idea of placing the bust outside the building after such time the county decides to update the alcove with another exhibit.
“The most expensive part would be the actual sculpting of the bust,” Radtke explained.
Others questioned if the bust would be better served in a different location or a good way of spending tourism fund dollars.
Supervisor Alan Carmichael suggested placing the bust at Prince George High School when it has finished serving its purpose inside the proposed refreshed county building alcove.
“I think it would get more attention at the high school in the atrium,” Carmichael remarked before asking county officials if this is the project they want to spend $116,000 on out of the tourism fund.
For County Administrator Percy Ashcraft, he was favorable toward the proposed alcove exhibit refresh.
“There is nowhere in the county where you can go and be reminded of who the county is named after,” Ashcraft said during the work session. “Unless you have Google, you can’t find a picture of him either. We are attempting to do something that will be historic by letting people know of their history and, as we move forward, this display would be temporary, and others will come.”
“The whole purpose behind the proposal to bring forward an image of the man the county is named for and it’s noticeable to me that you can’t go somewhere and find out this history,” he continued.
In addition, Ashcraft answered the question of if this project is the one county staff wants to be financed by tourism funds by saying this alcove exhibit proposal is “behind the times” and tourism funds “should’ve been used for this sooner.”
“This goes nicely with what they are doing at the Prince George County Regional Heritage Center,” the county administrator closed.
Most supervisors were in favor of the idea, with Hugh Mumford suggesting that the bust is made out of a more durable material in case it is decided to place the bust outside in the elements in a park or similar exhibit when another alcove fixture is created.
Supervisors agreed to place a cost cap on the project of $116,400, the amount the bust is estimated to cost, with the hope and desire that the price tag will come down when the item is formally brought before the board for a showing of renderings and possible appropriation of tourism fund dollars.