BRISTOL, Va. - The future of a proposed medical school is in jeopardy after the project's biggest benefactor put a freeze on funds.
The Virginia Tobacco Commission voted Thursday to suspend payment of $1,000,000 to be given to the King School of Medicine for development. "We want to see some progress being made. [It's been] three years and we haven't seen some hard evidence that this is actually going to go forward," said commissioner Senator Bill Carrico.
$40,000,000 is pledged to the project -- an additional $24,000,000 from the Tobacco Commission and $7.5 million from both Washington County, Virginia and the town of Abingdon.
School developers only need to come up with $10 million, but so far have nothing. "It raises a lot of red flags," said Washington County Supervisor Bill Gibson."I've never been opposed to the King School of Medicine concept, but I am opposed to the tax dollars of Washington County and Abingdon citizens paying the bill."
The school's interim president Tariq Zaidi tells News 5 he's not concerned. "We believe that as we go into the fourth quarter of this year we will be able to make some significant announcements regarding partnerships and some other goals we've set," said Zaidi.
Senator Carrico and others say time's up. "If they can't materialize anything, then we need to walk away. we need to go back to the drawing board and see what else is out there," said Carrico.
"As much as you want to be able to get out in front of it and show deliverables," said Zaidi. "Sometimes it takes time to show those, and people that aren't actually in the process don't see things going on at the same pace as is truly going on."
Zaidi asked for, and was given, an extension until January to show progress on raising private sector funds for the school.
The Washington County Board of Supervisors voted recently to give the school an extension as well. That extension runs out in mid-January 2014.