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$53,364.65 written off; new policy needed to handle bad debt on utility accounts

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B.J. Wilson, Front Royal Director of Finance advised Council on staff recommendations regarding bad debts. Photo and video by Mark Williams, Royal Examiner.

The Front Royal Town Council has requested that Town staff research historic values on business utility accounts and review options for collecting bad debt on utility accounts associated with business accounts, such as LLC’s or Inc.

During the last three years the Town has written off $53,364.65 associated with business utility accounts; which equates to approximately 10% of the total dollar amount written off and 5% of the number accounts for the previous 3 years. The business accounts are usually some of the larger dollar figures being written off each year due to the commercial use. A small number of accounts makes up a larger amount of the total dollars written off.

One concern the Town has relating to business accounts is that the owner may have multiple accounts under different names due to having separate LLC’s or incorporated businesses. Each LLC or Corporation is treated as a separate entity, so currently the only means the Town has to collect is from the specific LLC or Corporation.

A solution to collecting on business accounts could be to require either a personal guarantee or if the responsible party is not willing to sign a personal guarantee require an additional amount for deposit. The document following this cover sheet illustrates possible wording to assist in collection of possible bad debt on business utility accounts. This could be adopted to be enforced on all current utility accounts or adopted to be enforced on future utility accounts moving forward from a specific date.

Town staff recommends for Council to approve the additional section in Town Code as you’ll see presented to assist in the collection of bad debt.

 

Here’s the proposed ordinance amendment:

134-71 UTILITY ACCOUNTS-PAYMENTS/TERMINATION OF SERVICE

A. DEPOSIT:

  1. Amount: For an existing residential service location, the deposit required for Town utility services shall be an amount equal to the highest monthly bill for that location during the preceding twelve months or one hundred and twenty-five dollars ($125.00), whichever is greater.
    For an existing commercial service location, the deposit required for Town utility services shall be an amount equal to the highest monthly bill for that location during the preceding twelve months or two hundred dollars ($200.00), whichever is greater. To calculate the amount of the deposit for newly established residential or commercial service locations, the Front Royal Department of Finance shall establish the deposit at an amount equal to the customer’s anticipated monthly usage of water and electric service, as may be the case. If, at any time, the customer’s deposit is waived or returned, as set forth below, but the customer’s service subsequently is terminated for nonpayment or the customer has made four late payments during any twelve month period, a deposit, in an amount as set forth above, shall be required.
  2. Deposit Waiver: Notwithstanding the foregoing, no deposit shall be required hen an acceptable credit history is furnished by the customer from a previous utility provider. Acceptable credit history is defined as a customer who can demonstrate that during the previous twelve months his bills were paid with no more than four (4) late payments on a monthly billing system or no more than two (2) late payments on a bimonthly system.
  3. Payment of Deposit: Payment of the deposit is due upon execution of the service work order. In lieu of the foregoing, when the required deposit for a residential customer exceeds one hundred dollars ($100.00) but is less than two hundred dollars ($200.00), the customer may elect to pay one hundred dollars ($100.00) at the time the work order is executed and pay the balance of the deposit along with payment for the first month’s service. When the required deposit exceeds two hundred dollars ($200.00), the deposit may be paid in two equal installments with one half due when the work order is signed and pay the remaining half along with the payment for the first month’s service.
  4. Interest and Refunds: Deposits shall be held in an interest bearing account.
    Deposit plus interest shall be refunded either: (1) upon termination of the service account in an amount equal to the deposit and accrued interest minus any amount deducted to satisfy customer arrearages or other debts owing to the Town; or (2) upon the customer’s request after a period of twelve months of service during which there were no more than four delinquent payments. Upon request of a refund, the Director of Finance shall first ensure that customer does not have any debts owing to the Town. If the customer is indebted to the Town, the Director of Finance will apply any refund toward satisfaction of these debts prior to the refund of any money to the customer.

B. PAYMENTS:

  1. Due Date – Fines and Charges: All payments for water, sewer, electric, and garbage collection services shall be due within 20 days of the date of billing. Accounts, for which full payment is not received within 20 days, are delinquent. A late charge of 2% of the delinquent bill immediately shall be charged to the delinquent account. If the account remains delinquent for 10 days after the original notice, an additional service charge of $10.00 shall be charged. Finally, a service charge will be required to reconnect service that has been discontinued due to non-payment. If the reconnection occurs during normal business hours, the reconnection fee shall be $20.00-first reconnection fee; $30.00-second reconnection fee; $40.00-third reconnection fee; $50.00-reconnection fee for all other times.
  2. Allocation of Payments: During a delinquency in the payment for any service (electric, water, sewerage, or garbage collection) any subsequent payment received for services will be applied first against the most delinquent account which is not subject to a defense of any applicable statute of limitations.
  3. Budget Billing: Notwithstanding the foregoing, the Director of Finance, in his discretion, may enter into agreements with customers for alternative billing and payment schedules with persons on fixed or limited incomes.

C. TERMINATION OF SERVICES:

  1. Notice: The Director of Finance shall notify the customer in writing of all 20 day delinquencies, imminent service termination, and right to contest as set forth below. Notice also shall be posted on the door of the premise with the delinquent account.
  2. Protest: The customer may contest the bill by contacting the Director of Finance for the Town of Front Royal who will immediately schedule a hearing on the customer’s claim that his account is not delinquent.
  3. Disconnection of Service: If the matter is not successfully contested by the customer and arrearages remain 10 days after the date of the aforementioned notices, water service shall be disconnected. If the account remains delinquent after another 2 days, electric service shall be disconnected. If, however, the customer has not secured water service, electric service (rather than water) will be disconnected after 10 days. Notwithstanding the foregoing, no services shall be disconnected prior to a requested hearing.
  4. Persons in Poor Health: Customer may seek an additional 30 days before water and electric services are disconnected if the Director of the Warren County Health Department certifies in writing to the Town of Front Royal Director of Finance that the customer has a serious medical condition or the customer resides with a family member with a serious medical condition. Upon providing certification the service  termination may be delayed twice within a 12-month period, but may not be consecutive, certification shall be valid for period of 365 days.
  5. Conditions for Reconnection of Service: Once disconnected, services shall not be restored to that customer until the outstanding balance (service fee(s), penalty, and reconnection fee(s)) for that service location is paid in full, unless the Director of Finance has approved other arrangements for payment in full.

D. RETURNED CHECK POLICY:

  • If a check is returned to the Town for any reason, the Director of Finance shall notify, in the same manner as provided above, the Customer. If payment, in full, plus a $35.00 service charge is not received by the close of business three days after the date on the notice, all utility services to the customer’s service location shall be disconnected. If the customer presents the Town with more than two bad checks during any twelve month payment, payment by check will no longer be accepted.

E. BUSINESS ACCOUNTS:

  • The Town shall require any entity not a natural person requesting a utility account to either: (1) provide the written personal guaranty of payment from a natural person holding an ownership interest in the entity or, (2) pay an additional deposit amount equal to the greater of: (a) twice the average monthly utility bill during the preceding twelve (12) month period for utilities provided at the service location or, (b) $375.00. Any deposit paid pursuant to (2), above, after applying same to any past due balances, shall be refunded to the entity within a reasonable time after the utility account is closed.
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EDA in Focus

Tederick to WC: Town can dissolve EDA unilaterally and take half what’s left

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Warren County Administrator Doug Stanley, left, watches as Interim Front Royal Mayor Matt Tederick gears up for some EDA liaison discussion.

Town-County Liaison meetings have tended toward briefly informative, not to mention municipally dry in recent years – enter Interim Front Royal Mayor Matt Tederick and soon-to-be-retiring County Board Chairman Dan Murray.

While it may have been the LAST agenda item to be discussed Thursday, July 18, the Tederick-propelled discussion of dissolution of the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority was FIRST on the list of NOT brief, nor dryly peripheral in recent memory.

One can only wonder what might happen when the full County and Town elected boards and staff gather in one room to continue the discussion. That meeting is being plotted for sooner, rather than later.

But we should work together to straighten this all out, or not: Warren County Board Chairman Dan Murray, County Administrator Doug Stanley and Interim Front Royal Mayor Matt Tederick search for common EDA ground.


Watch a surprisingly direct discussion of the future of the EDA in this exclusive Royal Examiner video – right after the dryer part of the meeting that led up to that municipal conversation:

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Warren County Board of Supervisors approves financing by fire dept., regional airport

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Photo by Mark Williams, Royal Examiner.

FRONT ROYAL—Financing by Winchester Regional Airport Authority and by the Front Royal Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department received approval on Tuesday from the Warren County Board of Supervisors.

Board members on July 16 adopted the two financing resolutions as part of a dozen consent agenda items.

The Front Royal Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department wants to finance up to $1.325 million to buy a 2020 Pierce Velocity Heavy Duty Rescue vehicle and a 2020 pumper from Pierce Manufacturing Inc., through Atlantic Emergency Solutions, said Warren County Administrator Doug Stanley.

“The United States Internal Revenue Code requires that for such financing to be carried out on a tax-exempt basis, the board of supervisors must first approve the financing,” Stanley told the supervisors.

The Town’s volunteer fire and rescue department on June 17 held a required public hearing on the matter.

“A total of nine people were in attendance, all members of the Front Royal Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department, there to support the process,” according to a June 18 email from District Chief Larry Oliver sent to Stanley. “No citizens and/or visitors attended the public hearing to ask any questions and/or provide comments.”

BB&T in Winchester, Va., has fully approved the total amount requested by the fire and rescue department, according to Brian Hester, BB&T Small Business Specialist II, who said the bank will use the department’s firehouse location at 221 N. Commerce Street in Front Royal as collateral to secure the loan.

“The company will receive payments totaling $200,500 in direct contributions from the County in fiscal year 2019-2020,” according to Stanley’s item report.

The second financing resolution approved by the County board of supervisors is for the Winchester Regional Airport Authority to purchase a hangar facility and related ground lease from Wells Fargo Bank for $1.25 million.

The facility, built in 2008, consists of roughly 27,000-square-feet of hangar floor space divided between two bays and 4,100-square-feet of office space, according to Stanley, who said the height and width of the doors “make it the only facility at the airport capable of large business-class aircraft storage.”

The airport authority also needs an additional $300,000 to make purchases that include more equipment and installation (estimated at $125,000); construction and project improvement (est. $75,000); and to pay for related administrative expenses (est. $50,000), according to Nick Sabo, executive director of Winchester Regional Airport.

Sabo wrote in a July 8 letter to County officials that the authority is exploring financing options, including the Virginia Airport Revolving Fund through the Virginia Resource Authority, and other suitable lenders.

Warren County had to adopt the airport financing resolution authorizing the debt per the Winchester Regional Airport Act of 1987, which requires each of the airport authority’s supporting localities to approve debt in excess of $500,000.

The total $1.55 million debt is to be repaid by the airport authority, Stanley said, adding that the County board of supervisors’ resolution includes language that stipulates: “Under no circumstances shall the payment of debt service on the bonds constitute general obligation indebtedness or a pledge of the full faith and credit or taxing power of any member jurisdictions (including Warren County).”

At the top of the meeting, Stanley also provided his administrator’s report to the supervisors and summarized efforts at both the Development Review Committee and Tourism Committee and provided updates on building inspections, Crooked Run West and other projects.

Regarding the Crooked Run West project, for example, Stanley said the board held a June 13 work session and learned that the applicant is making changes to its proffer statement and plans to resubmit a traffic impact analysis. He added that a public hearing is anticipated to be held by the board this fall on the project.

The County also is working on a project to replace the outdated fountain at Seide Park with a splash pad, according to Stanley’s report, which noted that the County has received three grants to help fund the project and on June 4 awarded a roughly $94,000 contract to Seaspray LLC. The project completion date is expected this summer, he added.

And H&W Construction is making significant progress on the new Rivermont Fire Station, another example cited in Stanley’s report. This month the company plans to start pouring footers for the building, which is slated for a fall delivery.

In other new business — as part of the supervisors’ adoption of the July 16 consent agenda — County board members also designated Joe Petty as the new Warren County Zoning Administrator, effective July 1.

Petty, who started with the County last year as a zoning officer, “has also been serving as the Deputy Zoning Administrator since February 2018,” according to County Planning Director Taryn Logan, who wrote in a report to the supervisors that Petty “came to the County with prior experience” and “has quickly learned the zoning ordinance, has taken over the approval of residential zoning permits, and has more recently become the staff member in charge of the Board of Zoning Appeals.

“He will handle zoning ordinance amendments and all zoning permits,” according to Logan’s report, which added that “Joe is an asset to our planning department team.”

The video of the Board of Supervisors meeting is [posted in this related story:

Warren County Board of Supervisors appoints new EDA board member

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EDA in Focus

Warren County Board of Supervisors appoints new EDA board member

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Board of Supervisors at the July 16th meeting. Photos and video by Mark Williams, Royal Examiner.

FRONT ROYAL — The Warren County Board of Supervisors during its Tuesday meeting unanimously appointed a new member to the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority (EDA), action that seemed overshadowed by Town and County citizens concerned about the EDA’s current financial entanglements.

The board of supervisors discussed the EDA Board of Directors during its closed session last night. Ultimately, the supervisors unanimously appointed Marjorie Martin of Front Royal, Va., to fill an unexpired term ending Feb. 28, 2022.

Martin will be joining the EDA board as it tries to maneuver a financial fiasco in which two former EDA staff  — Executive Director Jennifer McDonald and Administrative Assistant Michelle “Missy” Henry — each are in jail on multiple felony counts for their alleged involvement in the misappropriation or embezzlement of some $21 million in EDA assets.

The ongoing investigation and resulting lawsuits have left residents less than trusting of their local officials.

Melanie Salins of Front Royal, for instance, last night told the supervisors she was concerned about their continued closed session meetings and ongoing purchasing of properties “while we’re in the middle of this scandal.”

Melanie Salins voices her concerns about their continued closed session meetings and ongoing purchasing of properties.

Under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the board of supervisors during their July 16 meeting held a closed session to discuss four items: the EDA Board of Directors personnel issue; acquisition of real property located in the Fork Magisterial District within the Town limits; and two consultations with legal counsel regarding possible litigation.

“I would like to ask you to please listen to your citizens,” Salins told the board of supervisors. “Stop doing this, right now at least — not forever, but at least for right now. Please stop buying more properties until we get this mess figured out.”

Paul Gabbert of Front Royal agreed.

Paul Gabbert agreed with Melanie Salins.

“To talk about purchasing more land right now, that’s ludicrous,” he told the County supervisors. “What are you all thinking? You buy this, you buy that, like money is coming off trees and then you raise taxes.”

Following the board of supervisors’ hour-long closed session, members returned to the dais.

The supervisors then made their EDA board member appointment, which wasn’t without a bit of drama.

Supervisor Thomas Sayre first put local EDA activist Mark Egger’s name into nomination, seconded by Supervisor Archie Fox. The move drew confused looks from Supervisors Linda Glavis and Tony Carter, who joined Board Chairman Daniel Murray in defeating Egger’s nomination by a 3-2 vote.

Murray then commented on the Fork District acquisition discussion held during the board of supervisors’ closed session.

“For clarification, since 2011 we have had an individual coming to the County offering their property for sale,” Murray explained. “The only reason why it was on our closed session tonight is because another letter came. We’ve taken no action.”

“A citizen sent a letter asking if we were interested in his property,” Supervisor Carter told the Royal Examiner. “The board has no interest at this time in this property.”

Residents continued to lament the EDA situation during the general public presentations comment portion of the supervisors’ regular meeting prior to adjournment.

“The EDA scandal is by far the No. 1 topic on the minds of most citizens and they feel angry and they feel betrayed,” said Walter Mabe of Front Royal, who announced his candidacy to represent the Shenandoah District, currently represented by Sayre, on the Warren County Board of Supervisors.

Walter Mabe is on the ballot in November for Board of Supervisors representing the Shenandoah District, currently held by Sayre

“I will work hard to renew their confidence in our local government leaders,” said Mabe, who among his professional skills has 21 years of experience as a project manager in the telecommunications industry and five years of service in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Mabe said that citizens have discussed many of their concerns with him and he’s chosen six topics to include in his platform: a balanced budget; managed taxes; improving the educational system; keeping the Shenandoah River clean; tourism; and smart county growth.

“I believe it is extremely important for the board of supervisors to put the county first,” Mabe said.

Bentonville, Va., resident Kristie Atwood voiced her concerns about the local $600,000 that she said has been spent to receive a preliminary report on the EDA’s current situation by the accounting firm Cherry Bekaert LLC.

Kristie Atwood voiced her concerns about the local $600,000 that she said has been spent to receive a preliminary report

“I have found so many errors in this report that it’s unbelievable,” Atwood said. “They were guided on a trip that someone wanted them to take” because the company had limited information to work with in its investigation and subsequent report.

“Now you four board of supervisors members, I am pleading with you,” she said, palming the podium, “you need to step in — and I take Mr. Carter and Doug [Stanley] and Whitten out of the picture,” she said, referring to the supervisor, county administrator and county attorney. “Y’all need to ask the FBI and the Virginia State Police … to come in here and do something that is fair because what’s going on now is not fair.”

Atwood thinks there is much more money unaccounted for than what’s been reported thus far.

“But you’ve gotta get the people’s hands out of it that want to cover their butts,” she told the board of supervisors.

The Royal Examiner’s camera was there:

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Town ups lost assets claim resulting from ‘sophisticated’ fraud scheme

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The EDA action or lack thereof, continues at the Warren County Courthouse. Royal Examiner File Photos/Roger Bianchini

In addressing the Town of Front Royal’s amendment to its lawsuit upping its estimate of lost assets due to financial fraud in the workings of the local Economic Development Authority from $3 million to $15 million, Town Attorney Doug Napier commented on what he perceived as a somewhat surprising degree of sophistication in how alleged embezzlement and misdirection of EDA, and consequently Town, assets was accomplished.

In its July 12 filing to amend the amount being sought for recovery from the EDA, the Town legal department notes that the “Financial Study” it had unsuccessfully been seeking a copy of from Warren County and the EDA over several months of FOIA requests had been “voluntarily” sent to it by County-contracted investigative accounting firm Cherry Bekaert. Information from that 2900-page report on signs of fraud within the EDA in hand, Town staff amended its original complaint upward by $12 million.

Asked about the additional loss estimate Napier told Royal Examiner, “During our review of the Cherry Bekaert financial study of the EDA, including the interviews of the EDA Board of Director and staff members some new facts and circumstances were brought to light which caused me to think that the Town’s consequential damages in particular, and even direct damages, might be larger than the Town had originally thought. So I thought the Town would be well served by getting out in front of this.”

Speaking of peripheral losses – what’s up with the Afton Inn in the wake of the project being cited by Cherry Bekaert as a conduit for McDonald embezzlements? That $2.5 million redevelopment Albatross is hard for town staff to ignore across the street from Town Hall.

Asked to elaborate, Napier added, “There are some indirect losses – we can’t blame it all, or say she took it all herself. But there are consequential damages or peripheral losses, a sort of ripple effect. And we wanted to be careful and aim higher, rather than lower in estimating our total losses.”

“She” is former EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald, jailed since May 24 on financial fraud charges. Related to some of the Cherry Bekaert information Napier observed, “In ways it is really complicated – her ability to figure out how to alter the books, forge documents – if what is in the report is what happened, if the (EDA) board is telling the truth about not signing those documents, it is really sophisticated. It makes you wonder if she had an advisor or she’s just really smart, or both. I really don’t know – but it took somebody who really knew what they were doing, to pull off.”

In the Town’s initial June 21st filing of a nine-page civil action against the EDA there was scathing criticism of a lack of oversight of McDonald through 2018, even after the May 2018 Town staff discovery of years of debt service overpayments to the EDA totaling over $291,000; and an apparently volatile August 23 confrontation between town officials and auditors with McDonald in the presence of then-EDA Board Chairman Greg Drescher and EDA Attorney Dan Whitten.

Somebody in town government was paying attention prior to mid 2018 – Councilwoman Bébhinn Egger faces off with Jennifer McDonald in October 2016. Unfortunately, none of Egger’s colleagues were paying attention.

“It was Town employees and agents who, on August 23, 2018, caused McDonald to admit, in person and while in the presence of the EDA/County Attorney and in the presence of the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the EDA, that McDonald had personally submitted false, and thereby knowingly and fraudulently, billing invoices to the Town for payment … Notwithstanding the events of August 23, 2018, the EDA Board of Directors, inexplicably, allowed McDonald to retain her position as Executive Director of the EDA with all of her rights, privileges and duties as before, with no known restrictions as such,” paragraphs 18-B and 18-D on page seven of the nine page complaint states.

As Royal Examiner reported at the time “inexplicably” was the operative word in the Town suit’s description of EDA board and staff behavior over the following four months preceding McDonald’s resignation under mounting evidence from the EDA and County’s own investigation by contracted accounting firm Cherry Bekaert.

“The EDA Board of Directors inexplicably did not immediately fire or otherwise discipline McDonald … inexplicably did not restrict McDonald’s access to the EDA offices or her duties … inexplicably did not immediately call law enforcement to investigate McDonald or her activities … not withstanding that the Town’s auditor on that date rightfully and appropriately personally called out McDonald for committing fraud upon the Town in the presence of McDonald … the EDA’s Chairman of its Board of Directors and in the presence of the EDA’s attorney,” paragraph 18-D of the initial Town complaint reads.

Better late than never – EDA board members and legal staff oversee the lockdown of Jennifer McDonald’s computer, work cell phone and office following announcement of her Dec. 20, 2018 resignation. Town officials wonder why such action didn’t come at least four months earlier.

But if the EDA and County Boards remained “inexplicably” oblivious to possible financial misdeeds by McDonald post-August 23, the Town did not.

“It was the Town …who almost immediately after August 23, 2018 contacted the Virginia State Police (VSP) and requested a complete law enforcement investigation of the EDA and McDonald, which the Virginia State Police immediately began, and continue to investigate to this date,” the Town complaint of June 21, 2019 reads.

The June 21st Town Complaint was served on two of those involved in that August 23, 2018 meeting: Whitten at his County Office as EDA attorney and McDonald at the Fairfax Adult Detention Center to which she was transferred from RSW Jail on June 11. The third recipient was new EDA Executive Director Doug Parsons, served at his Kendrick Lane EDA office. Parsons told Royal Examiner on July 17 that he hopes an accurate assessment of any money owed to either municipality by the EDA can be agreed upon and that the EDA will eventually be able to make right on its legally-verified debt to both the Town and County.

McDonald was arrested by VSP on May 24, after the first four of what now stands at 12 felony embezzlement and fraudulent movement of EDA assets indictments were handed down by the Warren County Special Grand Jury empanelled on April 1, 2019.

That empanelment followed a March 26 request to do so by Warren County Commonwealth Attorney Brian Madden. Madden’s request came the same day the EDA’s $17.6 million civil suit was filed. That suit is now amended up to $21.1 million the EDA is seeking recovery of from McDonald, her two real estate companies and five other surviving defendants: ITFederal and its CEO Truc “Curt” Tran; Earth Right Energy LLC and its principals Donald Poe and Justin Appleton.

A ninth defendant, former Warren County Sheriff Daniel McEathron, died on May 28 from what VSP described as “an unattended death with a firearm nearby”. McEathron was named in the suit due to his involvement in McDonald’s two real estate businesses and financial questions surrounding development of the criminal justice police training academy the EDA was involved in.
Recent motions filing in that EDA civil action will be the subject of coming Royal Examiner stories. In fact, a motions hearing on the EDA civil suit scheduled for today (Wednesday, July 17) was continued to an as-yet-undetermined date due to the judicial shuffling occurring in the wake of Judge William W. Sharpe’s July 12 recusal from all EDA matters.

McDonald criminal plea hearing postponed

At the time of the special grand jury empanelment request Madden said, “Since August of last year we have been working with the Virginia State Police as they investigated suspicious financial activities. Yesterday’s lawsuit filed by the EDA’s attorneys raises issues that are not presently being addressed by the VSP.

Local authorities, VSP and the FBI worked together during April 16 search of EDA headquarters and Jennifer McDonald’s office, the latter unused and apparently sealed since her Dec. 20, 2018 resignation.

“In reviewing the bill of complaint most of the allegations arise from an outside investigation conducted at the EDA’s request. To date this office has not been able to review any report generated by the outside investigation,” Madden observed.

Madden requests, Athey empanels special grand jury in EDA case

In the wake of Judge Athey’s May 22 order that EDA civil counsel produce the evidence upon which its now $21.1-million civil action is based, that is no longer true – even for the Town of Front Royal which had initially been blocked by EDA and County officials in its efforts to acquire information on the EDA fraud investigation.

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Front Royal Town Council goes behind closed doors on councilman’s right-of-way request

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Will we supply water or not? That's the question asked at the Town Council July 15th Work Session. Photo and video by Mark Williams.

FRONT ROYAL — Front Royal Town Council members on July 15 held a roughly 15-minute work session before heading into a closed meeting regarding the Town’s disposition of publicly held real property.

Specifically, Town Council members needed to discuss an application by Front Royal Town Councilman Chris Holloway, who owns the privately held Chris Holloway Construction LLC in Front Royal, Va., to purchase or have a portion of an unimproved right-of-way on Carter Street vacated by the Town.

While further details were scant on Monday night, the right-of-way request went behind closed doors because “discussion in an open meeting would adversely affect the bargaining position or negotiating strategy of Town Council,” according to the work session agenda. All council members present unanimously agreed to the motion to go into a closed meeting on the item.

Near the start of the work session, Councilwoman Letasha Thompson broached the Crooked Run 2 development company request, which seeks Town water-sewer service for primarily residential development outside the town limits.

“I’d like to get a public hearing or whatever it is we need to do” regarding the Crooked Run West project, Thompson said during the council/mayor related items segment of the work session.

Crooked Run West LLC wants to rezone from commercial to a mixed-use but primarily residential project if the Town of Front Royal will supply the necessary water and sewer for it. Currently, agreements between the Town and Warren County on supplying water-sewer services to this area only allow commercial development so the request requires a change in the comprehensive plan.

Town Manager Joe Walsh said Monday that he interprets Town Code to mean that once the County has made such a request, it’s the Town’s turn to determine how it wants to proceed.

“The way I read the code, the ball’s in our court to make a decision at this point,” Walsh told the council members, noting that the county must apply for the water prior to any rezoning.

Walsh added that the county’s letter of request was received in April, the council looked at it in April, “but we didn’t do anything about it,” he said.

Councilmen Jacob Meza and Holloway were keen on pushing the decision off until the council’s next work session until they receive more details and data from Walsh.

“We need to understand everything that goes into that, not just whether we’re going to supply water or not,” Meza said.

“That’s why I thought they were coming back to us,” said Vice Mayor William Sealock, referring to the Warren County Board of Supervisors. “The decision basically is we supply or do not supply.”

Walsh said the item could be placed on the calendar for the council’s August 15 work session. He said he’ll provide more information to better inform council members at that time.

In other work session business, Town Council members heard from Town Finance Director B.J. Wilson that no bids have been received to date for the non-exclusive cable system franchise bid opening.

“We will move forward with the franchise agreement in some fashion and come back to the council in the future,” Wilson said.

Jeremy Camp, Town director of Planning & Zoning, had pretty much the same report for Town Council members regarding bids for the Facade Improvement Program. He said only one bid had been received and “it was not competitive” and was “way out of the ballpark.”

Based on input from contractors, Camp said the program’s management team has decided to rebid it.

“We’ll get back to you once we go through that rerun of the bidding process,” Camp said.

The Royal Examiner’s camera was there:

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Warren County Comprehensive Plan review underway

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Warren County Planning Commission work session to review Comprehensive Plan. Photo and video by Mark Williams, Royal Examiner.

Following the July 10th Warren County Planning Commission meeting, the Commission went into a work session to start the Comprehensive Plan review process. The first chapter of the Plan to be reviewed is Chapter 3 – Natural Resources.

You can view the Comprehensive Plan on the Warren County site: Chapter 3: Natural Resources

This process is scheduled to run until December 2020.

The schedule will be:

July-August 2019 – Chapter 3 (Natural Resources)
September-October 2019 – Chapter 2 (Demographics)
October-November-2019 – Chapter 4 (Growth Management and Land Use)
December 2019-January 2020 – Chapter 5 (Community Facilities)
February-March 2020 – Chapter 6 (Economic Development)
April-May 2020 – Chapter 7 – (Infrastructure)
June 2020 – (Implementation)
July 2020 – Prepare final revisions
August-September 2020 – Planning Commission – Public Hearing
October 2020 – Present Comprehensive Plan to Board of Supervisors
November-December 2020 – Board of Supervisors – Public Hearing

From the County’s website:

The Comprehensive Plan is the County’s official policy guide for future development related decisions. The Plan is long-range in nature, and provides a picture of how the community wishes to develop over the next 15 to 20 years.

As a policy document, the Plan provides a framework for the County’s residents and decision makers to conceptualize how the County should look and function. Within each chapter of the Plan, there are implementation strategies identified. All or some portion of the strategies may be implemented to accomplish the goals and objectives for any particular topic addressed in the Plan. The major purposes of the Comprehensive Plan are:

  • Provide a guide for the numerous public and private decisions that will create the future County.
  • Promote the interests of the community as a whole.
  • Enhance, describe, and promote the County’s physical environment.
  • Develop a coordinated, well-planned system of public services.
  • Evaluate short-term actions against long-term goals.
  • Recognize the natural resources, historical, and architectural significance of Warren County and the surrounding area so that they can be more effectively preserved, protected, and integrated into an orderly pattern of development.
  • Fulfill the legal requirement of Chapter 11, Title 15.1 of the Code of Virginia.
  • The overall goal of the comprehensive plan is to: Maintain and enhance the quality and character of Warren County’s natural and man-made environment by promoting the efficient use and conservation of the County’s land and natural resources in order to effectively meet the social and economic needs of present and future citizens.
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Upcoming Events

Jul
19
Fri
5:30 pm PAVAN Showcase Performances @ Sherando High School
PAVAN Showcase Performances @ Sherando High School
Jul 19 @ 5:30 pm – 9:00 pm
PAVAN Showcase Performances @ Sherando High School
You are cordially invited to PAVAN Showcase Performances: 5:30 pm – Solo Recitals 5:30 pm – Art Gallery Open House: Browse art works at your leisure 7:00 pm – Concert performances by Guitar, Theatre, and[...]
Jul
22
Mon
10:00 am Design a chair for the SPCA CHAI... @ SPCA of Winchester, Frederick, and Clarke Counties
Design a chair for the SPCA CHAI... @ SPCA of Winchester, Frederick, and Clarke Counties
Jul 22 @ 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Design a chair for the SPCA CHAIR-ity Brunch @ SPCA of Winchester, Frederick, and Clarke Counties
Calling all artists!! Design a chair for the SPCA CHAIR-ity Brunch and save homeless animals. Pick up a chair from the SPCA Thrift Shop, build a chair, up-cycle a chair, paint a chair, or upholster[...]
Jul
23
Tue
1:30 pm Botanical Drawing 1 @ Art in the Valley
Botanical Drawing 1 @ Art in the Valley
Jul 23 @ 1:30 pm – 4:00 pm
Botanical Drawing 1 @ Art in the Valley
Learn and practice the art of botanical drawing in pencil with local artist and instructor Elena Maza. Tuesdays: 1:30pm – 4:00pm, July 9th – 30th. Classes will be held in our upstairs studio at 205[...]
Jul
26
Fri
6:30 pm Pour Me Another Fluid Art @ Strokes of Creativity
Pour Me Another Fluid Art @ Strokes of Creativity
Jul 26 @ 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm
Pour Me Another Fluid Art @ Strokes of Creativity
Two classes in July – the 18th and 26th at 6:30pm. Pre-Registration is a must! Pour Me Another is an actual class. You will learn the ins and outs of paint pouring and go home[...]
Jul
27
Sat
10:00 am Build a Whimsical Clay House @ Explore Art & Clay
Build a Whimsical Clay House @ Explore Art & Clay
Jul 27 @ 10:00 am – 1:00 pm
Build a Whimsical Clay House @ Explore Art & Clay
In this clay workshop you will make a whimsical house, using several decorating techniques to achieve textures, that you can later highlight with color. Perfect for beginners and potters alike. Choose to make it a[...]
3:00 pm Teacher Classroom Door Hanger @ Strokes of Creativity
Teacher Classroom Door Hanger @ Strokes of Creativity
Jul 27 @ 3:00 pm – 6:00 pm
Teacher Classroom Door Hanger @ Strokes of Creativity
Welcome in the new school year with a Personalized Classroom Door Hanger! Make your choice of a pencil, bus, apple or cloud sign. Must preregister with deposit of $10 and the choice of shape by[...]
Jul
28
Sun
12:00 pm Crop With Us @ Strokes of Creativity
Crop With Us @ Strokes of Creativity
Jul 28 @ 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Crop With Us @ Strokes of Creativity
Come Crop With Us Sunday, July 28, 12 noon to 5:00 pm. Receive a gift for pre-registering and attending. $15 No refunds. Feel free to bring your own snacks or drinks!
Jul
29
Mon
10:00 am Design a chair for the SPCA CHAI... @ SPCA of Winchester, Frederick, and Clarke Counties
Design a chair for the SPCA CHAI... @ SPCA of Winchester, Frederick, and Clarke Counties
Jul 29 @ 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Design a chair for the SPCA CHAIR-ity Brunch @ SPCA of Winchester, Frederick, and Clarke Counties
Calling all artists!! Design a chair for the SPCA CHAIR-ity Brunch and save homeless animals. Pick up a chair from the SPCA Thrift Shop, build a chair, up-cycle a chair, paint a chair, or upholster[...]
10:00 am Let’s Explore Art @ Strokes of Creativity
Let’s Explore Art @ Strokes of Creativity
Jul 29 @ 10:00 am – 12:30 pm
Let's Explore Art @ Strokes of Creativity
Monday July 29th – Wednesday July 31st – Friday August 2nd 10:00 AM -12:30 PM Ages: 6-9 $100 per student: Includes an art supply kit and snack & drink Day One: Lines, lines, they go[...]
Jul
30
Tue
1:30 pm Botanical Drawing 1 @ Art in the Valley
Botanical Drawing 1 @ Art in the Valley
Jul 30 @ 1:30 pm – 4:00 pm
Botanical Drawing 1 @ Art in the Valley
Learn and practice the art of botanical drawing in pencil with local artist and instructor Elena Maza. Tuesdays: 1:30pm – 4:00pm, July 9th – 30th. Classes will be held in our upstairs studio at 205[...]