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Another 5-year wait for essential bridge over Rockland Road railroad crossing in Warren County

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A long-awaited overpass needed to help emergency services, fire trucks and ambulances react to urgent 911 calls may become a reality, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) – but not until 2025, if then.

In a presentation to the Rotary Club of Front Royal, September 18, Ed Carter, a VDOT official with an office in Edinburg, estimated a fall construction date starting in 2023 which should see the bridge opening in the spring of 2025 – a date that will be 25 years in the making.

According to Rotarian and former Warren County Administrator Doug Stanley in a telephone exchange last year, it had been 20 years since problems with the railroad companies first surfaced, but then, complaints were scarce. In the past several years, however, rail traffic has increased to the extent that traffic holdups at some crossings have been reported to range to an hour, if not longer.

Another five years before we’re past this? Public Domain Photo <publicdomainpictures.net>


In addition to emergency service inaccessibility, another effect of increased train traffic for residents of the area is the wait for drivers who need to be downtown or elsewhere to keep doctors and dentists appointments, veterinarian treatments for sick animals, or other scheduled meetings – even shoppers are becoming more irritated by the train crossing barriers coming down.

While describing the noticeable increase in train traffic and the length of many trains, some requiring two and three locomotives to pull and/or push heavier loads, Carter suggested some of the complaints may be overblown – “when sitting waiting, four minutes might seem like an hour.” (see editor’s note at story’s conclusion)

The railroad companies estimate a top waiting time of about 15 minutes. Carter also blamed the current installation of “third rails” for the extra train traffic that have added to the cost of a bridge.

The original estimate for the overpass was $15.5 million, which effectively is in the bank; and pre-construction work has begun. However, the railroad companies’ “third rail” has added almost $6 million to the project, and all that extra money is not yet in hand.

“(Residents) are going to have to put up with train blockages for quite a while longer,” Carter said, adding that a public hearing on the project is slated for the spring of next year.

The estimated 200-foot long bridge, two lanes (24-feet) wide, will “straighten out the two curves on the Rockland Road approach. He also observed that the bridge would be “quite high.”

Answering a question, Carter said trucks will be fed on to the relatively narrow country road, up to and including the size of tractor trailers. A questioner suggested that two trucks coming along the road in separate directions may not be able to pass one another without one pulling over.

Another Rotarian observed that there are already distinctive marks on either side of the road where mostly cars apparently have run off the road in passing from opposite directions.

While announcing that preparations for bridge construction had already begun despite the wait for extra (federal/state) funds, he described initial problems where underground caverns “close to the right of way” had been discovered and were a concern to engineering crews.

Carter, answering another question, said it would help if drivers held up for long periods would call the sheriff’s office for the record, suggesting that “we cannot control the railroads which got the right of way… many years ago” but observing that record-keeping of delays would be helpful in future discussions.


(Editor’s note: While driving to his Rockland home following the Rotary meeting, the writer was held up by a train at the Rockland Road crossing for a measured four minutes. “It seemed like an hour,” he confirmed.)

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EDA in Focus

EDA gets McDonald company property as part of settlement agreement

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On Wednesday, October 20, Warren County Economic Development Authority Board of Directors Chairman Jeff Browne verified the EDA’s acquisition of the 41-acre “Happy Creek Road” parcel owned by former EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald’s Moveon8 real estate LLC. Acquisition of the undeveloped property assessed at just over a million dollars according to county court records is part of the $9-million-dollar no-fault settlement agreement reached between the EDA, McDonald, and the Harrisonburg Bankruptcy Court handling McDonald’s 2020 bankruptcy filing. The EDA will now be able to market the property as a developable EDA asset. It is located near the intersection of Happy Creek Road and Leach Run Parkway.

Browne said that in addition to receiving full value on the Happy Creek parcel, the EDA was in line to receive a percentage of the sale price of other McDonald assets distributed through the bankruptcy court proceeding. Exactly how close those percentages might get the EDA to the $9-million-dollar settlement figure remains to be seen. It was not immediately clear as to whether the EDA will have an outright full value claim to any other McDonald-held properties or assets.

The FBI and VSP were both involved in the April 2019 search of McDonald’s former office; below, being locked down after her resignation under mounting investigatory pressure by her board on Dec. 20, 2018. Royal Examiner File Photos by Roger Bianchini

McDonald is the central figure in the EDA financial scandal that began unravelling in mid-to-late 2018. She resigned in December 2018 under mounting pressure from her board of directors. She has been accused in civil and criminal court of utilizing her EDA position to misdirect EDA assets to her and others personal benefit. Western District of Virginia federal authorities have taken over the criminal side of the EDA case after a state special prosecutor’s office in Harrisonburg dropped criminal charges against McDonald and as many as 23 co-defendants due to speedy trial concerns as it wrestled with the volume of evidentiary material – estimated at 800,000 to over a million pages at the time. With charges against some defendants originating with the county commonwealth attorney’s office that initially handled the criminal investigation during Brian Madden’s tenure heading the department, failure to meet speedy trial timelines could have led to defense motions for dismissal of criminal charges against the defendants.


Jennifer McDonald booked during state criminal prosecution process in 2019.

On August 31, 2021, federal prosecutors made their initial move, handing down a 34-count indictment against McDonald. Of those 34 counts, 16 were for money laundering, 10 for bank fraud, 7 for wire fraud, and 1 count of aggravated identity theft regarding someone identified as “T.T.” – ITFederal principal Truc Tran perhaps?

ITFederal principal Truc ‘Curt’ Tran on site at EDA parking lot, adjacent to his now floundering construction project, on Dec. 20, 2018, the day Jennifer McDonald resigned as executive director of EDA. Tran expressed distress at the potential of McDonald’s departure at the time. Could Tran, whose $10-million loan for the Royal Phoenix project was the largest single item listed in the initial EDA civil litigation, have now accused McDonald of ‘aggravated identity theft’ regarding EDA financial dealings with him and his company?

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Joint Tourism Committee soliciting proposals for exclusive retail rights located at the Front Royal Visitor’s Center

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The Front Royal & Warren County Joint Tourism Committee is soliciting proposals for exclusive retail rights located at the Front Royal Visitor’s Center. The proposal must include and respond to the following scope of services.

  1. The retailer will provide a merchandise for sale local to Front Royal and Warren County within a 35-mile radius. Merchandise should include local artists’ and photographer’s works, food items, branded material and other unique items to the Front Royal and Warren County area.
  2. The retail selection will include curated items exclusive to Front Royal and Warren County. The vendor must be willing to work with the Tourism Committee, and its contractor operating the Visitor’s Center, on merchandise selection. The Tourism representatives will have the right to approve or disapprove of merchandise to be incorporated for sale in the retail location to ensure quality product.
  3. The vendor will provide a cashless payment method at the vendor’s expense.
  4. The vendor will provide training to the Front Royal Visitor Center employees on the system and provide seven day a week support when necessary.
  5. The Front Royal Tourism Committee nor the employees of the Front Royal Visitor Center will be responsible for merchandise set up, inventory, or monitoring stock.
  6. The vendor will maintain the merchandise in an aesthetically pleasing manner neat and updated on a weekly basis.
  7. The vendor will provide a monthly report to the Tourism Committee representative on the sale of merchandise and provide suggestions for each season.
  8. The merchandise will reflect seasonal changes.
  9. The vendor will carry all necessary insurance and provide a current Warren County business license.

All potential vendors must address all the requirements as outlined including the time frame to begin the retail operation at the Visitors’ Center. A business plan for the merchandising must also be included. Bidders will be required to present their business plan and proposal to representatives of the Joint Tourism Committee.

Proposal Format

Respondents are expected to organize their proposal to include:

  • Operating model and requirements in response to scope above
  • Proposed financial model i.e., lease for square footage or percentage of sales
  • Relevant experience
  • A minimum of three references

Contract Terms

  • 1 year with an option of a 2-year renewal.
  • Awarded contractor must be operational at the beginning of the contract start date of 10/18/21.

RFP Timeline

  • RFP released: 10/1/21
  • Proposals due: 11/12/21
  • Interview date: 11/22/21
  • Contract begins: 12/1/21
  • Contract Initial Term Complete: 12/31/22
  • Potential Contract Term Extension through: 12/31/24

Submit Proposals

Bethanie DeRose
Managing Director
Discover Front Royal
To: Bethanie@discoverfrontroyal.com CC: Bethanie.derose@am.jll.com


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Local News

Front Royal ready for Fall tourists

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The Town of Front Royal has hired three employees to staff the downtown Visitors Center.

Thousands of tourists travel to the area every fall for leaf viewing. The increased number of Visitor Center staff will play a key role in bolstering the Town’s continued effort to welcome tourists and assist them with experiencing the many attractions along with enjoying the fall foliage.

The Visitors Center averages over 150 visitors daily and over 200 each day on the weekends. “Welcoming visitors and letting them know about all the area attractions, lodging, outdoor adventures, arts, and cultural programming, fine food and drink grow the economy,” said Mayor Chris Holloway. “Front Royal and Warren County are committed to increasing visitation beyond a day visit.”

Visitor Center staff are responsible for many customer experience activities, including being ambassadors, providing tourists with information that enhances their visit, and encouraging tourists to return to Front Royal.


Tourism is a major economic driver for Front Royal and Warren County and its hospitality businesses. Visit www.DiscoverFrontRoyal.com for the many things to do.

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Blue Ridge Wildlife Center Patient of the Week: Southern Flying Squirrel

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The most common rodent you never see:

Southern flying squirrels are quite common across Virginia, but since they’re nocturnal and much smaller than Eastern Gray Squirrels, people rarely see them and often have no idea they even exist!

Photos / Blue Ridge Wildlife Center

Unfortunately, cats are quite skilled at finding these nocturnal tree squirrels. Approximately 60% of our adult flying squirrel patients, including this one, come the Center as confirmed cat attack victims.

This patient is very lucky. He had minimal wounds and is doing well on pain medications and antibiotics.


In general, only about 30% of cat attacked patients survive to release. We have already received over 480 confirmed cat attack patients so far in 2021. We hope that this flyer will be in that minority!

Though feral cats are estimated to cause two thirds of cat-related wildlife deaths, the patients we see are almost always from owned cats when they bring animals to their owners, or when the finder interrupts a neighbor’s cat with an animal.

Please help our native wildlife by keeping cats indoors, or leashed/in an enclosed space when outside.

Cats cannot change their instincts, but as the species that domesticated them, it is our moral responsibility to do everything we can to keep cats safe and healthy, as well as protect the health of humans and wildlife from the dangers outdoor cats pose.

Despite the name, flying squirrels do not actually fly. They have a fold of skin between their front and back legs that allows them to glide between trees. Their long, flat tail steers them in flight like a rudder. Some can cover more than 150 feet in a single glide!


To donate to Blue Ridge Wildlife Center, click here.

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Community Events

Show your support for the Warren County High School Band with their annual Fruit Sale Fundraiser

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The Warren County High School Band has started our annual fruit sales, and we’re looking forward to another great year of sales!

We are offering 3 Whole and Half Box offerings of single types of fruit, and 2 mix box options for those who want variety. Here are the fruit options:

  • Navel Oranges, Hamlin Juice Oranges, Pink Grapefruit
    • Whole Boxes and Half Boxes: $40 for 40 lbs., or $30 for 20 lbs.
  • Mix Fruit Box 1
    • Navel Oranges/Grapefruit/Mandarin Oranges: 6 of Each, Total of 18 pieces of fruit – $30
  • Mix Fruit Box 2
    • Navel Oranges/Grapefruit/Apples: 6 of Each, Total of 18 pieces of fruit – $30

How to Pre-Order Fruit:
(PRE-ORDER Deadline: November 7th, 2021)

You may order online and pre-pay with a credit card or check. There is usually a $1 dollar fee for this, but it saves later on with convenience and for those looking to limit personal contact with others.


Second, you may pre-order with me or with any student in the band and then simply pay when you pick up the fruit. We will accept cash, check, and credit cards on site.

  1. Pre-Order with a WCHS Band Student.
  2. Pre-Order with me through email: ddingess@wcps.k12.va.us
  3. Pre-Order and pay online, and you may select a student to give credit to: order online

Pick up dates:
As of now, we do not have a firm date, but it will be a 1 day pick up sometime in the second week of December. We will email out to let customers know a week ahead of time the firm date. Our hours will be from 8:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m.

We hope you hear from a student to pre-order your fruit, but if you do not, please contact me through email (ddingess@wcps.k12.va.us) with the heading “Fruit Order” and I will enter your order.

Thank you for supporting the Warren County High School Band program.

David Dingess
Director of Bands
Warren County High School

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Community Events

Reaching Out Now partners with Warren County and Skyline High Schools to host Senior Planning Night

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With the 2021-2022 school year in full swing, Reaching Out Now is partnering with Warren County and Skyline High Schools to host a Senior Planning Night! The event will be held at Warren County High School on November 18, 2021, from 5:30pm – 8:00pm, in the gymnasium and auditorium.

Senior Planning Night will cover important dates to guide senior year, decisions to make before graduation, financial planning, application processes, provide an opportunity to meet with college reps from around the state, and much more. Dinner will be provided! All Seniors and parents are invited and encouraged to attend. Interested Juniors may also attend to begin preparing for their Senior year.

Mr. Knesh, Principal of Warren County High School stated, “We look forward to sharing food and friendship while learning about navigating the college application process. We are also thrilled to give out two scholarships to seniors this evening to give them a head start towards their future college plans.” Mrs. Sperling, Principal of Skyline High School echoed his sentiments sharing “I am grateful for the partnership established between Reaching Out Now, Warren County High School, and Skyline High School. We are excited to jointly host a college planning night… where students and families can learn more about the process of planning for post-secondary education.”

All interested families, please register at: bit.ly/registerSeniorNight


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King Cartoons

Front Royal
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Upcoming Events

Oct
21
Thu
10:00 am Senior Painting Class with Dottie @ Strokes of Creativity
Senior Painting Class with Dottie @ Strokes of Creativity
Oct 21 @ 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Senior Painting Class with Dottie @ Strokes of Creativity
Senior Painting Class with Dottie at Strokes of Creativity. Tickets: CLICK HERE Cost: $80 for 6 weeks Dates: Thursdays – Oct 21, Oct 28, Nov 4, Nov 11, Nov 18, Dec 4 Time: 10 am[...]
1:00 pm Art Class for 4th & 5th @ Strokes of Creativity
Art Class for 4th & 5th @ Strokes of Creativity
Oct 21 @ 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm
Art Class for 4th & 5th @ Strokes of Creativity
This class is for Grades 4th and 5th. Perfect for home schoolers. Recommended ages: 9 and 10 years old Tickets: CLICK HERE Tickets are available through Square Up, or can be paid in person at[...]
Oct
23
Sat
11:00 am Fall Farm Days: History of Sky M... @ Sky Meadows State Park
Fall Farm Days: History of Sky M... @ Sky Meadows State Park
Oct 23 @ 11:00 am – 5:00 pm
Fall Farm Days: History of Sky Meadows @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area.  During Fall Farm Days History Weekend, step back in time and see history come to life. Stroll through the Historic Area buildings, interact with our living historians and discover our links to historic[...]
11:00 am The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Oct 23 @ 11:00 am – 5:00 pm
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Blacksmith Shop in the Historic Area. The forge is fired up and the blacksmiths are hard at work in the Historic Area. Members of the Blacksmith Guild of the Potomac have set up shop and[...]
1:00 pm Paint Class for Kids Ages 8 and up @ Strokes of Creativity
Paint Class for Kids Ages 8 and up @ Strokes of Creativity
Oct 23 @ 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm
Paint Class for Kids Ages 8 and up @ Strokes of Creativity
This is a painting class for children 8 years old and up. Tickets: CLICK HERE Tickets are available through Square Up, or can be paid in person at Strokes of Creativity. Date: Saturday, October 23,[...]
Oct
24
Sun
11:00 am Fall Farm Days: History of Sky M... @ Sky Meadows State Park
Fall Farm Days: History of Sky M... @ Sky Meadows State Park
Oct 24 @ 11:00 am – 5:00 pm
Fall Farm Days: History of Sky Meadows @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area.  During Fall Farm Days History Weekend, step back in time and see history come to life. Stroll through the Historic Area buildings, interact with our living historians and discover our links to historic[...]
11:00 am The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Oct 24 @ 11:00 am – 5:00 pm
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Blacksmith Shop in the Historic Area. The forge is fired up and the blacksmiths are hard at work in the Historic Area. Members of the Blacksmith Guild of the Potomac have set up shop and[...]
6:30 pm Benefit Concert for Front Royal ... @ Riverton Church
Benefit Concert for Front Royal ... @ Riverton Church
Oct 24 @ 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm
Benefit Concert for Front Royal Police @ Riverton Church
Riverton Church is hosting a benefit concert featuring the Mr. Ron Dye (director) and the Riverton Church Symphonic Wind Orchestra as well as Yesterday Swing Orchestra. Free Admission: Offering taken to benefit the Front Royal[...]
Oct
25
Mon
11:00 am Art Class for K-1st @ Strokes of Creativity
Art Class for K-1st @ Strokes of Creativity
Oct 25 @ 11:00 am – 12:00 pm
Art Class for K-1st @ Strokes of Creativity
This class is for Kindergarten and First Grade. Perfect for home schoolers. Recommended ages: Ages 5 and 6 Tickets: CLICK HERE Tickets are available through Square Up, or can be paid in person at Strokes[...]
1:00 pm Art Class for 2nd & 3rd @ Strokes of Creativity
Art Class for 2nd & 3rd @ Strokes of Creativity
Oct 25 @ 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm
Art Class for 2nd & 3rd @ Strokes of Creativity
This class is for Grades 2nd and 3rd. Perfect for home schoolers. Recommended ages: 7 and 8 years old Tickets: CLICK HERE Tickets are available through Square Up, or can be paid in person at[...]