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Board considers finances, departmental needs in midst of ongoing pandemic emergency response

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The Warren County Board of Supervisors navigated its way through a variety of requests for approval of financial dispersals, some routine, some a consequence of the current COVID-19 pandemic and emergency response, and others somewhere in between.

At the in-between mark seemed to be Commonwealth’s Attorney John Bell’s request for approval of $37,064 for “case management software” that would help expedite his staff’s ability to deal with a variety of caseload responsibilities. Those include some anticipated from current pandemic response delays on court proceedings, increased staff working from home restrictions, and State Supreme Court-level changes to Discovery order responses he said would “increase drastically” prosecutors’ office workloads.

Commonwealth Attorney John Bell. File photo.

Bell said the software would allow his staff to “do in minutes, rather than the massive amounts of time it now takes” the background work that precedes courtroom appearances.

“Now once the judicial emergency is over, it’s going to fall on us like a ton of bricks,” Bell told the supervisors of the eventual end of COVID-19 slowdowns on the judicial process, adding, “and if we have the appropriate technology we can handle this much, much better than we would be able to do with our current system.”

While he admitted the software package was “not cheap”, he added that it wasn’t the most expensive of its type available either. And most encouragingly for a board facing still-unknown revenue consequences of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease-2019) pandemic and emergency management response, Bell said he was fairly confident he would be able to cover the total expense of the software from State Comp Board revenues available to his office. He had already been able to transfer $10,000 from Comp Board funds and said he had received an indication that the remainder would be able to be transferred from his office’s “vacancy salaries” allotment.

So, what he was seeking from the supervisors Tuesday was authorization for the purchase to allow training on the new software to begin, in the full expectation that any County revenue utilized would be fully refunded.

On a motion by Archie Fox, seconded by Cheryl Cullers, the board unanimously approved the request.

Other budgetary requests came from the Department of Social Services in the amount of $12,000 to facilitate the continuation of the homeless thermal shelter program through the COVID-19 response; authorization of appropriation of an additional $534,370 in state funding county public schools were found eligible for – the money will be used for textbook purchases in the current budget, and approval of $57,628 to the Sheriff’s Office for an updated call/radio recorder for the 911 emergency communications call center. The current system was described as outdated to current emergency response needs.

Thermal shelter cots. File photo.

All requests were unanimously approved on roll-call votes requested by the chair due to the remote link-up of two board members.

About that bug
As with the commonwealth attorney’s office funding request somewhere between COVID-19 response recommendations and elsewhere, seemed to be where the supervisors were as they fielded a three-person board quorum (Mabe, Cullers, Fox) in the caucus room adjacent to the Warren County Government Center’s (WCGC) main meeting room, with two members (Carter, Oates) present by phone hook-up. Also physically present were County Administrator Doug Stanley, Deputy County Administrator Bob Childress, and Board Clerk Emily Ciarrocchi.

Earlier in the week during a discussion of the advisability of media presence on Tuesday morning, April 7 meeting, County Attorney Jason Ham said his advice was that the minimum amount of people necessary to chair, present and broadcast the meeting be physically present for Tuesday’s meeting.

In fact, during his report to the board by remote connection, the Harrisonburg-based Ham reiterated the importance of social distancing and work at a distance as the nation, Virginia and localities approach what has been described by U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams as a “Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment” regarding a potential spike in the spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic that recently surpassed a thousand fatalities a day in the U.S.

“Hello all, I’m sorry not to be here; but it’s the best thing, I think, for all of us in these difficult times,” Ham told his County colleagues before briefing them on federal legislation that could impact the county government and its employees were they to be impacted with COVID-19 symptoms. That includes up to two weeks of fully paid leave if employees contract symptoms or were diagnosed with COVID-19.

While not recommending its enactment at this point, Ham referenced a letter to the board concerning a state code section 15.2-1200 on the “General Power of Counties to Adopt Quarantine regulations”.

“I just want you to know all the tools you have in your toolbox to try to fight this,” Ham said, noting about 3,000 COVID-19 cases in Virginia, including another 1,000 in the D.C. area 70 miles to our east, which he noted pandemic-wise is “right in our backyard.” Thus far six cases of Warren County residents have been confirmed.

Ham observed that his legal firm had been split into two teams, “So one side never sees the other and we work from home on the other days. So, I encourage everyone to be safe, and will answer any question,” of which none were forthcoming.

The Supervisors adjourned to closed session at 10:45 a.m. to discuss the EDA’s $21.3-million civil litigation against Jennifer McDonald and 14 co-defendants, as well as the Town of Front Royal’s amended $20-million-plus civil litigation against the EDA, and the appointment of a replacement for resigned EDA Board of Directors member Mark Baker. No action was taken following the closed session.

Following that closed session’s adjournment at 12:45 p.m. and a 10-minute break, the board was led through a budget work session which adjourned at 1:37 p.m. Much of that 42-minute work session featured discussion of unknown variables on the County’s tax revenues due to the COVID-19 state and local emergency declarations and the unknown duration that restrictions on travel and business openings might continue.

County Administrator Stanley led the discussion and was joined by two former County Finance Directors, Carolyn Stimmel, who has been helping with the EDA’s preparation for its 2018 and 2019 audits, and her successor, now also employed elsewhere, Andre Fletcher.

With the budget public hearing scheduled for next week, the board reviewed the process by which the public may comment remotely. That process is to submit comments in advance of the 7 p.m., April 14 meeting to board Clerk Ciarrocchi. Further information is available on the County website or by calling the County Administration number.

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EDA in Focus

Town authorizes new EDA; Chamber as CARES administrator; and FRPD equipment upgrades

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On Monday, July 13, the Front Royal Town Council took several actions, for better or worse, that will shape several key future functions in coming months and years. At the top of the list was second and final reading approval – 4-1, Thompson dissenting as she did at the June 22 first reading – of creation of a new Economic Development Authority solely overseen and funded by the town government and its taxpayers.

The Town will become the first municipality in Virginia to concurrently be a part of two EDA’s. In an unprecedented example of attempting to “have your cake and sue it too”, the Town has maintained its half-century-plus, co-founding membership in the half-century-old joint County-Town EDA while civil litigating for virtually all the money the EDA is trying to recover in its initial $21.3 million civil action against its former executive director and 14 co-defendants accused of conspiring to misdirect or embezzle EDA assets.

The Town’s legal and administrative department heads may now be pondering what’s next after final approval of a new unilateral EDA to counterbalance the one the Town is suing. We know, appointment of a board of directors – they’re volunteers, so that won’t cost anything. Royal Examiner Photos/Roger Bianchini – Royal Examiner Video/Mark Williams

But at least the Town does not have to fund operational costs of the old EDA, as in EDA legal fees to fight the Town litigation, while figuring out where its operational costs for it new unilateral EDA will come from, if not a successful civil litigation against its old EDA. For as previously reported, the County took over the Town’s share of joint EDA operational funding several years ago as part of ongoing negotiations about the double taxation of town citizens. So, while the town government doesn’t have to fund the EDA’s legal defense against it, its citizens do as county taxpayers.

Alright, enough of that dizzying legal scenario.

Also approved Monday were a Fiscal Year-2021 budget amendment authorizing receipt of $1,276,558 of the County’s $3.5 million in CARES (Coronavirus Assistance, Relief Equities and Securities) Act federal funding for COVID-19 relief for private-sector economic losses incurred due to the Coronavirus pandemic emergency management response restrictions; as well as an agreement with the Front Royal-Warren County Chamber of Commerce to manage distribution of the Town’s CARES Act funds.

The amount of money authorized to be put under the Chamber’s control was $1,176,558, $100,000 less than the total amount being transferred to Town control. According to the staff summary, that $100,000 is being put into the General Fund Contingency account to cover “COVID-19 expenses”.

‘How much is that going to cost?’ Lori Cockrell asked of administering $1.2 million of CARES Act federal COVID-19 relief funding received through the County. The interim town manager said costs should be ‘minimal’.

Questioned about those expenses by Councilwoman Lori Athey Cockrell, Interim Town Manager Matt Tederick said those costs were an “unknown” at this time, so no amount was being cited at this point in the process.

However, Tederick said he was “confident” those costs would be “minimal”.

Also approved in a series of 5-0 votes, Holloway absent, as were the CARES Act related items, were three appropriations totaling $256,981.72 for equipment upgrade purchases for the Front Royal Police Department. FRPD Chief Kahle Magalis made a detailed presentation on the need for the equipment upgrades at council’s previous work session.

Those equipment purchase authorizations were:

  • $82,159.72 for a VESTA 911 phone system;
  • $162,000 for replacement of 10 WatchGuard 4Re In-car WIFI camera systems, and 24 VISTA body cameras, and;
  • $12,822 for Avtec-Motorola radio console equipment to replace existing equipment termed at its “end of life” stage of service.

As Chief Magalis told council at his work session presentation, these equipment upgrades are the cost of doing law enforcement work at an optimum of communications efficiency; and self-monitoring standards that protect both the public and the department’s personnel legally.

It’s always good to be packing a little heat when you’re asking this group for a quarter million dollars in operational funding, FRPD Chief Magalis may have been thinking as he dressed for Monday’s meeting.

The agenda summary noted that the Town will pay for the car and body cameras at $32,440 annually over a five-year period. Funding for all three purchases were cited as available through existing FY-2021 FRPD budget line items.

A scheduled Closed Session to discuss unspecified “Personnel” matters was deleted from the agenda at Councilman Meza’s suggestion, due to the absence of one member, Chris Holloway.

Lori Cockrell’s request to then add a Closed Session to discuss the Town’s litigation against the County-Town Economic Development Authority was rejected for not receiving the required unanimous vote to alter the advertised agenda. Councilwoman Letasha Thompson explained she would oppose the addition on the same grounds council had agreed to remove the scheduled Closed Session, Holloway’s absence preventing consideration by the full council.

E.J. Swindell and Jorge Guerrero are recognized by the Town Manager as Town ‘Stars of the Month’ for work ‘above and beyond’ in gathering up wind-blown recycling in the Ay-View Estates subdivision.

The final agenda item was unanimous approval of a Resolution of support for a Town “Employee Appreciation Day” to be this Wednesday, July 15. The resolution cited the ongoing contributions of the Town’s remaining 168 part and full-time employees, particularly during upheavals in normal service resulting from the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic emergency management response. Staff will be honored with a Town-hosted luncheon tomorrow to mark Employee Appreciation Day.

As his children and new chief watch, Scott Baker is introduced and pinned – carefully – by his wife as FRPD’s newest officer. Baker came over from the WC Sheriff’s Office investigations division.

See the staff summaries, discussion and votes on these matters, as well as Stars of the Month Employee recognitions to the Solid Waste Department’s EJ Swindell and Jorge Guerrero for work “above and beyond”; and the departmental “pinning” by his wife, of FRPD’s newest Officer Scott Baker; and public presentations on town road infrastructure/pothole issues (Mike McCool), trash accumulation and overflow at the County Dog Park in town (Betty Showers), and another 2nd Amendment Sanctuary initiative seeking to shield citizens from State-enacted gun laws presented to council (Paul Aldridge) in this Royal Examiner video:

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Town Manager search back to square one: Council majority rejects ‘great resume’ on ‘intangibles’

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It seems the $24,500 the Front Royal Town Council spent to have a private-sector executive search firm seek out qualified municipal management candidates has been taxpayer money thus far ill spent.

That is because from an initial field of 49 candidates assembled by executive search firm Baker-Tilly since they were contracted on February 13, none survived the initial selection process. As previously reported by Royal Examiner, two final candidates chosen from that field of 49, were brought into town for face-to-face interviews last week.

It appears neither was found acceptable to a majority of the Town’s elected officials – though it may have been a close call on one, according to Vice-Mayor Bill Sealock. Sealock serves as council liaison to the executive “headhunting” firm as some, including the vice mayor, colloquially call such executive “hunt” professionals. However, it appears a council majority of four rejected the preferred of the two final candidates as not bringing quite enough to the table to replace Interim Town Manager Matt Tederick on a permanent basis.

Recent council meeting with Vice-Mayor Sealock presiding due to the absence of Mayor Tewalt (Chris Holloway was present but out of view at right of photo). While present, the mayor may have been locked out of a potential tie-breaking vote on the appointment of a new town manager last week. Royal Examiner File Photos

“One had a poor interview,” Sealock observed, adding that while the other candidate had “a great resume” and was generally “liked” by all his council colleagues, was found by that majority to not have the necessary intangibles for the job. The primary intangible may have been age, as in the early ’30s being too young or not allowing for sufficient experience in municipal management.

“I could have voted yes; I think two, maybe a third could have,” Sealock said without naming names, “I really wanted to meet that 90-day time-frame,” the vice mayor added of making the choice by the end of the Fiscal Year 2020. However, with the potential of throwing a deciding vote Mayor Gene Tewalt’s way for an almost sure deciding 4-3 vote in favor of replacing Tederick at the helm of the town administration, any potential 3-3 tie evaporated.

“We didn’t want to do that,” Vice-Mayor Sealock said of having the mayor, rather than council have the final word on the decision.

Of the town manager search and restart of that process in the wake of the early July failure to make an appointment after a three to five-month process, Sealock said executive search consultant Baker-Tilly had informed him that “a couple” in the initial pool of candidates might re-apply.

Over half withdrew from consideration

Of the 49 original candidates provided by Baker-Tilly, Sealock said that 27 had dropped out, taking the field to 22. Those 22 were narrowed by council to a pool of nine, which jumped to 11 with two late additions. Council then narrowed the finalists down to three, one of whom removed them-self from consideration, leading to the final two candidates being brought in last week.

Sealock noted that part of the Baker-Tilly contract states that if an appointment is made and that appointee is terminated with cause within two years, Baker-Tilly will be responsible to assist in a new town manager candidate search at no additional cost to the original contract.

So, a young, likable candidate with a “great” resume – what have you got to lose?!?

Tederick, left, and Vice-Mayor Sealock flank William Huck during recent acknowledgment of the C&C Frozen Treats proprietor’s help with facilitating weekend downtown walking mall business reopenings. The municipal pair will continue working together as a council majority continues to seek a permanent town manager.

Of on-the-street “conspiracy theories” that the consultant search is more show than substance, and that Tederick will eventually be offered the job on a permanent basis by his council and County Republican Committee allies, Sealock pooh-poohed that notion.

“I talked to Matt this morning (Thursday, July 9) and he’s not interested in the job permanently. Could we hire him under other circumstances? – Yes, but he’s not interested. He’s done an exceptional job. No one else could have come in and been dead on, on services like he has,” Sealock observed.

If lauded inside Town Hall for his job as interim town manager, Tederick has drawn some pointed public criticism, including from council candidates Bruce Rappaport and Betty Showers. Most prominently that public criticism has focused on two council decisions many see the interim town manager’s influence on the front end of.

One was Tederick’s late January 2020 dis-assembling of the Town Tourism Marketing function in the wake of the firing of five department heads, as part of his FY-2021 town budget preparation and plan to downsize or “right-size” as he termed it, the town governmental function in favor of private-sector outsourcing.

Bruce Rappaport has been a vocal critic of the council and the interim town manager’s moves toward a new EDA while litigating with the existing EDA, among other issues.

The second was the decision to sue the existing Town-County EDA and apply to the state government for authority to become the first municipality in Virginia to be allowed to create a second Economic Development Authority while technically remaining a part of the existing EDA it has chosen to litigate against, rather than negotiate with to reach a mutually satisfactory resolution on any misdirected assets from the previous EDA Administration’s financial scandal.

For a council and interim town manager focused on reduced governmental costs, many have questioned the long-term financial impacts on town taxpayers of those two decisions.

Also as reported last week, Tederick’s contract as interim town manager was extended on a monthly basis past its June 30 end of the fiscal year term, as well as adjusted to a less complicated legally, personal rather than LLC hire, as council ponders life without its interim man.

Still at it: Interim Town Manager Matt Tederick will remain on job as council seeks a more perfect candidate to replace him on a permanent basis – “But there will be a time when I’ll have to say ‘I have to move on’,” he told Royal Examiner.

As readers will recall, council first appointed Tederick interim mayor in the wake of Mayor Hollis Tharpe’s April, effective May, 2019 resignation to deal with legal issues.

Contacted by phone shortly before publication Friday, Tederick confirmed Sealock’s perception and reinforced his own previous comments that he is not interested in, and will not seek the town manager’s job on a permanent basis. He noted that restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic response delayed planned business activities on his part, allowing him to continue in the interim role longer than he might have.

“But there will be a time when I’ll have to say ‘I have to move on’. So, I’m hoping to see this resolved in the next two to three months … There was a lot of time invested in this process. Both of those final candidates were brought in for 11-hour days around their interviews,” Tederick observed of the conclusion of a five-month process since Baker-Tilly was contracted by the Town.

Tederick noted that he was not in the room for the town manager candidate interviews, nor was he privy to details of those interviews. However, as to the observation about “age” being a determining factor in the rejection of the stronger of the two candidates interviewed last week, Tederick suggested perhaps limited “experience” as a preferable choice of words.

Attempts to reach other council members and the mayor for comment on this story were unsuccessful over a two-day period prior to publication.

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Warren County Planning Commission considers private school, tourist rental, and camping sites

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The Warren County Planning Commission met July 8 at the Government Center. Chairman Robert Myers (Happy Creek district) opened the meeting, reviewed the agenda, and prior meeting minutes, and for the third public meeting in a row, there were no citizen presentations, so the commission moved into public hearings for commission action.

Robert and Colleen Hencken have requested a conditional use permit for a private Montessori school located at 1694 Refuge Church Road in the North River Magisterial district. The Property is zoned A- Agricultural. Ms. Logan briefed the commission members on the staff work done on the application Staff had established conditions of approval of the permit, including compliance with the Department of Health, Fire safety, VDOT requirements, Signage ordinance, and parking plans.

Taryn Logan briefs the commission members on the staff work done on the application Staff had established conditions of approval of the permit, including compliance with the Department of Health, Fire safety, VDOT requirements, Signage ordinance, and parking plans. Photos and video by Mark Williams, Royal Examiner.

The property is not located in an area with a homeowners association and the property would meet the county’s setback and Health Department requirements. The maximum occupancy of the property was proposed to be 80 persons. All neighbors to the property were notified about the public hearing. Mr. Hencken spoke briefly about the project and his plans for the school as a temporary site in a converted pole barn. In addition, four citizens spoke at the public hearing in enthusiastic favor of the project.

Chairman Myers then closed the public hearing. The commissioners were then given the opportunity to ask questions. Vice-Chairman Henry then questioned the applicant regarding the plan for a septic system, which he regarded as a potentially difficult site due to soil conditions. As an experienced septic system installer, he asked if anyone had discussed a surface discharge system as a potentially appropriate solution.

Mr. Hencken indicated that they had had Marsh and Leggett come out to do the testing they indicated that a soil drip would not work. Mr. Henry explained that typical systems treat the sewage and then disperse it into the ground, but in that area, the ground is not very good for soaking anything. There is a different set of rules for a surface discharge system, in which the sewage is treated to the point that it is “clean water”. He recommended that the applicant mention it to the soil people and work with the health department. “Pump and haul” is not allowed for permanent structures. He further stated that a solution to the sewage problem would be a condition of the commission’s recommendation for approval.

The applicant indicated their plan was for use of the facility for 8 months to a maximum of 2 years, their original plan was to use bottled water in the building for hot and cold, and trailers for solid waste. He indicated that requirements were building up as if it were a permanent use, which it is not. He agreed to research the suggested solution with the authorities and consultants.

Commissioner Kersjes expressed concern about the traffic to the school through an intersection of Refuge Church Road and Doubletree Church Road, which is at a 45-degree angle. The applicant responded that the likely traffic count for the school would be approximately 25 cars morning and evening, or 100-150 trips/day. Commissioner Kersjes maintained that a 50% increase in traffic would be problematic. The applicant indicated they had asked VDOT to reduce the speed limit to 35 mph, in an effort to create safer access, and that VDOT had indicated that dropping the speed limit would not necessarily result in traffic slowing down. Chairman Myers commented that VDOT prefers 90-degree intersections, so the subject is likely to recur during the approval process. There were no other commissioner questions or comments.

Vice-Chairman Henry made a motion to recommend approval with conditions, as work with approving agencies was not yet complete. Commissioner Joe Longo seconded, and with no further discussion, the Commission voted unanimously to approve.

Anthony Cappaert has requested a conditional use permit for a short-term tourist rental at 437 Jones Quadrangle Road in the Shenandoah Farms subdivision, Shenandoah Magisterial District.

Anthony Cappaert has requested a conditional use permit for a short-term tourist rental at 437 Jones Quadrangle Road in the Shenandoah Farms subdivision, Shenandoah Magisterial District. The property is zoned R-1 residential. Planner Matt Wendling provided the staff briefing for the Commission. The last recorded building permit inspection was in 1973. The property is an older 2-bedroom home acquired by the applicant for a vacation property. He is seeking to recoup some costs of improvement by renting it on a short term basis. The health department has recommended that the well be tested annually for E-Coli and the septic system be inspected every 3-5 years. An e-mail was received from the Shenandoah Farms POA Chairman Ralph Reynaldi, citing no objections to the proposed use. The applicant has been working with the planning department to meet all the requirements for short-term tourist rental. The property meets all the setback requirements, meaning the closest dwelling is 125 feet away, The sanitary district manager has submitted comments regarding the proposal, with no objections to the traffic but included recommendations for landscape and drainage improvements. The staff recommends conditions for approval of the permit:

1) The applicant will be required to maintain compliance with all Health Department, regulations and the maximum number of occupants shall not exceed 4.

2) The applicant shall have the well water tested annually for E-Coli coliform bacteria and a copy of the results provided to the planning and health departments by the end of the calendar year.

3) The applicant shall clear and remove vegetation along the property frontage on both sides, and install a culvert at the entrance to the property.

Chairman Myers then opened the public hearing for one registered person to speak. Richard Goldie was opposed to the use and began a statement regarding the difference between residential and commercial uses of properties. The Chair reminded him that the Virginia General Assembly had determined that short term tourist rentals are not to be considered as a commercial activity, whereupon Mr. Goldie did not continue his statement but questioned whether the 100-foot setback requirement had, in fact, been met. The second speaker was the applicant, Mr. Kappaert, who expressed regret that he had not been aware of the opposition and was anxious to be a good neighbor and community member. He committed to reach out to the opposing parties and alleviate their concerns.

Another neighborhood resident, Jamie Hammick, was also opposed to the use, and indicated that it was purchased by an LLC rather than an individual, and feared that the proposed use could increase traffic, and potentially jeopardize the security of the neighborhood.

Once the public hearing was closed, Vice Chairman Henry asked the applicant if he had any issues with the recommendations of the sanitary district manager. The applicant was very agreeable.

Commissioner Longo asked if the applicant had a management plan. Mr. Kaeppert indicated he did and had an agreement with a local manager with 35 years of experience. Mr. Longo indicated that an actively rented property is preferable to a vacant unmaintained one. Similar sentiments were expressed by the Chairman.

Commissioner Kersjes asked about the property setbacks, and Mr. Wendling described the mechanism for using the county GIS system to measure dwelling to dwelling. The Chairman urged the applicant to work with the neighboring property owners to “extend an olive branch” as neighbors. Vice-Chairman Henry discussed the conditional use permit requirements and supported the idea that a well-maintained short term rental is better for the neighborhood than a badly managed long-term rental. He urged the neighbors to notify the planning department if there were problems. He also recommended informally that if there were a direct line of sight between the subject property and the nearest ones, that a neighborly gesture would be to consider some sort of screening
A motion was made by Vice-Chairman Henry, seconded by Commissioner Kersjes to recommend approval. Commission voted unanimously to approve.

Robert Hensley has requested a conditional use permit for non-commercial private use camping on his residentially-zoned (R-1) property on Rivermont Acres Road in the Fork Magisterial District. Matt Wendling of the Planning Office briefed the commission on the proposal. Neighboring property owners have been notified, but a response from the HOA has not yet been received.

The applicant seeks to use the property for seasonal camping and have access to the North Fork of the Shenandoah River for fishing and kayaking. There have not been any conditional use permits issued for this property although other properties in that subdivision have been issued similar permits for recreational use. Mr. Wendling outlined the supplementary regulations for that use, including the requirement for an RV to not be on the site for more than 180 consecutive calendar days, and a limitation on the number of recreational vehicles that would be allowed on the property. He also listed the conditions that would be part of the permit if it was issued, including compliance with County Health Department regulations, posting markers on the lot for fire/emergency services, RV-related materials to be stored neatly, and that the site would be subject to inspection to ensure compliance.

The property is located in a special flood zone, so an emergency plan would also be required to provide for evacuation in case of a flood event. Chairman Meyers opened the public comment period and there was no response from the sparse audience. Vice-Chairman Henry commented that this is an ideal use for the property.

Vice-Chairman Henry moved to forward the application to the Board of Supervisors for approval. Commissioner Longo seconded and the Commission voted unanimously to approve.

Aaron Hike has requested a conditional use permit for private use camping on a property on Beckwith Drive in the Shenandoah magisterial District. This property is also located in a special flood zone, so a flood emergency evacuation plan would be required. There would also be a requirement for an RV to be on the site for not more than 180 consecutive calendar days, and the site would be subject to inspection to ensure compliance. It has not been the subject of any previous conditional use permits. No speakers offered any comments during the public hearing, so Vice Chairman Henry moved to forward the application to the Board of Supervisors for approval. Commissioner Kersjes seconded and the Commission voted unanimously to approve.

During the planning director comments, Director Taryn Logan indicated that work is underway on the proposed Agricultural and Forestal Districts and that she is hoping to have all reviews completed by the end of the year. She also let the commission know that construction of the new building for Chipotle’s Drive-thru and Five Guys at Riverton Commons was in progress with one remaining unit in the new building not yet spoken for.

During the Commission Members’ comments, Vice Chairman Henry provided an update regarding the construction of the new fire station.

The Assistant County Attorney, Caitlin Jordan, did not have any comments for the commission.

Zoning Administrator Joe Petty summarized his work.

A motion to adjourn by Vice-Chairman Henry and a second by Commissioner Longo ended the meeting at 8:00 PM.

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Doug Stanley reflects on 25-years in Warren County government

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In a statement emailed to the media at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday afternoon Doug Stanley reflected on his time and career in Warren County.

“I have spent the past 25 years or half of my life serving the Front Royal-Warren County community, the last 20 as County Administrator. During that time, I have worked at the pleasure of the Warren County Board of Supervisors and appreciated the Board’s confidence, trust, and support over the years …

“I have been fortunate and blessed to work with an outstanding and professional staff of talented individuals who work hard to improve the quality of life of our citizens on a daily basis.

Above, the county supervisors and their administrator at distance as the meeting began. Below, Stanley acknowledged the board members following their action regarding his departure at the end of the month.

“Without a doubt, the past year has been the most difficult and challenging in my career. That said I believe we have made strides in bringing those responsible for the EDA embezzlement to justice and to recover what has been stolen as well as supporting the current EDA Board and staff to clean up the mess.

“To the community, I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to serve you over the past 25-plus years. Warren County has been able to strike a balance between economic growth and protecting the rural character, scenic vistas, and special places that we as a community treasure. I know in my heart that I leave Warren County a better community, a stronger more resilient community that is poised to continue to flourish in the coming years,” he concluded.

During that lengthy professional tenure here Stanley noted the challenges faced by the community regarding economic redevelopment after the closing of what was for decades beginning with World War II, one of, if not the county’s largest private-sector employer.

The north corridor commercial development overseen by County and EDA helped community bounce back from 1989 closure of the largest private-sector employer, Avtex Fibers, which began as American Viscose in 1940 and was FMC prior to its final Avtex incarnation.

“Over this period I have had the fortune and honor to be part of significant improvements to this community in replacing the lost jobs and tax base of the former Avtex facility with over $500 million in industrial development and the creation of over 2,000 jobs in the Route 340/522 corridor. This does not include the $1 billion invested by Dominion in the new power plant. The County has been able to attract significant retail development to the corridor which provides our residents with shopping and dining opportunities while generating revenue to reduce the County’s reliance on real estate taxes.”

And he noted the variety of capital improvement projects taken on, of particular note with the county’s public school system.

“We have also made tremendous strides in addressing the capital facility needs of our community thanks to the vision and support of the various members of the Board of Supervisors through the construction of numerous school, community, parks and recreation, and public safety facilities.

“I am proud that we have been able to make all of these improvements and additions to our community while still maintaining one of the lowest real estate tax rates in the region.”

EDA Board Chair Ed Daley will replace Doug Stanley on interim basis at month’s end

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EDA Board Chair Ed Daley will replace Doug Stanley on interim basis at month’s end

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Following a 2-1/2 hour closed session convened three minutes after opening Wednesday morning’s Special Meeting, the Warren County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a “Separation Agreement” with County Administrator Doug Stanley and the appointment of current Economic Development Authority Board of Directors Chairman Ed Daley as interim county administrator effective August 3rd.

Daley, now retired, has 35 years’ experience in the municipal/city management field, including in Winchester; Dodge City, Kansas; Fairmont, West Virginia; Hopewell and Emporia, Virginia. He will be paid at a $70 per hour rate. Daley confirmed that he will resign his EDA board position at the end of the month with the hope of returning to it upon the end of his tenure as interim county administrator.

Following adjournment of the special meeting North River Supervisor Delores Oates, who made the motion on the Separation Agreement, explained that Stanley’s final day on the job he has held since April 1, 2000, will be July 31, 2020.

Doug Stanley, right, greets Ed Daley and leads him to the closed session discussion of the shakeup in county administration. Royal Examiner Photos/Roger Bianchini – Royal Examiner Video/Mark Williams

Board Chairman Walt Mabe said that a press release on the departure of the only county administrator Warren County has had this century would be forthcoming, along with a copy of the “Separation Agreement” about an hour-and-a-half following the 1:36 p.m. adjournment of the July 8 special meeting. The board was in open session for a total of six minutes, three on each side of the 150-minute closed session.

In the County press release Mabe states, “We appreciate Mr. Stanley’s service to the Warren County community over the past 25 years. He has many wonderful accomplishments that have helped make Warren County a great place to live, work, and visit. We wish him the best as he continues with the next step in his career.”

Over the past year and a half Stanley has been a target of criticism on social media and by a few citizens at county board meetings as a symbol of the “business as usual” governmental scenario some hold as a causal factor in the EDA financial scandal. Whether such criticism is factually based or largely opinion rooted in the length of Stanley’s tenure with the county government or interpersonal issues remains to be seen.

As the 11 a.m. meeting time approached at the Warren County Government Center, 14 county staffers from seven county departments with no business on the one-topic meeting agenda filled a number of seats in the back rows of the public seating area. One, past and Interim Social Services Director (as of July 9) Beth Reavis held an “I Support Doug Stanley” sign.

Retired and soon-to-be Interim County Social Services Director Beth Reavis holds sign indicating staff support of the departing county administrator.

Perhaps that county staff presence led Board Chairman Mabe to open the meeting with a notice that any “outbursts or cheers or tears” would not be tolerated and that he would have the room cleared by the two Sheriff’s Office deputies present if such behavior occurred. As the motion was made to approve Stanley’s “separation” from County employment over 2-1/2 hours later those staffers all remained, observing silently.

Resigned or shown the door?

The press release from County Human Resources Director Jodi Saffelle issued at 2:53 p.m. is titled “Doug Stanley Has Resigned as County Administrator”

The press release begins stating, “Warren County Board of Supervisors Chairman Walt Mabe announced today that Douglas P. Stanley has tendered his resignation effective July 31, 2020. Mr. Stanley has been employed with the County since December 19, 1994, and has served as the County Administrator since April 1, 2000.”

However, in the Separation Agreement added to the release, it is noted in Points 1 and 2 that:

1 – Mr. Stanley, at the request of the Warren County Board of Supervisors, agrees to resign as County Administrator effective July 31, 2020.

2 – The County Agrees that Mr. Stanley’s resignation shall be considered an involuntary separation as that term is defined in Section 51.1-155.2 of the Code of Virginia.

That Virginia Code Section states that, “Such member may retire without the reduction in retirement allowance required by subdivisions A 2 and A 3 of § 51.1-155.2 upon attaining age 50”.

During the lengthy closed session, Stanley informed the media that his 51st birthday was the previous day, July 7, 2020. – Well happy birthday a day late, Doug, looks like you won’t lose any accumulated retirement from this “involuntary separation” resignation.

Stanley began his employment with the County as Zoning Administrator in December 1994. He became both planning director and county administrator on April 1, 1996, and 2000, respectively; serving in the dual role of county administrator/planning director until June 30, 2008, when Taryn Logan was named planning director.

Above, Stanley kills time as the 2-1/2 hour closed session discussion of his ‘Separation Agreement’ from his quarter-century place of employment progresses. Below, flanked by Planning Director Taryn Logan, Stanley chats with county staff present at Wednesday’s meeting.

Logan was one of the 14 employees, including several other department heads, present to hear Wednesday’s announcement without the need of a law enforcement escort out of the building. Other department heads spotted, masked and unmasked, were Fire Chief Richard Mabie, Parks & Recreation Director Dan Lenz, Building Code Official David Beahm, and Reavis on an interim basis at DSS, along with other staff including Deputy Emergency Management Director Rick Farrall, Joe Petty, Mike Berry, semi-retired Finance Director Carolyn Stimmel, among others, including Administrative Assistant Shelley Hayes filling in as deputy board clerk.

See events unfold in this Royal Examiner video:

Doug Stanley reflects on 25-years in Warren County government

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Local Government

Supervisors majority poised to fire County Administrator Doug Stanley

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County Administrator Doug Stanley / Royal Examiner file photo

According to a Warren County Board of Supervisors Special Meeting Agenda circulated at 9:18 a.m. Wednesday morning, less than two hours before the meeting’s 11 a.m. starting time, County Administrator Doug Stanley will be terminated following a closed session this morning.

Following immediate adjournment to closed session, the first action item is “Employment of the County Administrator – Action Requested”.

That is followed by “Employment of Interim County Administrator and Interim Clerk”.

The county administrator also serves as board clerk. Emily Ciarrocchi is deputy clerk.

Following his mid, late-1990’s hiring as county planning director, Stanley was appointed county administrator, initially serving in both positions before the hiring of Taryn Logan to fill the planning director’s role. Stanley has served as county administrator for 20 years.

Stay tuned for a report on this morning’s board action as it unfolds in front of the Royal Examiner camera.

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