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Board of Zoning Appeals approves variance requests for homeowners in flood zones



Pricillia and Mark Perko requested and received variances from the Board of Zoning Appeals. Photo by Kim Riley. Video by Mark Williams, Royal Examiner.

FRONT ROYAL — Pricillia Perko, who along with her husband Mark Perko owns waterfront property in a flood zone on the Shenandoah River, on Thursday night literally asked members of the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) to help save her life.

The couple appeared during the BZA’s first public hearing session regarding their variance requests for a steel pavilion that covers part of the carport at their Avalon Drive property in Shenandoah River Estates (SRE).

“Our carport, as silly as it may seem to others, actually serves as a lifeboat for me in the winter,” Pricillia Perko said in a statement read by her husband to the BZA during its October 3 meeting.

“When I have flare-ups, I can’t wait for an ambulance and can’t take a chance that it would not be able to get to me or not be able to get me out once it arrived if the roads were bad, as they have been many times.”

Pricillia Perko, a lung cancer and heart attack survivor, currently suffers resulting health conditions that have severely impacted her breathing. One of the ways that Mark Perko tried to help improve her quality of life and to proactively prepare for emergencies occurred in 2015 when he erected the pavilion, which serves two purposes: as a canopy that allows Pricillia to enjoy the outdoors without being baked by the sun, and for car shelter during inclement winter weather when she may need emergency transport to the local hospital.

The community’s roads are not maintained by either the County or State, making travel difficult for ambulances during winter weather, said Mark Perko.

“Ice and snow events are the types of situations that scare me,” according to Pricillia’s statement. “My husband keeps our truck emergency-ready with chains on it when ice is forecast.

Unfortunately, I do not have time to wait for him to clean off snow and ice or get a vehicle road ready. In those cases, I need to leave very quickly. This is when the carport becomes a lifeboat for me by keeping a vehicle emergency ready.”

The problem with the permanent structure, however, was that the pavilion didn’t meet certain Warren County zoning requirements, according to Matt Wendling, the County floodplain manager and planner II, who toured the Perkos’ property during a community assistance visit this spring with a representative from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

“This is how Mr. Perko’s pavilion was discovered,” Wendling wrote in his September 23 staff summary for the BZA. “Planning Staff requested Mr. Perko to apply for a building permit, which he did and was approved by the Building Inspections office to be flood proofed. However, zoning could not approve the permit because the pavilion does not meet the zoning ordinance setback requirements.”

Ultimately, Wendling told the Perko family that they needed to request a variance to Warren County Code Section 180-12(B)(4)(b) and 180-22(H)(1)&(3) to allow an accessory building to be located within the front yard at a front setback of 19 feet in lieu of the required 50-feet setback. They also needed to request a variance for another County code regarding the number of accessory structures on a property less than one acre in size located in the County’s special flood hazard area.

But Wendling also noted in his staff summary that the pavilion’s location “does seem to be the only location on the Perkos’ property where they could place the pavilion” because the parcel is a small lot (0.16 acres) where there’s also a house, shed, septic system and well.

The Perko family requested variances to County codes for their pavilion and shed. Photo from County file

Nevertheless, before requesting their variances, the Perkos experienced months of what Mark Perko called “high anxiety” as they jumped through bureaucratic hoops.

“I personally think that the citizens of the flood zone areas want to obtain permits and follow the due process,” Mark Perko told BZA members, “but our experiences have been that the current attitude of the County forbids that from happening when one has specific needs or wants to improve their home or property in these communities.”

That sentiment was echoed by several of his neighbors from Shenandoah River Estates who also attended the BZA meeting to support the Perkos’ request, voice their own concerns, and offer suggestions for improving zoning processes and codes.

Eva Challis, for instance, who is vice president of the SRE Civic Association, pointed out what the group considers a key discrepancy between residents and County planning and zoning officials: the variance issue regarding what constitutes a front yard.

Waterfront homeowners consider their front yards to be facing the Shenandoah River, while the County refers to a front yard as being on the side of the house facing the street.

“Our community was created as a waterfront community because the view should be the river, not the road,” Challis said. “To have a beautiful view of the river it wouldn’t make sense to want to put sheds, carports, a garage or whatever is allowed in front to obstruct your view. It would make sense in our specific community that the back of your house faces the road.”

SRE formerly was part of Happy Creek Farm and was developed in the flood zone in the 1950s when lot-size requirements didn’t exist. Most lots were purchased for a standard 50-feet wide with varying lengths, which subsequently have changed due to erosion caused by the Shenandoah River, Challis said.

“If it’s possible, it would be great if we could be considered as some sort of an exception,” suggested Challis, noting that if the residential zoning for SRE could be changed to agricultural, then SRE would be allowed more variances or exceptions.

“Just because we don’t fit the current subdivision definition, perhaps you could consider changing the code to help us to fit into perhaps some other categories,” she added.

Another resident supporting the Perko family variance request sent an October 3 letter to BZA Secretary Cindy Kodernak, Mark Perko, and Thomas Sayre, vice chairman of the Warren County Board of Supervisors, whose Shenandoah District includes SRE.

SRE “residents should not be limited by unrealistic stringent planning and zoning rules as our neighborhood is unique and was built this way,” wrote Sally Long, who lives on Harris Drive. “We need clear guidelines to follow that apply to our riverfront community and reflect the way it was originally established by the developer. We need special exemptions to the code.”

Sayre also attended the BZA meeting to support the Perkos’ request.

“I think it makes a statement that a County supervisor cares enough about the citizens under his authority to take his personal time to attend this meeting and hear his constituents’ concerns,” Mark Perko told the BZA.

Following the Perkos’ public hearing session, the BZA considered their variance requests, with BZA Vice Chair Lorraine Smelser motioning to accept an accessory building to be located “within the front yard at a front setback of 19 feet,” and to allow two accessory structures on the property “with the condition that the applicant meets all building and zoning permitting requirements.”

The motion was seconded by BZA member Robert Conway and unanimously approved by the Board — action that generated audience applause.

BZA members then held two more separate public hearing sessions for similar variance requests for setback increases, as well as increases to the number of accessory structures on properties less than one acre in size.

Gang Li (left) and Helen Xiaohui Wu (center) discuss their variance request with Warren County Floodplain Manager and Planner II Matt Wendling (right). Photo by Kim Riley

In each case, the Front Royal residents said they previously received incorrect information about whether they needed certain County-required documents to construct certain structures on their properties.

For instance, Helen Xiaohui Wu and Gang Li, who live on Old Dam Road on the Shenandoah River, had to request a variance to Warren County Code Section 180-12(B)(4)(b) and 180-22(H)(1)&(3) to allow a garage and deck to be located within the front yard with no front setback in lieu of the required 50-feet setback and a side setback of 6 feet in lieu of the required 10-feet setback.

Warren County planner Wendling reported that in March, when County planning staff and a FEMA floodplain manager made site visits to locations around Warren County, they “observed a garage, deck and storage shed” on the Xiaohui/Gang property as they drove through the subdivision.

“These structures appear to be placed there a number of years ago, but we have no records of it being permitted,” wrote Wendling in a June 21, 2019 letter to Xiaohui and Gang, adding that without the required permits, “the property would be in violation … and may make you subject to zoning enforcement actions.”

Xiaohui apologized to BZA members on Thursday for being “ignorant about how the building process works which is why I hired a contractor to take care of the necessary details. I now know that this contractor did not comply with the standard process for building projects.”

Similarly, Kent Wager in 2017 built a carport on his Valley Retreat Road property on the South Fork of the Shenandoah River that a formerly employed County building inspector told him didn’t require a permit. But then this year Wendling told him the structure did require a variance for the 19-feet front setback in lieu of the required 50-feet setback.

Each variance request for both applicants also sought to allow for the number of accessory structures on a lot of less than one acre in size to be increased to four in lieu of two.

The BZA approved both requested variances with the condition that each applicant meet all building and zoning permitting requirements.

And BZA Chairman David Feiring told Xiaohui to make sure that any future contractors she hires understand what’s required by the County before they conduct any work.

Watch the BZA meeting in this exclusive Royal Examiner video:

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Local Government

Grand Opening of the Warren County Splash Pad



Warren County’s Department of Parks and Recreation is excited to invite everyone to the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for the Warren County Splash Pad on Saturday, October 12, 2019, at 1:00 pm. The ceremony will be held at Dr. Saul Seide Memorial Botanical Gardens (beside Raymond E. Santmyers Youth Center).

Following the ceremony, the Splash Pad will be open for play and water fun until 5:00 pm. Please join us to celebrate an exciting addition to Warren County!

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EDA in Focus

Town, EDA civil motions arguments continued to November 8



A scheduled Wednesday afternoon motions hearing in the Town of Front Royal’s civil suit against the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority has been continued to November 8, at 9 a.m.

Apparently Harrisonburg-based Judge Bruce D. Albertson and attorneys for both sides were aware of the continuance, because as the clock turned to the scheduled single case 2 p.m. docket none of that trio was present. However this reporter, a colleague from another media outlet, EDA Board of Directors Vice Chairman Jeff Browne, a court bailiff and Circuit Court clerk were all present along with a single spectator who had traveled from Winchester.

A clerk’s call to the judge’s office and Browne’s call to the EDA attorney’s office quickly confirmed the new hearing date.

What will be argued on the new hearing date is the EDA’s claim of institutional sovereign immunity from the financial liability at issue in the Town’s litigation seeking recovery of “as much as $15 million” in misdirected Town assets related to the EDA’s own civil litigation seeking recovery of $21.3 million in EDA assets.

Current EDA Executive Director Doug Parsons has promised to work with Town officials to ascertain exactly how much the EDA owes the Town in overpayments or misdirected asset allocation.

However Town legal staff indicated the threat of statute of limitations deadlines on misdirected Town assets due to uncertainty on exactly what assets at what time are involved, in the decision to file the Town civil suit against the EDA/IDA.

Town Attorney Doug Napier is on one end of the sovereign immunity legal arguments anticipated at a motions hearing now scheduled for Nov. 8. Royal Examiner File Photo/Roger Bianchini

Of the Town’s dispute of the EDA sovereign immunity claim, EDA counsel wrote, “Plaintiff (the Town) argues that there is a fiduciary duty owed by the EDA to the Town that is actionable if breached. However, the relationship between the EDA and the Town of Front Royal is governed solely by statute,” which appears to be a legalese point of law based in the relationship between EDA’s and the municipalities that create them to oversee economic development for them.

“That the Town of Front Royal voluntarily waived its right to control the EDA, contrary to the statutory mandate, does not create an actionable fiduciary duty inuring to its benefit,” EDA Attorney Rosalie Fessier wrote, further observing, “The General Assembly has imposed a matter of accountability and protection of the public money within the statutory scheme and did not provide for a procedural remedy in the manner sought in this case.”

Town legal counsel contends that the EDA as an entity and its former executive director made unfulfilled promises regarding Town assets that negate the sovereign immunity claim: “… here, the EDA and McDonald represented to the Town they were going to invest in certain investments on behalf of the Town, the EDA and McDonald were engaged in ministerial, not discretionary, duties … The facts alleged above constitute an implied in fact, if not an express, contract between the EDA and Town. As pled, the EDA and McDonald breached those contracts.”

Uh oh, breaches of “implied” versus “express” contracts and fiduciary duties; and a “voluntary” abdication of oversight authority by the Town are likely to lead to some mind bending legalese arguments on November 8 – can’t wait.

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Local Government

Shenandoah Farms and Blue Mountain Sanitary Districts completion of Tomahawk Way, Phase II Rural Addition project



Representatives in photo: Shenandoah District Board of Supervisors Member, Tom Sayre; County Administrator, Doug Stanley; Deputy County Administrator, Bob Childress; Shenandoah Farms Property Owners’ Association Board Chairman, Ralph Rinaldi, and other board members; Blue Mountain Property Owners’ Association Board Chairman, Jim McMannaway; and members of Warren County Fire & Rescue.

Warren County officials and representatives of the Shenandoah Farms and Blue Mountain Property Owner Associations recently gathered for a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the completion of the Tomahawk Way, Phase II Rural Addition improvement project. Tomahawk Way lies within and serves several homes within the Blue Mountain Sanitary District and also serves as the primary access roadway to the Mountain View Section of the Shenandoah Farms Sanitary District, which includes over 100 homes and the potential for many more. The 0.25 mile long project to improve Tomahawk Way also included the reconstruction and paving of a 0.11 mile segment of the adjacent Old Linden Road, which also serves both Sanitary Districts. The long awaited completion of the Phase II project along with the original construction of Phase I, completed in 2013, now provides for a paved roadway for hundreds of residents out to Freezeland Road.

The project was identified as the Shenandoah Farm Sanitary District’s #1 Rural Addition priority in its Fiscal Year 2018/19 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). The CIP, reviewed annually with the Property Owners Association Board (POSF) and approved by the Warren County Board of Supervisors, provides a blueprint for improvements within the District. The CIP includes both VDOT Revenue Sharing Projects and “in-house” projects in a prioritized list to provide guidance for staff to implement road and drainage improvements.

The project was funded primarily through VDOT’s Revenue Sharing Program with VDOT picking up 50% and Warren County 25% of the eligible costs. Since the improved roadways lie within and serve two separate Sanitary Districts, the remaining 25% costs were shared by the Shenandoah Farms and Blue Mountain Sanitary Districts on a 75/25 cost sharing basis. Since completion, the roadways have been accepted by VDOT for maintenance. Improving these types of roads and turning them over to VDOT allows for the Sanitary District funds that would normally be targeted for their maintenance to be used to maintain and improve other roads.

The completion of this project represent the 20th roadway the County has developed and upgraded through the Rural Addition program over the past 10 years. Since taking on the administration of the Shenandoah Farms Sanitary District road system in July 2010 the County has upgraded and turned over approximately 4 miles of roadways within the District to VDOT. This program allows for private subdivision roads to be upgraded to minimum state standards permitting their addition to the Virginia Department of Transportation’s (VDOT) Secondary Road System. Tomahawk Way and Old Linden Road were reconstructed to provide a 20’ wide paved surface with 2’ stabilized shoulders.  Roadway culverts and private entrance pipes were replaced and/or supplemented throughout the project and side ditches constructed where necessary to improve drainage and safety signage installed.

According to Warren County Administrator Doug Stanley, “The VDOT Revenue Sharing Program allows the County to administer these types of projects at a much lower cost. Since we don’t have all the overhead costs that VDOT does, we can complete them much more cost effectively. Deputy County Administrator Robert “Bob” Childress, who manages the Shenandoah Farms Sanitary District for the County, developed and provided daily oversight of construction on the project. Bob’s background and experience in road maintenance and construction with VDOT prior to his employment with the County have proved to be invaluable as we seek to make improvements to the infrastructure of the Sanitary Districts.”

According to Childress, “The originally approved VDOT Revenue Sharing estimate for the project totaled $280,000, and while all final billing has not been processed, it appears the project has been successfully completed just under the budgeted amount.” The roadway grading and drainage work were completed by General Excavation, Inc. of Warrenton, with the asphalt surfaces being placed by Carroll Construction Company, Inc. of Winchester. Childress goes on to say, “We were very blessed to experience good weather this summer and to have had knowledgeable contractors on our team which allowed us to complete the project within our budget and construction schedule”.

Stanley further stated, “I am thankful for the partnering relationship between the County, the Shenandoah Farms, and Blue Mountain POA’s to advance and successfully complete this important project. The upgrading and paving of these local subdivision roads improve access, make travel safer for residents, and enhance response times for emergency vehicles/equipment.”

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EDA in Focus

EDA board tours ITFed site to view status of disputed drainage pipe



EDA board members view a ditch with no drainage pipe laid as of Oct. 4, 2019. The path of the disputed segment of a stormwater drainage system is to the right-center of the photo. Royal Examiner Photos/Roger Bianchini. Video by Mark Williams, Royal Examiner.

Following a 20 minute open session and two closed sessions totaling three hours and ten minutes, the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Board of Directors walked next door to the ITFederal building construction site to view the status of a drainage ditch through portions of the property.

Town Engineer Robert Brown soon joined the EDA board members to revisit the situation. That situation appeared to be a continued impasse between ITFederal CEO Truc “Curt” Tran and the Town of Front Royal over responsibility for placing the stormwater drainage system across portions of the 30-acre ITFed parcel.

As Brown first explained to town council and staff at a September 17 work session, Tran is claiming the Town is responsible for paying to install the drainage system based on what town officials claim was a draft architectural drawing that was never submitted, as opposed to the final, submitted version.

At issue is a 505-foot stretch of 42-inch stormwater drainage piping with a cost estimate of about $150,000 to install. Last September Brown told council that the initial 505 foot stretch was estimated at $120,873 with an additional 700-foot channel extending beyond the 10,000 square-foot building under construction adding as much as an additional $50,000 to the project.

As noted in our September 19, 2017 story, town officials have drawn a line in “the mud” if you will on the issue with the embattled ITFederal CEO.

Stormwater accumulated in Sept. 2018 at the time town officials were briefed by staff on the cost dispute. Phase one of the W. Main Connector road had yet to be paved at the time.

Friday Brown confirmed that it would be unlikely the Town would issue an occupancy permit for the building without the drainage system being installed. The disputed portion of the drainage piping traversing the rear of the ITFed building is necessary to carry natural stormwater flow that has passed under the first phase of the West Main Connector Road in a drainage system the Town installed beyond the ITFederal construction project to a collection point.

Town Engineer Robert Brown points to a traditional point of origin for stormwater naturally flowing across the northern section of the Royal Phoenix property near Kendrick Lane.

One of the few conditions Tran has to meet to remain compliant with the payback and construction terms of the EDA’s $10 million loan to ITFederal is to have an occupancy permit in place by mid-2020.

Failing that requirement it would appear at that point Tran would be considered in default of the terms of his EDA loan agreement. It is a loan the EDA has included in its $21 million civil litigation as already recoverable as illegally acquired EDA assets.

Former EDA/County Attorney Dan Whitten has cited the ITFederal loan as acquired under false pretenses. The false pretenses appear to include the fact that a $140-million federal government contract asserted by Tran, Congressman Robert Goodlatte and former EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald as the basis of a $40 million ITFederal investment in the site sold to him behind closed doors for one dollar, never existed.

Following the first 2-1/2 hour closed session Friday morning the EDA board approved a motion to amend its civil litigation to add new defendants. That amended filing is expected to be made by the end of the day. When filed at the Warren County Circuit Court Clerk’s Office, the amendments to the $20-million EDA civil litigations will be added in a related story.

In the meantime watch this exclusive Royal Examiner video of the EDA tour of the ITFederal property:

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Local Government

Stanley leads RSW Jail Authority through routine business meeting



From left, RSW Authority Chair Doug Stanley, Shenandoah County’s Conrad Hensley, Dan Murray and Sheriff Arnold hidden behind Authority legal counsel.. Photo by Roger Bianchini. Video by Mark Williams, Royal Examiner.

On Thursday, September 26, just two days after being booked along with 12 of 13 other municipal officials on three misdemeanor counts of misfeasance and nonfeasance in the conduct of their public offices, Warren County Administrator Doug Stanley returned to the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren County Regional Jail.

However this visit was for the more pleasant task of chairing the RSW Jail Authority Board of Directors meeting. Stanley has held the authority chairmanship for several years. The board is comprised of the three involved counties’ chief administrative officials, a county board representative, the three sheriffs and various jail officials.

Warren County Board of Supervisors Chairman Dan Murray, also indicted on those three misdemeanor charges related to an alleged lapse of due diligent oversight of former Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority Executive Director Jennifer McDonald over the last four months of 2018, also represents the County on the RSW Authority Board along with Sheriff Michael Arnold.

No mention of the Warren County officials’ legal situation – all charged were released on personal recognizance bonds without ever being booked into the jail – was made during the meeting. However prior to the meeting’s start Murray did audibly converse with Shenandoah County Board member Conrad Hensley, seated to his right, about his desire to sell his house upon his pending retirement from local politics. New Jersey native Murray is not running for reelection in the wake of personal and family health issues.

RSW Jail Superintendent Russ Gilkison directed the meeting through several staff reports on jail operations, financing and staff issues.

And for those disappointed in not hearing all of Davenport & Associates’ Ted Cole’s somewhat detailed summary of the pending VRS municipal bond reissue at the October 1 county supervisors meeting, Cole made a similar uninterrupted presentation on the RSW Jail bond reissue.

Ted Cole, white shirt, explains in detail the potential advantages of a municipal bond reissue for the RSW construction bond if current interest rates hold.

See that “scintillating” piece of financial analysis and the rest of the RSW Authority Board discussion of jail operations in this linked Royal Examiner videos: – Get the popcorn, dad! I can’t wait to hear ALL of Mr. Cole’s analysis of the ins and outs of the flow of interest rates toward historic lows and if that can hold through the next month and save all of us, well, all of you taxpayers $7 million in interest payments over the next 20 years or so:

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EDA in Focus

Citizen critics of indicted county officials get personal – and impatient



Board Chairman Murray and County Administrator Stanley flank County Planning Director Taryn Logan after presenting her with a Certificate of Recognition for the County’s work in partnership with the Virginia Farmland Preservation Fund signed by Governor Northam. ‘As one of 16 Virginia localities that invested the time and resources to develop their own Purchase of Development Rights program, we would not have been able to reach this milestone without your help,’ State officials told the County. Royal Examiner Photos/Roger Bianchini. Video by Mark Williams, Royal Examiner.

It was a nearly full house of around 60 citizens, mostly angry and accusatory, that greeted the Warren County Board of Supervisors and staff at the first monthly meeting of October. Despite the 9 a.m. meeting time historically done to accommodate monthly reports including some from out of town officials, citizens upset about the EDA financial scandal were out in force Tuesday, October 1.

They appeared drawn by a late-added agenda item word of which quickly spread through the community. That item was consideration of the hiring of legal counsel at taxpayer expense for the defense of the five supervisors, county administrator and former county/EDA attorney each charged a week earlier, September 24, on three misdemeanor indictments of misfeasance or nonfeasance in the conduct of their public positions.

Those charges allege a lack of due diligent oversight of former EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald while the EDA financial fraud investigation was underway the final four months of last year, beginning in mid-September.

With public calls for a mass resignation of the board – though apparently not until they first fire County Administrator Doug Stanley – the thought of the board members, not only staying in office, but also using taxpayer generated County funds for their defense against charges they have already been deemed guilty as charged of in the court of social media and public opinion, is not a happy thought for many.

The consensus among those gathered for Tuesday morning’s meeting was no taxpayer-generated attorneys fees for you, unless maybe if you are acquitted. There was also an unusually large contingent of WCSO deputies, uniformed and plain clothes on the scene.

Seventeen speakers rose in the first round of public comments near the meeting’s beginning to address their various levels of unhappiness at the evolution of what has now been cited in civil litigation discussion as a $21 million embezzlement or misdirection of EDA assets over the past five-plus years. Then in the second, less time-restricted public comments section near the meetings end another 12 people rose, for the most part to continue the criticism of the lapse of oversight for which the supervisors and two staffers are now being criminally prosecuted for.

And about Valley Health
However one speaker, Melanie Salins, returned to her “Birth Local” roots fighting reduced services including the loss of a maternity ward in the new Valley Health hospital under construction off Leach Run Parkway. Sighting past potential conflicts of interest stretching across the Town, County and EDA boards that all approved the EDA issuance of a $60 million construction loan to Valley Health, Salins suggested the supervisors initiate a call among all three municipal and quasi-municipal organizations for Valley Health to volunteer to pay all fees associated with the bond issue to ease the financial pain on the community.

“The deal was created by people who had perceived conflicts of interest with an entity now alleged and charged in criminal and illegal activities. It gives the appearance that Valley Health is benefitting from certain ill-gotten gains. I can’t imagine Valley Health would want to benefit from criminal activity in any way, shape or form … Their agreement to donate these bond fees to you would be an excellent gesture of good will toward our community in the difficult spot we find ourselves in,” Salins suggested.

And Emily?

A final speaker, Steve Cullers, rose to criticize an earlier speaker’s drawing of Board Clerk Emily Mounce into the discussion of reemployment following what is already a volatile November Election campaign.

Steve Cullers rose to board clerk Emily Mounce’s defense after she was included in one speaker’s somewhat personalized negative critique of county governmental operations.

“This is a new low” in the public discourse, Cullers said of refocusing the personally-natured attacks that speaker James Harper had begun on County Administrator Stanley and Shenandoah District Supervisor Tom Sayre, before shifting to criticism of Mounce for her demeanor in the handling of his FOIA requests regarding County and EDA matters.

Yada, yada, yada
And between those volatile public comments sections as the meeting worked through other agenda items, including the Fiscal Year 2018 outside auditor’s report – positive for the County – and authorization for financial consultants to move on a Virginia Resources Authority (VRA) bond refinancing issuance that could save the County $7 million or more in interest payments if current interest rates hold through October 30, the crowd present for other business grew restless.

“How can that be?!?” Jim Bond yelled of the positive audit report being presented by Matthew McLearen of the Robinson, Farmer, Cox Associates firm contracted as the County auditor.
Then as County bond consultant Ted Cole of Davenport & Associates plowed through a rather laborious explanation of the financial variables and parameters involved in moving on the bond reissues several spectators, Paul Gabbert in particular, became frustrated with the time being devoted to multi-million decisions in the public interest, because after all, that was not Mr. Gabbert and many of those present’s interest of the moment.

Paul Gabbert interrupts meeting.

What Gabbert and others appeared not to grasp amidst the numerous bond reissuance variables was that the resolution of support Cole was setting the groundwork for included minimum savings totals and interest rates in effect on October 30 when the VRA refinancing goes out.

However the public complaining about, not only the length time the first of two bond reissue presentations took, but the seemingly dizzying variables on each past construction bond reissue led the board to delay a vote on authorization to proceed with the bond reissue until the October 15 meeting. Cole told the board that “mid-October” was the stated deadline VRS has put on municipal decisions to participate.

So hopefully VRS officials weren’t referring to “almost mid-October”, say October 14 to jump in if the now near historical low interest rates hold for the next month. Be ashamed to lose that equivalent of a penny of county real estate tax revenue annually that might be saved if the refinancing opportunity were lost at the current estimated total saving of over $7 million. As Board Chairman Dan Murray pointed out, each penny of real estate tax revenue generates around $400,000, which is about what projected annual savings are now at, Cole explained.

As a further accommodation to the large crowd present for the attorney fees discussion, the board also moved Cole’s second presentation on refinancing of the RSW Jail construction bond to after the attorney’s fee discussion. Action on approval of the jail bond refinancing was also postponed to October 15.

However additional groans and yelling from the crowd were heard when Carter noted that the board had no supporting documentation on the attorney payment situation and suggested delaying the matter to the December meeting. He noted that most of the defense attorney motions to quash the indictments against their clients would be heard on October 28, so the status of the charges would be clearer at that time.

Carter’s motion to postpone the discussion and a vote for two months was seconded by Linda Glavis. The motion passed by a 3-2 margin, with Sayre and Murray dissenting.
Some speakers suggested paying the requested legal fees only if the defendants are acquitted or the charges were dropped on he motions to quash. Sayre had prefaced discussion by noting he planned to pay his own attorney’s fees.

Carla Sayre, foreground doorway, and James Harper, not a past president of the Doug Stanley Fan Club, following a brief hallway dust up that attracted WCSO deputy attention following Harper’s late meeting jabs at her husband, Shenandoah District Supervisor Tom Sayre.

Some speakers suggested paying the requested legal fees with taxpayer money only if the defendants are acquitted or the charges were dropped on the motions to quash.

EDA charges background
As Royal Examiner has previously reported the misdemeanor indictments handed out to a mix of past and present County and EDA officials on September 24, cites a failure of oversight between September and December of 2018 as allowing a minimum of $309,000 in additional EDA resources to be misdirected or embezzled by the former EDA executive director. McDonald had first come under scrutiny for possible financially fraudulent activities regarding the Town of Front Royal in August 2018.

It was August 23 of last year when McDonald, then EDA/County Attorney Dan Whitten, and then EDA Board Chairman Greg Drescher were confronted by Town staff and auditors over the discovery of over eight years of debt service payments to the EDA which the Town should not have been responsible for. Town summaries of that meeting indicate it may have been the first time the word “fraud” was broached concerning EDA financial affairs.

Drescher resigned as EDA board chairman the following day and Whitten left County employment on September 13 of this year to take the county attorney’s job in Prince George County. Both were among the 14 County and EDA officials charged with a lack of due diligent oversight last week.

The Town has also filed a civil suit against the EDA seeking recovery of as much as $15 million of Town assets it believes were impacted in the EDA financial fraud situation.

Above the supervisors and below a portion of the crowd standing in the moment of silent prayer for community healing that County Board Chair Dan Murray has made a tradition of opening meetings with. Murray let board and staff criticism go other than several occasions when it took on an aggressively personal tone.

And in a late-breaking development that occurred during Tuesday morning’s county board meeting, the Town of Front Royal issued a press release through the Mayor and Council’s Office stating it was withdrawing from joint Town-County-EDA meetings, as well as participation in the joint Reform Committee formed to recommend changes to processes to prevent a recurrence of the EDA financial scandal. They are processes the EDA and County have already begun implementation of.

Watch the public comments and attorney fees discussion in the exclusive Royal Examiner video:

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King Cartoons

Get Your Zombie Walk Shirt

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Oct 16 @ 10:30 am – 12:00 pm
Art Class "Fall is Here" @ Art in the Valley
We are offering classes for children ages 7-12 who would enjoy expressing themselves through art. The students will expand their creative side with drawing, painting and constructing, using various mediums such as acrylic, pastels, watercolor[...]
7:00 pm Author Jeff Hunt book signing @ Warren Rifles Confederate Museum
Author Jeff Hunt book signing @ Warren Rifles Confederate Museum
Oct 16 @ 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm
Author Jeff Hunt book signing @ Warren Rifles Confederate Museum
Author Jeff Hunt will be presenting and signing copies of his books from the Meade and Lee Series at multiple events in the state of Virginia. The first event is at 7:00 pm on Wednesday,[...]
1:30 pm The Fundamentals of Oil Painting... @ Art in the Valley
The Fundamentals of Oil Painting... @ Art in the Valley
Oct 17 @ 1:30 pm – 4:00 pm
The Fundamentals of Oil Painting - Fall 2019 @ Art in the Valley
This class will focus on proven approaches for successful oil paintings. Subject matter will be the student’s choice. No previous painting experience with oils necessary. The class will introduce students to fundamental concepts of color[...]
10:00 am R-MA Homecoming @ Randolph-Macon Academy
R-MA Homecoming @ Randolph-Macon Academy
Oct 18 @ 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
R-MA Homecoming @ Randolph-Macon Academy
Randolph-Macon Academy will welcome alumni and their families back to campus on Friday and Saturday, October 18th and 19th, during the annual Homecoming weekend. Events that are open to the general public include the Homecoming[...]
1:30 pm The Fundamentals of Acrylic Pain... @ Art in the Valley
The Fundamentals of Acrylic Pain... @ Art in the Valley
Oct 18 @ 1:30 pm – 4:00 pm
The Fundamentals of Acrylic Painting - Fall 2019 @ Art in the Valley
This class will focus on proven approaches for successful acrylic paintings. Subject matter will be the student’s choice. No previous painting experience with acrylics necessary. The class will introduce students to fundamental concepts of color[...]
10:00 am R-MA Homecoming @ Randolph-Macon Academy
R-MA Homecoming @ Randolph-Macon Academy
Oct 19 @ 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
R-MA Homecoming @ Randolph-Macon Academy
Randolph-Macon Academy will welcome alumni and their families back to campus on Friday and Saturday, October 18th and 19th, during the annual Homecoming weekend. Events that are open to the general public include the Homecoming[...]
10:30 am 2nd Annual Peak Leaf Music & Bre... @ Valley Roots Farm
2nd Annual Peak Leaf Music & Bre... @ Valley Roots Farm
Oct 19 @ 10:30 am – 7:00 pm
2nd Annual Peak Leaf Music & Brewers Festival @ Valley Roots Farm
Join us for the 2nd annual Peak Leaf Music & Brewers Festival! Come party on Saturday, October 19th, 2019, for a day of live music, local brews, local merchants, and local food trucks; all for a[...]
1:00 pm Workshop: An Introduction to Col... @ Art in the Valley
Workshop: An Introduction to Col... @ Art in the Valley
Oct 19 @ 1:00 pm – 6:00 pm
Workshop: An Introduction to Color Theory @ Art in the Valley
This one day workshop will be an introduction to color theory as it applies to image-making. We will talk about primary, secondary and tertiary colors and how to mix them from a simple palette for[...]
5:30 pm 7th Annual Front Royal Zombie Walk @ Bing Crosby Stadium
7th Annual Front Royal Zombie Walk @ Bing Crosby Stadium
Oct 19 @ 5:30 pm – 8:30 pm
7th Annual Front Royal Zombie Walk @ Bing Crosby Stadium
Put on your best zombie costume and practice your best shambling limp, because it’s time for the annual FRONT ROYAL ZOMBIE WALK! The Walk will begin at Bing Crosby Stadium at 6pm sharp. We will[...]