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Click to watch the community video submission for HGTV’s Home Town Takeover

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WHAT MATTERS WARREN: Thanks to all who participated in our mission to encourage HGTV to choose Front Royal for their new series for which The Home and Garden Network was accepting nominations in preparation for its largest ever renovation project, “Home Town Takeover.” Social media was flooded with uplifting discussions, photos, stories and videos about our 22630, and we hope people will continue to share local footage, pictures and inspiring comments about our community on the Facebook page “FRONT ROYAL HOME TOWN TAKEOVER.” The contest has concluded, and according to the HGTV website, applications are currently under review.

Special thanks to local social media strategist, Mitchell Smith (of Expressed Legacy Marketing), who led our social media campaign and brilliantly crafted our video submission. He had this to say about the project in which he devoted countless hours in collecting interviews and creating our message: “It made me fall in love with the town even more. I learned so much about the rich history of Front Royal and got to experience, first hand, the community coming together for a noble cause.”

Much of the history he discovered was from local historian and five-year Front Royal resident, Josh Ingram. Josh shared, “Front Royal has always been a town that comes back stronger after every setback it’s endured. Since its inception, it’s been built, desolated, and re-surged on the most heavily contested soil that this country has ever fought on or for. Although times have changed in its 250 years, there are those who still fervently believe in its perseverance… this video says so.” Melanie Salins, who spearheaded the local collaboration efforts added, “I have to say that this experience has made me fall in love even more with our community! I am so thankful for where we live. And hope this is the first step in healing our town!”

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Looking to send a little Valentine’s Day cheer?

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Warren County Parks and Recreation Department is looking for several young sweethearts to help make Valentine’s cards that will be delivered to some of the elderly in our community. We will provide all the necessary supplies; we just need your help to make their Valentine’s Day a little bit brighter!

If you are interested, stop by the Warren County Community Center and pick up the “Valentine’s Card Goodie Bag” from Tuesday, January 26, 2021, through Monday, February 8, 2021. Cards will need to be returned to the Warren County Community Center by Thursday, February 11, 2021.

Additional information can be obtained by contacting the Warren County Community Center, Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (evening and weekend hours may vary), at (540) 635-1021 or via email at wcccinfo@warrencountyva.net.

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Crime/Court

Winchester man faces multiple charges following possible OD death at Hampton Inn

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On Saturday, January 23, 2021, Front Royal Police Department (FRPD) and Warren County EMS personnel responded to the Hampton Inn, located at 9800 Winchester Road, for a report of an unresponsive 38-year-old female. The 911 caller was identified as the female’s husband, Nathaniel E. Green, III, 42, of Winchester, who remained on scene. Despite the best efforts of FRPD Units and EMS Personnel, the female was pronounced deceased on scene.

Nathaniel Green. Photo / RSW Regional Jail

Detectives located three (3) handguns, multiple rounds of ammunition for the weapons, identifications cards belonging to Mr. Green, a pink powder and two capsules with white powder, both of which are suspected narcotics, located in the same proximity. A criminal history check revealed that Green is a convicted felon and is prohibited from possessing firearms.

Nathaniel Green was subsequently arrested without incident and transported to Rappahannock Shenandoah Warren (RSW) Regional Jail, where he went before a magistrate and is currently being held without bond. Green was charged with § 18.2- 308.2 Felon in Possession of a Firearm and § 18.2-250 Possession of a Controlled Substance. A court date for these offenses is set for March 2, 2021, at 10:00 A.M., in Warren County General District Court. Further details regarding this matter cannot be released at this time due to the pending nature of the investigation.

This investigation is ongoing and anyone with any further information is asked to contact Front Royal Police Detective L.J. Waller at (540) 636-2208 or by email at lwaller@frontroyalva.com.

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Claiming sexual harassment and cover up, former Council Clerk files federal retaliatory termination suit against Town of Front Royal

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Alleging a long-term pattern of sexual harassment by former Front Royal Councilman and Vice-Mayor William Sealock and subsequent efforts by other Town officials, including then councilman and current mayor Chris Holloway, to have her withdraw internal complaints about the behavior, former Clerk of Council Jennifer Berry has filed a federal wrongful/retaliatory termination lawsuit against the Town of Front Royal.

The suit was filed on January 4, 2021, in the U.S. Western District of Virginia Court in Harrisonburg. It describes a lengthy and multi-faceted series of events, first alleged against Sealock commencing shortly after his January 2017 swearing on to council, for sexually explicit comments or actions (paragraphs 14 to 36 of linked lawsuit); and later indicating a lack of internal checks and balances to address Berry’s complaints, and even alleged observations about potential impacts on her family and employment initially expressed by then-Councilman Holloway if she did not drop the matter – Paragraphs 37 to 73 of the lawsuit. Attempts to reach Sealock and Holloway by phone prior to publication were unsuccessful.

According to her timeline, tensions were escalating between Berry and the interim mayor-led council by the time of this Oct. 2019 meeting, with former Mayor Stan Brooks at podium, at the County’s Villa Ave. Community Center. Coincidentally, that meeting was around the time of Town Manager Joe Waltz’s unanticipated resignation. Royal Examiner File Photos by Roger Bianchini

The Town of Front Royal is accused of “discriminatory and retaliatory employment practices” in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., as amended (“Title VII”) and/or the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, 29 U.S.C. § 2601, et seq. (the “FMLA”). Counts cited include Count 1: Discrimination on the Basis of Sex; Count 2: Unlawful Retaliation; Count 3: Retaliatory Hostile Work Environment; and Count 4: Violations of FMLA, the latter related to planned time off for foot surgery in December 2019-January 2020 timeframe just prior to her termination.

The suit seeks: “all legal and equitable remedies available under 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., including, but not limited to, declaratory and injunctive relief, back pay, front pay, compensatory damages, placement into a position she would be holding but for Defendant’s discriminatory conduct, and any other legal or equitable relief as the Court deems appropriate.” A jury trial is sought.

After working for 15 years as Front Royal’s Council Clerk, following an initial five-year term (1998-2003) as an administrative assistant in the Town Department of Public Works, with a break in 2003-05 during which she gave birth to her child, Berry was terminated on February 4, 2020. By April 1, 2020, she had filed a charge of “discrimination against Defendant Town” the background portion of her lawsuit notes.

Council Clerk Jennifer Berry’s profile on the Town website indicated no sign of trouble she says was emerging behind the scenes.

Her termination came despite a history of positive job performance reviews as late as July 2019, her attorney Timothy Cupp of Harrisonburg wrote, quoting from that 2019 evaluation approximately six months prior to her termination: “Defendant Town described Plaintiff in the Overall Performance Review comments as: ‘Exceptional employee, valuable team member, goes above & beyond, Glue in organization, pleasant & kind, on time with duties, excellent job. Pleasant employee to Work with her knowledge, experience and willingness to assist’.”

What changed during the subsequent six months?

According to her attorney’s description of his client’s experience, it was Berry’s unwillingness to drop her effort to have her employer, Sealock’s fellow elected officials on council, as well as the Town Human Resources apparatus, put a stop to Councilman Sealock’s alleged sexually tinged and demeaning behavior.

By the time of this September 2019 council work session under leadership of Interim Mayor Matt Tederick at head of table, according to her suit’s timeline it appeared the full council was aware of Berry’s allegations against the vice mayor. Vice-Mayor Sealock at far right of photo and Chris Holloway in right foreground, sandwich Councilman Meza; at left, Council members Tewalt, Gillespie and Thompson. Berry, while present, is out of photo frame.

Rather than help in a municipal environment with a supposed “zero tolerance” policy toward sexual harassment, her bringing the issue to other members of council as well as filing a complaint with the Town Department of Human Resources, had a counter affect, Berry claims. That counter-affect was multiple instances of institutional retaliatory behavior culminating with her termination as part of the interim town manager’s “right-sizing” slashing of Town personnel and departments in early 2020.

The federal Title VII filing describes the final chapter of Berry’s three-plus-year experience of dealing with the alleged sexual harassment unfold:

(Paragraph) 69. On January 30, 2020, Plaintiff was contacted by email and text and told that her job was subject to “right-sizing,” that her Clerk position was to be abolished and that the Clerk position was to be a part-time position. She further was told that her employment with the Defendant Town would be terminated effective February 4, 2020. The result was that a 20-year employee of the Town had gone from being the employee slated to receive a promotion and raise in the summer of 2019 to an employee being terminated despite the fact that her Clerk position was required by the Town’s charter to be filled by the Town.

According to her lawsuit, Berry, background at this late January 2020 council work session, was informed by Town Attorney Doug Napier, foreground, that she could not file an internal ‘Grievance’ complaint under the Town’s Grievance Policy regarding her harassment and retaliation allegations. Her best option was to contract outside counsel and file a complaint with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, she says she was told by Town legal counsel.

70. Moreover, Plaintiff previously had been employed as Clerk to the Council on a part-time basis. She became Certified as a Clerk and her position had been moved to full time. Plaintiff could have continued her employment in a part-time capacity without additional cost to Defendant Town and without losing her benefits. Defendant Town did not allow Plaintiff to remain employed with the Town in the position in which she had performed well.

71. Defendant Town’s termination of Plaintiff’s employment, however, was not about saving money. It was pretext for Defendant’s discrimination against Plaintiff based on her sex and/or for its retaliation for Plaintiff’s opposition to Defendant Town’s conduct that violated Title VII.

Go to the linked suit, published in its entirety by Royal Examiner, to see the federal Title VII complaint’s personal and institutional allegations leading up to the “right-sizing” conclusion of Ms. Berry’s 20 years of service to the Town of Front Royal.

Complaint_Jennifer Berry

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2021 tax filing season begins Feb. 12; IRS outlines steps to speed refunds during pandemic

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The Internal Revenue Service announced that the nation’s tax season will start on Friday, February 12, 2021, when the tax agency will begin accepting and processing 2020 tax year returns.

The February 12 start date for individual tax return filers allows the IRS time to do additional programming and testing of IRS systems following the December 27 tax law changes that provided a second round of Economic Impact Payments and other benefits.

This programming work is critical to ensuring IRS systems run smoothly. If filing season were opened without the correct programming in place, then there could be a delay in issuing refunds to taxpayers. These changes ensure that eligible people will receive any remaining stimulus money as a Recovery Rebate Credit when they file their 2020 tax return.

To speed refunds during the pandemic, the IRS urges taxpayers to file electronically with direct deposit as soon as they have the information they need. People can begin filing their tax returns immediately with tax software companies, including IRS Free File partners. These groups are starting to accept tax returns now, and the returns will be transmitted to the IRS starting February 12.

“Planning for the nation’s filing season process is a massive undertaking, and IRS teams have been working non-stop to prepare for this as well as delivering Economic Impact Payments in record time,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “Given the pandemic, this is one of the nation’s most important filing seasons ever. This start date will ensure that people get their needed tax refunds quickly while also making sure they receive any remaining stimulus payments they are eligible for as quickly as possible.”

Last year’s average tax refund was more than $2,500. More than 150 million tax returns are expected to be filed this year, with the vast majority before the Thursday, April 15 deadline.

Under the PATH Act, the IRS cannot issue a refund involving the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) before mid-February. The law provides this additional time to help the IRS stop fraudulent refunds and claims from being issued, including to identity thieves.

The IRS anticipates a first week of March refund for many EITC and ACTC taxpayers if they file electronically with direct deposit and there are no issues with their tax returns. This would be the same experience for taxpayers if the filing season opened in late January. Taxpayers will need to check Where’s My Refund for their personalized refund date.

Overall, the IRS anticipates nine out of 10 taxpayers will receive their refund within 21 days of when they file electronically with direct deposit if there are no issues with their tax return. The IRS urges taxpayers and tax professionals to file electronically. To avoid delays in processing, people should avoid filing paper returns wherever possible.

Tips for taxpayers to make filing easier

To speed refunds and help with their tax filing, the IRS urges people to follow these simple steps:

  • File electronically and use direct deposit for the quickest refunds.
  • Check IRS.gov for the latest tax information, including the latest on Economic Impact Payments. There is no need to call.
  • For those who may be eligible for stimulus payments, they should carefully review the guidelines for the Recovery Rebate Credit. Most people received Economic Impact Payments automatically, and anyone who received the maximum amount does not need to include any information about their payments when they file. However, those who didn’t receive a payment or only received a partial payment may be eligible to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit when they file their 2020 tax return. Tax preparation software, including IRS Free File, will help taxpayers figure the amount.
  • Remember, advance stimulus payments received separately are not taxable, and they do not reduce the taxpayer’s refund when they file in 2021.

Key filing season dates

There are several important dates taxpayers should keep in mind for this year’s filing season:

  • January 15. IRS Free File opens. Taxpayers can begin filing returns through Free File partners; tax returns will be transmitted to the IRS starting Feb. 12. Tax software companies also are accepting tax filings in advance.
  • January 29. Earned Income Tax Credit Awareness Day to raise awareness of valuable tax credits available to many people – including the option to use prior-year income to qualify.
  • February 12. IRS begins 2021 tax season. Individual tax returns begin being accepted and processing begins.
  • February 22. Projected date for the IRS.gov Where’s My Refund tool being updated for those claiming EITC and ACTC, also referred to as PATH Act returns.
  • First week of March. Tax refunds begin reaching those claiming EITC and ACTC (PATH Act returns) for those who file electronically with direct deposit and there are no issues with their tax returns.
  • April 15. Deadline for filing 2020 tax returns.
  • October 15. Deadline to file for those requesting an extension on their 2020 tax returns

Filing season opening
The filing season open follows IRS work to update its programming and test its systems to factor in the second Economic Impact Payments and other tax law changes. These changes are complex and take time to help ensure proper processing of tax returns and refunds as well as coordination with tax software industry, resulting in the February 12 start date.

The IRS must ensure systems are prepared to properly process and check tax returns to verify the proper amount of EIP’s are credited on taxpayer accounts – and provide remaining funds to eligible taxpayers.

Although tax seasons frequently begin in late January, there have been five instances since 2007 when filing seasons did not start for some taxpayers until February due to tax law changes made just before the start of tax time.

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VDOT: Warren County Traffic alert for January 25 – 29, 2021

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The following is a list of highway work that may affect traffic in Warren County during the coming weeks. Scheduled work is subject to change due to inclement weather and material supplies. Motorists are advised to watch for slow-moving tractors during mowing operations. When traveling through a work zone, be alert to periodic changes in traffic patterns and lane closures.

*NEW* or *UPDATE* indicates a new entry or a revised entry since last week’s report.

INTERSTATE 66
Mile marker 5 to 7 including Exit 6, eastbound – Right shoulder closures for sign work along interstate and off-ramp, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. through January 29.

INTERSTATE 81
*UPDATE* Mile marker 300 to 301, northbound – Right shoulder closures for tree removal operations, Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

PRIMARY ROADS
No lane closures reported.

SECONDARY ROADS
Various roads – Flagger traffic control for utility tree trimming, Monday to Friday during daylight hours.

Vegetation management may take place district wide on various routes. Motorists are reminded to use extreme caution when traveling through work zones.

Traffic alerts and traveler information can be obtained by dialing 511. Traffic alerts and traveler information also are available at www.511Virginia.org.

The VDOT Customer Service Center can assist with reporting road hazards, asking transportation questions, or getting information related to Virginia’s roads. Call 800-FOR- ROAD (800-367-7623) or use its mobile-friendly website at my.vdot.virginia.gov. Agents are available 24 hours-a-day, seven days a week.

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Dangerous opiate drugs inundating our community

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The Front Royal Police Department would like to notify the public about a recent influx of overdose-related calls that have occurred since the beginning of the new year. In our continued efforts to preserve public safety, we would like to take this opportunity to warn citizens of the presence of especially dangerous opiate drugs inundating our community.

Since January 1, 2021, the Front Royal Police Department and members of the Northwest Virginia Regional Drug Task Force (NWVRDTF) have responded to seven suspected drug overdoses, four of which resulted in deaths. In the past 36 hours, our agency has responded to two overdose-related deaths that opiates are suspected to have been used by the victims. Although these investigations are currently pending, information suggests that the potent and deadly synthetic opiate, fentanyl, may be responsible for these overdoses and corresponding fatalities.

Recent laboratory analyses conducted by the Virginia Department of Forensic Science show that fentanyl is being used in the production of counterfeit pharmaceutical drugs, such as Percocet, thereby deceiving victims into taking potentially lethal doses of the drug.

The presence of Fentanyl has also been found in other illicit street drugs such as cocaine and marijuana. Data shows that drug overdoses in the Front Royal/Warren County area have been increasing over the past two years. In 2019, a total of 36 overdoses resulting in injury or death were reported in Front Royal and Warren County. Last year, in 2020, that number rose to 76 overdose cases reported to law enforcement in Front Royal and Warren County.

The increased presence of Fentanyl seems to be a key factor in the rise in overdoses. With seven overdoses reported solely in the Town of Front Royal thus far into 2021, our department believes this trend may continue and that there remains a serious threat to public health and safety. The Front Royal Police Department and regional Drug Task Force are working diligently to combat illegal narcotics being distributed in our community.

If you have any information regarding these deaths or the distribution of narcotics that you would like to share with the Front Royal Police Department, we ask that you please contact us at (540) 635-2111

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King Cartoons

Front Royal
36°
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Wind: 1mph E
Humidity: 90%
Pressure: 29.83"Hg
UV index: 1
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43/27°F
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Upcoming Events

Jan
29
Fri
12:30 pm Opioid Overdose and Naloxone Edu... @ Online Event
Opioid Overdose and Naloxone Edu... @ Online Event
Jan 29 @ 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm
Opioid Overdose and Naloxone Education @ Online Event
Save a Life: Free REVIVE! Opioid Overdose and Naloxone Education January 29th The Northwestern Prevention Collaborative and Northwestern Community Services Board will offer a free virtual REVIVE! Training on January 29th from 12:30 pm to[...]
Jan
30
Sat
2:00 pm Paint Camellias with The Studio @ The Studio - A Place for Learning
Paint Camellias with The Studio @ The Studio - A Place for Learning
Jan 30 @ 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Paint Camellias with The Studio @ The Studio - A Place for Learning
We will paint these beautiful camellias on Saturday, January 30th at 2 pm at The Studio. This will be the first in a series of floral paintings we will do over the course of 2021.[...]
6:00 pm Parent’s Night Out @ Code Ninjas
Parent’s Night Out @ Code Ninjas
Jan 30 @ 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Parent's Night Out @ Code Ninjas
Help Code Ninjas Front Royal celebrate our Grand Opening! We are hosting our first Parent’s Night Out! $35 per child, space limited to 5! – Drop them off. Go have fun. Just remember to pick[...]
6:00 pm Robert Burns Night 2021 @ Virginia Beer Museum
Robert Burns Night 2021 @ Virginia Beer Museum
Jan 30 @ 6:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Robert Burns Night 2021 @ Virginia Beer Museum
Known in medieval Celtic culture as a storyteller, verse maker, and composer, the word ‘Bard’ has become synonymous with the world’s greatest poets. However, few are as celebrated as Scotland’s own ‘National Bard’, Robert Burns,[...]
Feb
9
Tue
10:00 am Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training @ Online Event
Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training @ Online Event
Feb 9 @ 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training @ Online Event
The Warren Coalition, in partnership with Northwestern Prevention Collaborative, will offer area residents two opportunities to take a free, virtual Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training in February. This course is designed to provide information about identifying[...]
Feb
11
Thu
6:30 pm Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training @ Online Event
Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training @ Online Event
Feb 11 @ 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm
Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training @ Online Event
The Warren Coalition, in partnership with Northwestern Prevention Collaborative, will offer area residents two opportunities to take a free, virtual Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training in February. This course is designed to provide information about identifying[...]
Feb
13
Sat
6:00 pm Parent’s Night Out @ Code Ninjas
Parent’s Night Out @ Code Ninjas
Feb 13 @ 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Parent's Night Out @ Code Ninjas
Help Code Ninjas Front Royal celebrate our Grand Opening! We are hosting our first Parent’s Night Out! $35 per child, space limited to 5! – Drop them off. Go have fun. Just remember to pick[...]
Feb
15
Mon
9:00 am Free Tax Preparation @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Free Tax Preparation @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Feb 15 @ 9:00 am – 12:00 pm
Free Tax Preparation @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Free tax preparation will be available again this year through the AARP Tax Aide at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Front Royal, Monday and Wednesday mornings beginning Feb. 15th. To make an appointment, please call[...]
Feb
16
Tue
10:00 am Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training @ Online Event
Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training @ Online Event
Feb 16 @ 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training @ Online Event
The Warren Coalition, in partnership with Northwestern Prevention Collaborative, will offer area residents two opportunities to take a free, virtual Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training in February. This course is designed to provide information about identifying[...]
Feb
17
Wed
9:00 am Free Tax Preparation @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Free Tax Preparation @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Feb 17 @ 9:00 am – 12:00 pm
Free Tax Preparation @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Free tax preparation will be available again this year through the AARP Tax Aide at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Front Royal, Monday and Wednesday mornings beginning Feb. 15th. To make an appointment, please call[...]