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Council approves FY21 budget appropriations – conditionally

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At its May 26th meeting the Front Royal Town Council approved an appropriation of just over $48.6 million to fund its Fiscal Year 2021 budget. The first of two required votes was 5-1, Letasha Thompson dissenting as she has through the budget process due to ongoing concerns on portions of the proposed budget, specifically unanswered questions about how Tourism marketing and the Visitors Center operations will be funded.

The second, binding vote will come at the council’s next meeting on June 8.

The appropriation of $48,604,340 is projected to balance the Town’s anticipated expenditures and revenues as sub-categorized by departmental and General Fund uses. However, in the current uncertain COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic financial landscape such predictions can be very tenuous as municipalities wait to see the impact of mandated business closings and travel restrictions on their normal tax revenue intake in coming months.

Unfamiliar financial landscape

As was later explained, that is why the appropriation is being passed with a contingency qualification that it will be reviewed on a monthly basis to assure the revenue to support the FY-21 budget is, in fact, available in the coming fiscal year beginning July 1.

Town Halls are a familiar site, but it is an unfamiliar financial landscape being traversed by municipalities around the country. Royal Examiner File Photos/Roger Bianchini – Royal Examiner Video/Mike McCool

The Public Hearing drew the evening’s only two pre-submitted citizen comments to be read into the record of the still virtually conducted pandemic lockdown meetings. Those comments were from 2020 Council candidate and Fussell Florists proprietor Betty Showers and long-time council watchdog Linda Allen.

While those detailed questions weren’t immediately addressed, as below council and interim town manager comments indicate, the plan is to present answers to those two citizens and council prior to the second vote of approval on June 8 – within 48 hours was cited as likely response time.

“You know, right now we all know with the COVID-19 it’s a guessing game right now. And I just want to assure the folks that we’re going to keep a very close eye on any shortfalls and make the appropriate adjustments when needed,” Gary Gillespie observed after, like others, thanking the Town’s financial and administrative staffs for their budget preparation work under trying and unusual circumstances.

The financial landscape is unfamiliar because we, the nation and the world are traversing an unfamiliar public health crisis landscape – prudent caution or government overreaction is the ongoing debate, though not for 100,000 Americans now listed as casualties of the COVID-19 Coronavirus’s 4-month ‘march’ across the nation.

Gillespie then asked Interim Town Manager Tederick to work with staff to put together answers to the citizen questions submitted prior to the second vote of approval.
“That’s not a problem at all – Mr. Wilson (Finance Director) and I have already looked at those questions. We were prepared to answer them tonight if need be. It’s not going to take much time; we should be able to get that out in the next 24 to 48 hours to those individuals, and we’ll copy council on our responses. They are easy answers,” Tederick told the council and the mayor, adding that they were “good” and “understandable questions”.

Unanswered questions

As read into the record by Acting Council Clerk Tina Pressley, Showers opened her letter by observing that some of her questions have been previously asked, though not publicly answered by the town’s elected officials.

“We provide the money for you to spend and therefore expect full transparency. Therefore, I am raising the questions again,” Showers wrote in opening. Her questions were, as presented in ALL CAPS writing to council:

Even if we can no longer see them meet, the council must remain transparent on their actions in the public interest, with public money, council candidate Betty Showers told the council by emailed comment.

1. THE REVENUE PAGE HAS MANY INCREASES YET IN AN EARLIER WORK SESSION YOUR DISCUSSION INDICATED THAT THERE WOULD BE A DOWNTURN IN MANY REVENUE ITEMS. WHY IS THERE AN UPTICK IN EXPECTED FUNDING?

2. WHY IS THERE A $10,000 INCREASE FOR TOWN COUNCIL PROFESSIONAL SERVICES?

3. UNDER THE TOWN MANAGER, WHO HAS USE OF A TOWN CAR AND THERE IS NO MONEY LISTED FOR MAINTENANCE PROPOSED FOR 2021. AS THERE WAS NONE LISTED FOR 2020.

4. UNDER REVENUE, THE RENT FOR THE ADELPHIA BLDG IS $12,045 FOR 2021. ACTUALLY, IT SHOULD BE COMCAST WHO WILL NO LONGER HAVE A SPACE IN FRONT ROYAL AFTER JUNE. WHY IS THAT MONEY SHOWN FOR SOMETHING THAT WON’T EXIST?

5. WITHOUT A TOWN ENGINEER, THE PROFESSIONAL SERVICES BUDGET SAYS $50,000. IT SEEMS TO ME THAT WE ARE GOING TO BE SPENDING A LOT MORE.

One question posed on budget appropriations by Showers was why the Town Trolley, below, is listed as a ‘Tourism’ expense, along with blighted building enforcement to the tune of almost $94,000?

Yea, let’s fix it up and put it on the Historic Downtown Front Royal Trolley route. – BUT the devil is in the detail …

6. UNDER TOURISM, YOU HAVE LISTED BLIGHTED BLDGS AND TROLLEY SERVICE OF $93,860. THESE ARE NOT TOURISM BUDGET ITEMS. THEY NEED TO BE PLACED MORE ACCURATELY.

7. FOR POLICING EXPENSES, WHY WAS THE REQUEST FOR 4 PATROLMEN AND 4 VEHICLES TURNED DOWN????

Those were followed by Allen’s questions, again prefaced by noting they had been previously posed and left unanswered to the writer’s knowledge.

“I have asked questions about the proposed 2021 budget before without hearing any answers. Some questions will be repeated below with hopes that the next meeting, a work session, will provide those answers,” Allen began. And as again presented in ALL CAPS writing, those questions were:

1. UNDER PLANNING, WHAT IS THE $40,000 LISTED FOR PROFESSIONAL SERVICES TO BE SPENT ON?

2. WHY UNDER PLANNING IS THERE NO FUNDING FOR THE COMPREHENSIVE LAND USE PLAN? IT IS REQUIRED BY VA LAW EVERY 5 YEARS.

3. WITH BOARDS AND COMMISSIONS THE EXPENSE IS DOWN BY $5,000. WHAT CHANGES CAUSED A REDUCTION OF THESE CITIZEN BOARDS?

4. UNDER HORTICULTURE, WAS A HORTICULTURIST HIRED? ALSO, YOU HAVE INCREASED PROFESSIONAL SERVICES BY $20,000. FOR WHAT REASON?

Linda Allen asked council exactly what a $515,000 line item under ‘Police Facility’ would be spent on, as the council continues to refuse to make good on its $8.4-million-plus debt to the EDA on the construction of that facility.

5. UNDER COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT, THERE IS A LINE OF POLICE FACILITY OF $515,000 AS THE EXPENSE. WITH A LAWSUIT AGAINST EDA AND THE TOWN’S REFUSAL TO PAY THE INTEREST OR PRINCIPAL FOR THE POLICE STATION, IT SEEMS DOUBTFUL THAT THIS MONEY WILL BE USED FOR THIS PURPOSE. WHAT EXACTLY ARE THESE FUNDS BEING USED FOR?

Contacted early Thursday afternoon, neither Showers nor Allen had yet received those written answers promised within 48 hours. Tick, tick, tick ………

The approximate 12-minute appropriations public hearing and discussion beginning about 40 minutes into Tuesday’s council meeting is available, along with the entirety of that 55-minute meeting in the linked Royal Examiner recordings tied to our series of three stories on that meeting:

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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 timeframe,” 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 the 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 themselve 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 or 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, the 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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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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Local Government

Future look of Front Royal’s Historic Downtown prime work session topic

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In the wake of work session discussion Monday evening, July 6, the Front Royal Town Council reached a five-member consensus, Meza absent, to commit necessary funds from the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program to proceed with construction of a Pavilion building in the Village Commons area anchored by the Town Gazebo and Visitors Center.

At issue is exactly where the money to fill what the staff summary update on the status of the CDBG Downtown revitalization project cited as a $150,000 funding gap will come from. It was noted that the existing CDBG budget has $130,000 committed to the pavilion/indoor restroom project.

The Council discusses the CDBG budget at the July 6th work session. Councilman Jake Meza was absent. Photos and video by Mark Williams, Royal Examiner.

The balance is likely to come from a combination of a minimally discussed “Streetscape” portion of the CDBG project, with additional funding coming out of unused portions of the Façade Grant program. Exactly how much surplus will be left out of the Façade Grant’s $325,000 remains a somewhat unknown variable.

While it was noted that only $13,395 has thus far been spent of that $325,000 façade grant total, staff and project consultants indicated that number is likely to start rising quickly as the 14 active downtown business participants begin submitting bid proposals for their façade improvements. One remotely connected consultant noted that some of those participating businesses have dual façades up for improvement. That variable is likely to bring the number of façade improvement applications close to the 21 or 22 businesses originally participating when funds were being allocated on the federal, state-enabled local economic revitalization grant funding.

Interim Town Manager Matt Tederick told the council that he thought the move to materials only bidding process from the original materials and labor, had saved that aspect of the project. Original bids including labor had come in unexpectedly high, threatening to tank that portion of the project.

Vice-Mayor Bill Sealock reminded his colleagues that a downtown pavilion catering to both tourists and local downtown visitors had been on the Town’s radar for 20 years – “I think we should make that our focus,” Sealock told his colleagues.

Mayor Gene Tewalt agreed, adding that the necessary funds should be located from somewhere within the project or Town assets “to show we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing.”

Also discussed was a downtown “Mural” aspect of the CDBG revitalization tied to the “Façade” Program. Individual murals were estimated at individual costs of $25,000 to $40,000. Artistic themes, general standards, and qualifications of applicants were discussed.

Christopher Brock, Town Zoning Officer explains the process for applying for a mural/sign permit.

Vice-Mayor Sealock recalled the downtown mural work of the late artist Patricia Windrow as a very positive, if now largely abandoned and painted over, part of downtown’s visual history.

While the future look of downtown and the Historic Downtown Center was a prime topic of Monday’s work session, there was no mention of the future of the Visitors Center operations and staff under the announced Tourism Marketing management of the recently contracted Norfolk LLC “Strategic Solutions by Tricia”. Currently, the Visitors Center continues to be open into FY-2021 with existing staff and management, though for how long no one involved directly seems to know. An online search of “Strategic Solutions by Tricia” indicated a past focus of the newly hired consultant in non-profits fundraising activities – but that is a topic for another day.

Watch the discussion of progress toward the revitalization of Front Royal’s Historic Downtown Business District, as well as other topics including debt service variables on the cost of the I&I (Infiltration & Inflow) Abatement infrastructure improvement to the Town’s stormwater and sewer system mandated by the state; upgrades and replacement of Front Royal Police Department equipment such as body-worn and in-car cameras, the 911 radio system and radio consoles; the coming Town-County Liaison Committee agenda; FRIBA’s (Front Royal Independent Business Alliance) request for the placement of the “LOVE” letters downtown; and an expiring planning commission term in this exclusive Royal Examiner video:

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