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County Fire & Rescue presents 5-year plan to augment staff, service

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You don’t need them till you need them – and when you do, you appreciate their importance to you and your community. Photos/Roger Bianchini. Video by Mark Williams, Royal Examiner.

Warren County Fire Chief Richard Mabie and Fire Marshal Gerry Maiatico presented a Five-Year Staffing and Implementation Plan to the Board of Supervisors at a February 5 work session. Maiatico utilized a power point presentation (see Royal Examiner video below) to explain the rationale and cost implications to the county’s elected officials who hold the purse strings to realize the plan.

Maiatico stressed that the plan was developed to be “realistic and attainable”, taking into consideration where the county has been, is, and is anticipated to be demographically in five years; as well as where emergency services across the country are. That latter aspect is important as a comparison point to other communities’ departments the County’s Fire & Emergency Services Department must compete against in seeking federal or state grants to help fund operations or departmental expansion.

So far the department has not fared well in such grant applications, Maiatico noted. However, movement toward implementation of the plan presented Tuesday morning will give the department, not only a needed staffing boost, but also improve its competitive position in future grant applications.

“If you don’t swing, you don’t get a hit,” Maiatico said in response to Supervisor Linda Glavis’s frown at the information that emergency services grants are competed for by a nationwide array of emergency services departments.

Gerry Maiatico explains the process and plan to expand county fire & rescue over next five years to meet county needs – Dan Murray, right, and Archie Fox are pictured.

Crucial to the plan titled “Evaluating the Past, Preparing for the Future” is bringing the department into compliance with standards for staffing and response times based on specific community demographics developed by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Those standards are called NFPA 1720.

“How do we meet NFPA 1720 standards to be eligible for grant funding,” Maiatico asked in prefacing the five-year plan he was about to present details of.

The short answer is over a five-year period add a total of 26 uniformed positions to the department’s current paid, uniformed career staffing total of 46 positions. Without significant grant assistance, Maiatico acknowledged such a goal “was not likely” within the recommended time frame.

But you have to start somewhere – and somewhere appears to be tied to a successful application for funding through the Safety for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant Program to add 15 additional staff positions; or failing that, a County commitment to add initial additional staff through County funding likely tied to a tax increase.

“If you don’t have adequate professional fire & rescue it is hard to attract better-paying jobs to the area – that is one thing companies look at when they are considering where to locate or expand,” Board Chairman Dan Murray commented.

A map of county fire & rescue service areas and station locations

The plan for the initial 15 positions, as with the eventual total of 26, would be to place them strategically, including floater positions that could move as countywide needs dictate.

“Some positions are slated to staff and serve additional units in underserved areas of the county, while others are planned to provide essential support services for field personnel,” page 4 of the report states.

The report includes a five-pronged “strategic objectives” plan of departmental priorities. Those objectives are: 24/7 staffing at Rivermont Company 2; increased staffing in high call volume stations; an increase in “floater” positions; adding some support service positions; and an increase in volunteer retention.

“We don’t have a recruiting problem, we have a retention problem – it is too easy to walk away these days,” Maiatico told the supervisors.

On the volunteer side of the department’s current makeup are 65 operational volunteer response personnel, with 45 associate personnel. Those volunteer responders help man eight combination fire and emergency medical staff stations serving more than 39,600 citizens over a 216 square mile county.

And as one person who is alive to write this story due to the timely, approximately two-minute response time, I am told, by Company One’s Advanced Life Support (ALS) unit upon the occasion of my cardiac arrest just over six years ago, I vote – if I had gotten that board vice chairmanship and had a vote – to see that County Emergency Services gets the funding and staffing necessary to adequately cover Warren County as we approach the third decade of the 21st Century.

Because as has been pointed out to me by a number of people since, had Company One’s ALS staff been covering, as they often do, an emergency outside town limits I would not be here now – lobbying for any necessary expansion of their budget to meet departmental needs.

As noted above, see Royal Examiner’s linked video of Gerry Maiatico’s power point presentation detailing a departmental staffing overview and Strategic Five-Year Staffing and Implementation Plan.

 

Oh, and thanks to Paula for keeping me going for those two minutes till Company One’s ALS boys arrived on scene.

A month after his heart abruptly stopped for no good reason this reporter thanks some of those who saved his life the afternoon of Dec. 31, 2012. Photo/Roger’s camera in hands of Co. 1 staff

Local Government

Warren County Budget Process: Commissioner of the Revenue, Director of Elections and Social Services

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Commissioner of the Revenue Sherry Sours discusses her budget with the Board of Supervisors. Photo and video by Mark Williams, Royal Examiner.

The Warren County Board of Supervisors held work session with County Departments and Constitutional Officers regarding the FY 2019-2020 budget on Tuesday, February 12, 2019.

Royal Examiner  is following the process and in this fourth session, the Commissioner of the Revenue Sherry Sours, Director of Elections Carol Tobin and Social Services Director DeAnna Cheatham was before the Board of Supervisors with their proposed budget items. Each had about 10 minutes to make their case. The final decision will be determined by the Board of Supervisors.

Watch the process:

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Local Government

Warren County Budget Process: Building Inspector, Airport, Shenandoah Farms, and Magistrate

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Warren County Building Inspections Department David Beahm shares his proposed budget to the Board of Supervisors. Photo and video by Mark Williams, Royal Examiner.

The Warren County Board of Supervisors held work session with County Departments and Constitutional Officers regarding the FY 2019-2020 budget on Tuesday, February 12, 2019.

Royal Examiner  is following the process and in this third session, Warren County Building Inspections Department David Beahm, Deputy Administrator Bob Childress and Chief Magistrate Monica Martin each had their ten minute block of time to discuss their proposed budget with the Board of Supervisors. Deputy Administrator Bob Childress discussed the Airport and Shenandoah Farms Sanitary District budget items. The final decision will be determined by the Board of Supervisors.

Watch the process:

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Local Government

Warren County Budget Process: Sheriff, Administration and Finance

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Warren County Sheriff Danny McEathron makes his pitch to the Board of Supervisors. Photo and video by Mark Williams, Royal Examiner.

The Warren County Board of Supervisors held work session with County Departments and Constitutional Officers regarding the FY 2019-2020 budget on Tuesday, February 12, 2019.

Royal Examiner  is following the process and in this second session, Warren County Sheriff Danny McEathron, County Administrator Doug Stanley and County Finance Director Andre Fletcher each had their ten minutes in front of the Board of Supervisors to give the highlights of their proposed budget. The final decision will be determined by the Board of Supervisors.

Watch the process:

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Local Government

Warren County Budget process underway

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County Administrator Doug Stanley leads the discussion on the FY 2020 Warren County Budget.Photo and video by Mark Williams, Royal Examiner.

The Warren County Board of Supervisors held work session with County Departments and Constitutional Officers regarding the FY 2019-2020 budget on Tuesday, February 12, 2019.

Royal Examiner  will follow the process over the next few weeks. In this first session, County Administrator Doug Stanley gives the committee an overview discussion before the County Departments and Constitutional Offices appear. It’s interesting to hear the discussion and see the detail of what it takes to put a budget together. It’s a slow and long process, but necessary.

 

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Local Government

Holloway says too early to discuss Beer Museum legal challenge

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The Front Royal Town Council hurried through a brief open-meeting agenda – then there were those ongoing closed session EDA debt service issues. Photos by Roger Bianchini, Video by Mark Williams, Royal Examiner.

A perhaps record-setting for brevity 10-minute long regular meeting of the Front Royal Town Council on Monday, February 11, saw an approval, an appointment and adjournment to closed session – a closed session that went on over an hour.

The closed session discussion was of two items requiring private legal counsel regarding “legal mechanisms related to handling potential debt service related to prior and current budget years with respect to the Economic Development Authority”.

During the regular meeting, appointed unanimously to the Urban Forestry Advisory Committee was Jason Lamb; and approved unanimously was a requested revision of proffers by BMW Real Estate LLC for development of a vacant property across John Marshall Highway from Royal Lane at the southeastern entrance into town.

No announcement was forthcoming following the closed session, which included EDA Interim Executive Director John Anzivino and EDA Attorney Dan Whitten, as well as 2 East Main Street LLC architect Jim Burton. The second closed session agenda item involved the Afton Inn property which the 2 East Main Street group is redeveloping.

However, of particular interest was one item that did not make the agenda. Newly-installed Councilman Chris Holloway, a former councilman and vice mayor, cast a lone vote not to add a third closed session item – discussion with legal counsel of David Downes’ Friday filing of a court petition seeking a legal reversal of council’s 4-2 vote denying his request for an off-street parking exemption for his Virginia Beer Museum.

Eugene Tewalt made the motion to add the third closed session item, which as a last-minute addition required a unanimous vote of approval. Queried about his vote keeping the item from being added to the closed session agenda, which drew a surprised glance from Mayor Hollis Tharpe, Holloway said he didn’t believe the discussion was necessary at this point. He noted council had just received information on the filing and observed that as of Monday evening the Town had yet to be served with Downes’ court petition.

Chris Holloway was in no mood to discuss a legal challenge of one of his first majority votes back on council.

As previously reported by Royal Examiner, Downes filing claims the January 14, 4-2 negative vote reversing a December 10, 4-3 vote of approval of the parking exemption request singled Downes out unconstitutionally as “a class of one without any rational basis for treating similarly situated property owners differently that own (a) other art galleries and museums in Town; (b) other properties on the west side of Chester Street between East Main Street and Peyton Street, and (c) other properties on Main Street and Jackson Street that are in the same revitalization area of downtown Front Royal.”

Virginia Beer Museum owner petitions court to overturn parking exemption denial

On January 14 Holloway joined Eugene Tewalt, Gary Gillespie and Bill Sealock in forming that 4-2 majority vote denying Downes’ parking exemption request (Meza and Letasha Thompson voted for approval). That vote reversed a December 10, 4-3 vote approving the request – Sealock, Meza, Morrison, Tharpe for, Tewalt, Connolly, Gillespie opposed.

Asked by the media whether he would consider changing his negative vote as the meeting adjourned to closed session, Holloway said, “I can’t be bullied into changing my vote.”

See all 10 minutes of this believed-to-be historically short regular meeting in this Royal Examiner video:

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Local Government

$53,364.65 written off; new policy needed to handle bad debt on utility accounts

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B.J. Wilson, Front Royal Director of Finance advised Council on staff recommendations regarding bad debts. Photo and video by Mark Williams, Royal Examiner.

The Front Royal Town Council has requested that Town staff research historic values on business utility accounts and review options for collecting bad debt on utility accounts associated with business accounts, such as LLC’s or Inc.

During the last three years the Town has written off $53,364.65 associated with business utility accounts; which equates to approximately 10% of the total dollar amount written off and 5% of the number accounts for the previous 3 years. The business accounts are usually some of the larger dollar figures being written off each year due to the commercial use. A small number of accounts makes up a larger amount of the total dollars written off.

One concern the Town has relating to business accounts is that the owner may have multiple accounts under different names due to having separate LLC’s or incorporated businesses. Each LLC or Corporation is treated as a separate entity, so currently the only means the Town has to collect is from the specific LLC or Corporation.

A solution to collecting on business accounts could be to require either a personal guarantee or if the responsible party is not willing to sign a personal guarantee require an additional amount for deposit. The document following this cover sheet illustrates possible wording to assist in collection of possible bad debt on business utility accounts. This could be adopted to be enforced on all current utility accounts or adopted to be enforced on future utility accounts moving forward from a specific date.

Town staff recommends for Council to approve the additional section in Town Code as you’ll see presented to assist in the collection of bad debt.

 

Here’s the proposed ordinance amendment:

134-71 UTILITY ACCOUNTS-PAYMENTS/TERMINATION OF SERVICE

A. DEPOSIT:

  1. Amount: For an existing residential service location, the deposit required for Town utility services shall be an amount equal to the highest monthly bill for that location during the preceding twelve months or one hundred and twenty-five dollars ($125.00), whichever is greater.
    For an existing commercial service location, the deposit required for Town utility services shall be an amount equal to the highest monthly bill for that location during the preceding twelve months or two hundred dollars ($200.00), whichever is greater. To calculate the amount of the deposit for newly established residential or commercial service locations, the Front Royal Department of Finance shall establish the deposit at an amount equal to the customer’s anticipated monthly usage of water and electric service, as may be the case. If, at any time, the customer’s deposit is waived or returned, as set forth below, but the customer’s service subsequently is terminated for nonpayment or the customer has made four late payments during any twelve month period, a deposit, in an amount as set forth above, shall be required.
  2. Deposit Waiver: Notwithstanding the foregoing, no deposit shall be required hen an acceptable credit history is furnished by the customer from a previous utility provider. Acceptable credit history is defined as a customer who can demonstrate that during the previous twelve months his bills were paid with no more than four (4) late payments on a monthly billing system or no more than two (2) late payments on a bimonthly system.
  3. Payment of Deposit: Payment of the deposit is due upon execution of the service work order. In lieu of the foregoing, when the required deposit for a residential customer exceeds one hundred dollars ($100.00) but is less than two hundred dollars ($200.00), the customer may elect to pay one hundred dollars ($100.00) at the time the work order is executed and pay the balance of the deposit along with payment for the first month’s service. When the required deposit exceeds two hundred dollars ($200.00), the deposit may be paid in two equal installments with one half due when the work order is signed and pay the remaining half along with the payment for the first month’s service.
  4. Interest and Refunds: Deposits shall be held in an interest bearing account.
    Deposit plus interest shall be refunded either: (1) upon termination of the service account in an amount equal to the deposit and accrued interest minus any amount deducted to satisfy customer arrearages or other debts owing to the Town; or (2) upon the customer’s request after a period of twelve months of service during which there were no more than four delinquent payments. Upon request of a refund, the Director of Finance shall first ensure that customer does not have any debts owing to the Town. If the customer is indebted to the Town, the Director of Finance will apply any refund toward satisfaction of these debts prior to the refund of any money to the customer.

B. PAYMENTS:

  1. Due Date – Fines and Charges: All payments for water, sewer, electric, and garbage collection services shall be due within 20 days of the date of billing. Accounts, for which full payment is not received within 20 days, are delinquent. A late charge of 2% of the delinquent bill immediately shall be charged to the delinquent account. If the account remains delinquent for 10 days after the original notice, an additional service charge of $10.00 shall be charged. Finally, a service charge will be required to reconnect service that has been discontinued due to non-payment. If the reconnection occurs during normal business hours, the reconnection fee shall be $20.00-first reconnection fee; $30.00-second reconnection fee; $40.00-third reconnection fee; $50.00-reconnection fee for all other times.
  2. Allocation of Payments: During a delinquency in the payment for any service (electric, water, sewerage, or garbage collection) any subsequent payment received for services will be applied first against the most delinquent account which is not subject to a defense of any applicable statute of limitations.
  3. Budget Billing: Notwithstanding the foregoing, the Director of Finance, in his discretion, may enter into agreements with customers for alternative billing and payment schedules with persons on fixed or limited incomes.

C. TERMINATION OF SERVICES:

  1. Notice: The Director of Finance shall notify the customer in writing of all 20 day delinquencies, imminent service termination, and right to contest as set forth below. Notice also shall be posted on the door of the premise with the delinquent account.
  2. Protest: The customer may contest the bill by contacting the Director of Finance for the Town of Front Royal who will immediately schedule a hearing on the customer’s claim that his account is not delinquent.
  3. Disconnection of Service: If the matter is not successfully contested by the customer and arrearages remain 10 days after the date of the aforementioned notices, water service shall be disconnected. If the account remains delinquent after another 2 days, electric service shall be disconnected. If, however, the customer has not secured water service, electric service (rather than water) will be disconnected after 10 days. Notwithstanding the foregoing, no services shall be disconnected prior to a requested hearing.
  4. Persons in Poor Health: Customer may seek an additional 30 days before water and electric services are disconnected if the Director of the Warren County Health Department certifies in writing to the Town of Front Royal Director of Finance that the customer has a serious medical condition or the customer resides with a family member with a serious medical condition. Upon providing certification the service  termination may be delayed twice within a 12-month period, but may not be consecutive, certification shall be valid for period of 365 days.
  5. Conditions for Reconnection of Service: Once disconnected, services shall not be restored to that customer until the outstanding balance (service fee(s), penalty, and reconnection fee(s)) for that service location is paid in full, unless the Director of Finance has approved other arrangements for payment in full.

D. RETURNED CHECK POLICY:

  • If a check is returned to the Town for any reason, the Director of Finance shall notify, in the same manner as provided above, the Customer. If payment, in full, plus a $35.00 service charge is not received by the close of business three days after the date on the notice, all utility services to the customer’s service location shall be disconnected. If the customer presents the Town with more than two bad checks during any twelve month payment, payment by check will no longer be accepted.

E. BUSINESS ACCOUNTS:

  • The Town shall require any entity not a natural person requesting a utility account to either: (1) provide the written personal guaranty of payment from a natural person holding an ownership interest in the entity or, (2) pay an additional deposit amount equal to the greater of: (a) twice the average monthly utility bill during the preceding twelve (12) month period for utilities provided at the service location or, (b) $375.00. Any deposit paid pursuant to (2), above, after applying same to any past due balances, shall be refunded to the entity within a reasonable time after the utility account is closed.
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