Calling all artists!! Design a chair for the SPCA CHAIR-ity Brunch and save homeless animals. Pick up a chair from the SPCA Thrift Shop, build a chair, up-cycle a chair, paint a chair, or upholster a chair. All types of chairs welcome. Chairs must be completed by August 22nd.
For more information, and to sign up to participate in the SPCA’s signature event, please contact Lavenda Denney at 540-662-8616 ext. 406 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Cracked Acorn: Writing
When our sons were in grade school and discovered the joy of writing, I asked them to write a science fiction story for me. They gave it their best! The result was quite a story of space ships, green aliens, and villains with big teeth. There were the good guys and the bad guys and of course the castle with the deep dark forest close by. I read it and praised them for a good job. Weeks later, I asked if I could see it again. No, they had thrown it into the trash and not to be found. Little did I know that we may have passed up the chance to be millionaires.
You would have to be on Mars or totally out of touch to have missed the stir about the J.K.Rowling’s Potter series of fantasy witchcraft books. These have made her the richest woman in England.
It all started when she, a single parent, was forced to support her infant daughter. While her child was napping, Rowling started writing the first book at a table in a cafe. The books soon to end with the seventh one are now in most bookstores, schools and libraries. They are being applauded for being the catalyst to spur the 8-18 age group into a pell-mell race to grab the first edition at a price of nearly thirty dollars. Reading has jumped up 31% and has made reading “fun.” Many have tried to explain this reading surge translated into the languages of over 200 nations. Much has been written in the newspaper and on internet analyzing the interest among our young people in the Potter books. Books on magic and fantasy have been written over the years and are now cluttering the shelves of the used book stores. None have ever created a crazed reading stampede as these books.
What are the glaring short comings of the Rowling’s series? – God is not mentioned at all as the supreme being. Heroes have all the power and fly around on magic broomsticks and cast spells. A sinister being appears in the form of a gigantic snake. The main character’s mother returns from the dead in the form of an animal. Many put all this aside in the justification of these books and now movies as being sheer unadulterated brain floss entertainment and that’s that! This is one time the experts agree that too much exposure to this kind of entertainment “desensitizes our society to the occult.” This could well be the “straw that broke the camel’s back” for many of our youth who really can’t handle one more peer driven pressure activity. Australia has tried to place warning labels on such books when placed in the local libraries.
Remember the drive to place the TEN COMMANDMENTS into the schools. The first commandment is: THOU SHALT HAVE NO OTHER GODS BEFORE ME.(Exodus 20)
We have to keep this is mind that God has not changed because thousands of years have passed.
HE has also said from brother Paul, “And now, brothers, as I close this letter let me say this one more thing, Fix your thoughts on what is true and good and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely, and dwell on the fine, good things in others.” (Phil. 4:8)
The best place for your space heater
An auxiliary heating appliance can help you heat your outbuildings and parts of your home during a cold spell. But where should you put it? Follow these tips to choose the best spot for your space heater.
• Establish a three-foot safety zone. Keep the space heater away from flammable materials like curtains, bedsheets and furniture. Make sure that kids and pets can’t get near enough to touch it.
• Keep it away from the wall. This is both safer and more efficient. Maintaining a small distance between the space heater and the wall allows heat to circulate freely and therefore warms up the room more efficiently.
• Avoid damp locations. Moisture can damage most electric heating appliances. Unless it’s rated for use in bathrooms or kitchens, keep your space heater away from damp locations.
• Put it on the ground. Heat rises, so placing your space heater on a table or shelf won’t make your room much warmer. Keep it on the floor instead.
Space heaters aren’t meant to heat your whole home, so keep them where you need them the most. And be sure to get one rated for the size of the area. One that’s too small won’t heat efficiently, and one that’s too large will waste electricity.
Go ahead! Sell your home during the holidays
Conventional wisdom tells us to list our homes for sale during the spring and that nobody is buying in the dead of winter — especially during the holidays.
But that’s flat-out incorrect. While it’s true that there are fewer sales overall, that doesn’t mean your house can’t or won’t sell quickly, and at a good price. In November 2018, according to the National Association of Realtors, existing home sales actually rose 1.9 percent to a seasonally adjusted rate of 5.32 million units.
That’s a lot of properties. In fact, there are a number of solid reasons to sell during the holidays:
* Less competition. With less inventory available, you have a better chance at holding your price. There was an average 4-month supply of inventory in November 2018 compared with a 4.4-month supply in June 2019.
* Buyers are more serious. People who are buying a home during the holiday season often need to move or are simply much more serious about their search (or they simply didn’t get involved in the holiday excitement).
* Closings can happen faster. A slower season can be to your advantage when it comes to paperwork. With fewer closings in the queue, yours can take place faster than it might in the hectic spring and summer seasons.
* Company bonuses and relocations. Again, a buyer with intent. Most corporate relocations happen in January and February. These folks are serious about moving and aren’t wasting a lot of time window-shopping.
* Houses look and smell great during the holidays. We tend to worry about making our properties sparkle for showings, but it’s just as important to show that this is a home. And what’s better than warm cookies or some well-placed decorations (don’t overdo it) to invite people in?
Starting your teen off with banking
What’s almost as scary as your teen learning to drive? Your teen with money.
Maybe scary is too strong a word. But as with most endeavors where our children move into independence, there’s some trepidation. Have they learned the lessons we tried to teach them? Will they be mindful?
One rite of passage includes the teen checking account, their first foray into handling money on their own … or semi on their own. If your child is under 18, you’ll likely have to be a joint owner; you’ll be able to monitor transactions and access accounts.
Other options include getting your teen a prepaid debit or credit card.
You could set up an allowance in a checking account into which the teen can also deposit income from work. They can then use a debit card to pay their expenses.
A prepaid credit card will avoid the need for a checking account, but also not teach a teen how to use an account.
Some of the things you’ll have to teach your teen.
* How to write a check. We all sometimes need paper. Still.
* Interest rate and monthly fees.
Some accounts have fees and if your account has them, teach your teen when they apply.
* Overdraft fees and overdraft policy.
Teens must not overdraft their account and, if they do, fees will quickly eat up a teen paycheck. You might want to monitor a teens checking account to make sure they haven’t overdrawn.
Teens have to understand that overdrafts and fees can’t be ignored.
* Mobile Banking. Teens are going to use their phone.
* Text alerts and email can be sent to both the teen and parents.
A history of roads in Virginia: New directions
Still concerned about a rapidly growing backlog of highway, bridge, and public transit needs, the 1982 General Assembly provided a substantial increase in funds to shore up the state’s lagging transportation budget.
In doing so, the legislature averted a revenue crisis of major proportions that had threatened to bring the state’s highway system improvements to an abrupt halt.
By enacting a 3 percent oil excise tax, plus increases in motor vehicle registration and several other highway-user fees, the legislature authorized an estimated $263 million in additional money — $224 million for highway and bridge construction and reconstruction and $39 million to assist local public transportation systems with capital and administrative costs.
The new funds enabled the state to move forward with transportation improvements that otherwise would have been deferred indefinitely or, in some instances, abandoned entirely.
Out of the revenue collected for highway use, maintenance of the existing roads was paid first, as mandated by the General Assembly in 1977. This meant that a loss of funds had to be absorbed by the construction program. Escalating maintenance costs and the sagging highway budget left several districts’ construction programs in danger of collapse. Though lawmakers repeatedly tried to deal with the problem by increasing gas taxes, falling sales left only a string of broken promises to build new or expanded roads.
The answer to the transportation crisis of the mid-1980s clearly was to find a new and stable revenue source. Some thought that explosive growth in areas like Northern Virginia and Tidewater made the “pay-as-you-go” method of financing highway construction projects obsolete; urbanization had occurred too quickly for road construction to keep pace, particularly in light of the revenue decline and increased costs seen throughout the ‘70s.
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EDA authorizes litigation to recover Workforce Housing parcel or its value
Following an hour-and-a-half Closed Session Friday morning, November 15, the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority Board of Directors unanimously approved a motion to authorize litigation to sue Cornerstone, LP, LLC, its principals and affiliates to recover “EDA land improperly conveyed to Cornerstone without EDA authority or collect the full value of the conveyance and such other damages to the EDA”.
The land in question is the 3.5-acre Workforce Housing parcel sold to the Cornerstone group on November 28, 2018, at a price of $10 dollars.
After initially receiving the parcel as a $10 gift from the aunt and uncle of former EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald, local realtors Mr. and Mrs. Walter Campbell, the EDA Board agreed to purchase the property for $445,000 in April 2017 after missing a previously undisclosed developmental deadline that would have enabled the Campbells to pursue tax credit compensation for the gift of the land to a public purpose.
It is believed that Cornerstone, LP, LLC, is a branch of regional developer the Aikens Group. Aikens was cited by former EDA Executive Director McDonald as a behind-the-scenes, private sector player in the Workforce Housing financial riddle from its inception in late 2014.
When contacted in April about the transaction Gray Blanton, who signed the Deed of Sale to Cornerstone for the EDA as board chairman in November 2018, told Royal Examiner he had only seen the final signature page of the four page document. Blanton seconded the motion made by Greg Harold to authorize the litigation.
Local real estate attorney Joe Silek Jr., who represented the EDA due to the recusal of then EDA Attorney Dan Whitten for a potential conflict of interest as EDA and County Attorneys, told us in April there was no price on the deed of sale when it was forwarded from the EDA to the Winchester law firm of McCarthy-Akers for completion.
Asked why the EDA would agree to take a $444,990 loss or even a $651,690 if disputed EDA developmental and peripheral purchase costs are included, Silek said, “I don’t think they did,” and referred us to attorney Doug McCarthy of the McCarthy-Akers law firm for further information.
As we first wrote in April, as of publication there has been no response to a phone-message inquiry about the transaction from the attorneys who represented the buyer in the now legally-disputed sale.
Of the transaction, the initial March 26 filing of the EDA civil suit says, “When interviewed on December 6, 2018, Defendant McDonald continued to maintain that the Aikens Group would refund the Warren EDA the full cost of the Royal Lane Property and any improvements, when she knew said property had been conveyed by the Warren EDA on November 28, 2018 to Cornerstone for consideration of $10.”
That transaction came as scrutiny of McDonald’s executive leadership of the EDA was intensifying as the Cherry Bekaert financial fraud investigation progressed. Following several hours of closed session discussion of the Cherry Bekaert findings and her job performance on December 14, 2018, McDonald had her contract, check-writing and administrative authority over EDA bank accounts stripped by the EDA board.
Facing a second closed session on the same topics a week later, McDonald submitted her resignation by email, and according to the EDA lawsuit attempted to cap her financial liability to the EDA at $2.7 million dollars.
As previously reported, in initial defense motion filings McDonald’s now former civil case attorney Lee Berlik claimed his client was being vilified and scapegoated for past bad decisions of the EDA Board of Directors.
However, the EDA civil action alleges a lengthy pattern of gaps, conflicting or misinformation from McDonald to the EDA board regarding what is termed the “Royal Lane Property Embezzlements” among other allegations of financial fraud that have led, not only to civil liability claims against the former EDA chief executive, but also 32 felony financial fraud indictments from a Special Grand Jury empanelled to investigate potential illegalities tied to the EDA civil suit.
And now it seems the Aikens Group finds itself on the perimeter of that EDA civil litigation regarding what has been a twisting and often inexplicable, five-year saga surrounding the attempted transfer of the Campbells’ 3.5-acre Royal Lane parcel to a public use.
Also unanimously approved after the Closed Session, on a motion by Jorie Martin, seconded by Blanton, was authorization for Executive Director Doug Parsons to forward Adjusted Journal Entries developed by retired County Finance Director Carolyn Stimmel and Hottel & Willis’s Heather Tweedy to the Yount-Hyde-Barbour accounting firm for use in development of the EDA’s 2018 Audit Report; and on a motion by Harold, seconded by Tom Patteson, acceptance of the Commission Agreement for the sale of the EDA-owned McKay Springs property, subject to receiving the Agency Agreement within 14 days.
Open Session Business
The pending McKay Springs property transfer and a County Planning Commission Public Hearing two days earlier on Wednesday, November 13, were topics discussed During County Administrator Doug Stanley’s Report during the open portion of Friday’s meeting.
That open portion of the meeting was eventful as the full EDA Board received monthly reports and six-month Strategic Priorities Lists from the EDA’s Asset Management, Finance, Communications and Executive Committees; as well as the monthly report on County business; and Executive Director Parsons’ Strategic Priorities List.
Major topics included the status of the Afton Inn as far as the developer resuming work on site; the status of removal of the Earth Right Energy-installed solar panels on the EDA’s Kendrick Lane Office Complex to allow roof repairs to facilitate empty space rental marketing; and the status of resolving payment issues with the Town of Front Royal on the new Police Station across Kendrick Lane.
As part of the Asset Committee Report Jorie Martin told the board that there had been three replies on the solar panel RFP, with one of particular interest. That one was from a non-profit with the expertise to remove the panels, and then market them for resale at no cost to the EDA. Martin added that it was possible the EDA could even see some revenue from the arrangement.
The EDA is abandoning the idea pushed by McDonald to provide sustainable solar power to the EDA Office Complex, ostensibly as an incentive to help attract a high-end commercial client to the county, supposedly Amazon according to one former board member. Issues include a lack of individual unit metering equipment and the fact the Town has sole authority to charge for the provision of power inside the town limits.
During discussion of the Kendrick Lane roof-solar panel situation it was noted that one positive was that the solar panels were not bolted to the roof in any way, and rather are just sitting on the roof on the panel row bases. Executive Director Parsons pointed out that it had been established that the roof damage did not come from the solar panel installation, but was a consequence of “faulty roof work ages back”.
Also during the Asset Committee Report Harold said the committee “was sad to report that the majority of current bad debt and aging receivables is owed by the Town of Front Royal for their municipal projects”. Primary among those projects is the $8 million to $11 million Town Police Station project financed through the EDA.
Interim Town Manager Matt Tederick was present and in response to a question told the EDA that “the Town is in receipt of the invoice that was most recently sent” regarding the police station and that it would be discussed at a coming council work session.
Tederick also said the Town had received an EDA FOIA request and that the Town Finance Director had scanned relevant material which should be forthcoming shortly. The Interim Town Manager said he had discussed with the Town Attorney setting up a conference call for 3 p.m. Monday to discuss Town-EDA issues.
The Town has filed civil litigation against the EDA to collect “as much as $15 million” in assets it believes were misdirected or lost by the Town during McDonald’s executive leadership of the EDA.
Talking to the press after the EDA went into Closed Session Tederick said he believed the referenced FRPD project invoice was for $8.7 million dollars, with assessed interest calculated at 3.5%, which he added, “differs from the agreed-upon terms the Town was originally offered by the EDA.”
Tederick confirmed the Town’s perceived agreed-upon interest rate on the FRPD project involved New Market Tax Credit Program (NMTC) financing, which is believed to calculate at about 1% over the life of the bond payback.
“So it’s all coming to a head and we’re trying to figure out how to best move forward,” Tederick said. Asked if the Town and EDA were trying to make the financing dispute less adversarial, the Interim Mayor replied, “Make it less adversarial, of course. But we have to agree upon what we can agree upon. And what we can’t agree upon we have a judge to determine what the right numbers are.”
As Royal Examiner has previously reported, a council majority decided to gamble on a best case New Market Tax Credit scenario brought forward by McDonald during consideration of a bond issue on a number of Town or County Capital Improvement Projects. That NMTC Program would have offered a seven to nine-year interest free payback term over an estimated 20 or 30 year payback.
However, that gamble was made over the advice of then-Town Manager Joe Waltz, Town Finance Director B. J. Wilson and NMTC Regional Administrator People Inc. representative Brian Phipps.
Due to uncertainties with the NMTC Program’s future, as well as municipal competition for limited regional funds controlled by People Inc, Waltz, Wilson and Phipps all recommended to Council that a bank-offered, locked-in 2.65% interest rate over a 30-year payback term was the best bet because its favorable interest rate was locked in and the money was not subject to being lost in a municipal competition for funding.
It was also later established that the FRPD headquarters project didn’t qualify for the NMTC program because it was a capital improvement project that did not create jobs, a primary goal of that federal and state overseen program.
“Here comes the judge,” as comedian Flip Wilson used to say.
Watch the entire open session EDA Special Meeting, with the above-referenced discussions and reports, among others of high interest in the exclusive Royal Examiner video: