Why should Small Business Saturday just be celebrated on the Saturday after Thanksgiving? Buy Local – Shop Local – Eat Local – Support Front Royal’s Small Business Community and stay local!
Small Business Saturdays – “Buy Local” events are scheduled for: September 5, October 3, November 7, November 28, December 5, and January 9.
Should you invest in a sump pump?
A sump pump is a device that can be installed in a basement, either beneath or above the floor. It’s designed to pump out the water collected in a sump basin and discharge it to the outdoors. Consequently, your home is kept safe from the damage that can occur as a result of flooding.
If your basement is at risk of flooding, you should consider buying a sump pump, especially if you live somewhere with a high water table. If possible, select a submersible rather than a pedestal pump, as they’re less noisy when covered with a lid. You should also opt for a model with an iron core since it’s more durable than the plastic alternative. Plus, you should think about getting a pump with an alarm that alerts you if the water in the basin reaches a dangerous level.
In addition, you may want to install a secondary sump pump next to the first one, especially if you have a finished basement. This way, if your primary pump fails or becomes overtaxed, the secondary pump will automatically take over.
A battery backup pump can also be installed. In the event of a power outage, this type of pump will continue to work for up to two days.
To install a sump pump in your home, speak with a qualified plumber in your area.
5 things to consider when choosing your wedding cake
As one of the key components of most weddings, decisions about the cake shouldn’t be left until the last minute. Here are five factors to consider before you order yours.
1. The number of guests
You want to make sure there’s plenty to go around. However, it would be a shame to waste your money on an excessively large cake and have to throw some out.
2. The wedding theme
3. The design
In addition to choosing the shape of the cake and the number of tiers, consider what decorative elements you’d like to incorporate. Fresh flowers, edible gold leaves, and chocolate lace are just some many choices.
4. The flavor
From praline mouse to passion fruit, you might be surprised by how many options are available. Fortunately, most cake shops offer tastings to help you make your choice.
5. The ingredients
If you have a limited budget, determine if you favor high-quality ingredients over a refined look. You should also consider if any of your guests have allergies.
Contact cake shops in your area to schedule a consultation and make sure your cake checks all the boxes.
Your car is watching you–and that might be good news.
Your auto insurance rates could soon be set based on how you, personally, drive–not on your statistical risk.
General Motors Co. (GM) has launched an auto insurance program with its OnStar subsidiary to match data on driving patterns and usage to insurance costs. Tesla and Ford have also announced initiatives, according to Claims Journal.
Right now, insurance companies use criteria such as age, gender, neighborhood, and/or credit scores to set insurance prices. Consumer advocates have found this unfair because a good driver could live in a neighborhood that is unsafe and have a lower credit score.
Statistically, a teenage boy is the world’s worst auto insurance risk and insurance rates reflect this. But with usage-based insurance pricing, even a teenage boy might be able to demonstrate he is a good risk.
The mechanism of future insurance pricing will come from telematics–devices that collect real-time information on driving patterns and use. According to JD Power, demand for insurance based on telematics has increased during the pandemic as customers, working from home, though they could save money on insurance.
What that could mean for good drivers and drivers who don’t drive much is lower rates. Bad drivers would get higher rates. Depending on how the technology is deployed, drivers might get real-time feedback about how they are doing, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III). That could be like having a permanent back-seat driver who is always right. But drivers do respond when they have incentives to drive better, according to iii.org.
A study by Willis Towers Watson showed that, in commercial fleets monitored by telematics, crash rates fell by 80 percent.
But will drivers have privacy concerns or will they resent having their every driving move monitored? Another survey by Willis Towers Watson suggests not. Resistance to the idea of cars monitoring driving is low, about seven percent.
GM will use data from its onboard concierge service, OnStar. The service helps drivers in emergencies and with navigation, but it also collects data on driving patterns. It takes special note of hard braking and acceleration.
Tesla’s initiative hasn’t yet launched.
Ford Motor Company has teamed up with Allstate Corporation to allow customers to share driving data.
GM says its OnStar program has provided the company with more data from connected vehicles than any other carmaker, as quoted in Claims Journal.
The company’s insurance offer will start in Arizona and use braking, acceleration, and general usage data to help set insurance rates. The program is set to expand nationwide using more data, including tire pressure, lane-keeping, and automated braking. More use of connected car data could be used if regulatory hurdles can be overcome.
Town Talk: A conversation with Warren County Sheriff Mark Butler
In this Town Talk, we’ll have a conversation with Warren County Sheriff Mark Butler. Sheriff Butler gives us a year-in-review from the Warren County Sheriff’s Office.
Town Talk is a series on the Royal Examiner where we will introduce you to local entrepreneurs, businesses, non-profit leaders, and political figures who influence Warren County. Topics will be varied but hopefully interesting. If you have an idea, topic, or want to hear from someone in our community, let us know. Send your request to news@RoyalExaminer.com
In-person middle school days increased; School board OKs curriculum committee, more IAs
As the division continues to work through its reopening plan during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Warren County Public Schools (WCPS) will increase the in-person days for middle school students starting on March 1 when students will attend school on either an AA (Monday and Tuesday) or BB (Thursday and Friday) schedule with Wednesdays remaining a remote learning day for all middle school students.
Students will attend in-person instruction two consecutive days per week and work remotely three days per week. Teachers will continue to support online learning with face-to-face (synchronous) instruction or through recorded or other learning modes of instruction (asynchronous), WCPS Superintendent Chris Ballenger said in a statement released today.
WCPS staff is working to ensure students in grades 6, 7, and 8 — which Ballenger called the building block grades to high school — have as much time as possible in-person at school. “Studies show that students being in that chair, in that classroom, in front of a teacher is where we’re going to get the biggest gains,” he said.
Therefore, a WCPS middle school student’s designation, as either virtual or in-person, will be locked starting on February 17 and will remain locked until March 12, and neither students nor parents will be able to request a change from virtual instruction to in-person instruction during this time, according to Ballenger.
Additionally, to allow for the additional instructional days for middle school students, a start and end time change will go into effect for A.S. Rhodes Elementary starting March 1 when school will start at 8 a.m. and end at 1:30 p.m. Ballenger said the time change is necessary to accommodate increased transportation needs at the elementary school.
Beginning on March 1, the WCPS schedule will be:
“We would love to get our middle school students in four days a week like we have our elementary,” said Ballenger during the School Board’s work session portion of its meeting. “But that is just not the case for us. It comes down to staffing; it comes down to transportation — just the limitations that we have. So, the best solution that we have to try and close that learning gap… is to try to get students in front of the teacher as much as possible.”
The superintendent also said in his statement that WCPS parents will receive information from the schools concerning the schedule changes. “Please reach out to your child’s principal if you have any additional concerns,” he said.
School Board action
During their Wednesday night regular meeting, Warren County School Board Chairman Arnold Williams Jr., Vice Chairwoman Catherine Bower, and members James Wells, Ralph Rinaldi, and Kristen Pence unanimously approved two items.
The first followed a motion made by Rinaldi, with a second by Bower, to approve the creation of temporary positions for more instructional assistants (IAs) for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year to assist in both filling unfilled substitute positions and transitioning to more in-person learning, at a cost not to exceed the allotted $104,070.
“The funding for these temporary positions would come from a budgeted coordinator’s position that duties have been reassigned among current staff,” WCPS Personnel Director George “Bucky” Smith told the board. “Funds available in this line item is $104,070. This amount is inclusive of salary and benefits.”
Smith also said that the number of candidates hired would depend upon the budget amount allotted, the number of qualified candidates for hire, and the need of temporary IAs throughout the division. The funding is already available in the 2020-21 school budget.
“It’s already been budgeted; it’s not an expense,” Smith said. “It’s a line item that we can work out of for this particular purpose… from now through the end of the current school year.”
The next item approved, following a motion by Wells and a second by Pence, was a request by WCPS Director of Elementary Instruction Lisa Rudacille to convene an English Language Curriculum Review Committee that will “review curriculum materials to best serve our English language learners.”
In other business, the School Board heard a required first reading from Warren County High School Director of Guidance Lesley Detweiler, who presented highlights and changes to the 2021-2022 Program of Studies (POS) for grades 6-12.
One POS change regards weighted grades. Currently, AP classes and those with an associated AP exam are weighted. Starting in school year 2021-2022, dual enrolled on-campus courses also will be weighted credits.
“This helps to provide some equal opportunity for weighted grades at both schools,” Detweiler said, referring to Warren County high schools and Lord Fairfax Community College (LFCC). “And these courses are equivalent to the AP courses that are already weighted.”
For instance, a Warren County student taking AP English during his or her junior year will receive credit at LFCC for English 111 or 112, she explained, adding that some of WCPS dual enrolled courses that occur on Warren County high school campuses also will have weighted credits, including Anatomy, which is held at Skyline High School (SHS), Biology at Warren County High School (WCHS), and World Civilization at SHS.
Some new courses also are being added, said Detweiler, including Coding and Digital Applications at the middle school level; Criminal Justice I and II, which will take place at the Blue Ridge Technical Center; African American History, a history elective that will be offered through Virtual Virginia during the 2021-2022 school year; Advanced Biology, which will be offered at WCHS with a dual enrollment option; and Music Artistry, which will be offered at SHS with a dual enrollment option.
AP Literature — also known as English 12 — will be renamed Dual Enrolled English 12, which will take place at SHS, although eligible WCHS students also will be able to take the class as they are currently able to do, Detweiler said.
Additionally, certain classes will be offered at both high schools, such as journalism, while Photojournalism also will get a name change to Publication. Sports Medicine II at WCHS also will have a dual enrollment option, she added.
Course offerings are contingent upon funding once the fiscal year 2022 budget is approved in May, according to WCPS.
Watch the entire School Board meeting in the Royal Examiner video.
Town-County Liaison Committee ponders increased trust, cooperation as EDA situation explained to council reps
Neither Mayor Chris Holloway nor Vice-Mayor Lori Cockrell were available to attend and chair the Thursday, January 21st Liaison Committee meeting at Town Hall, Town Manager Steven Hicks noted at the meeting’s outset. The mayor and county board chair are constant committee members, with a second representative rotated on an alphabetical basis – which was later discussed for possible change.
So, Letasha Thompson and Chris Lloyd represented the Town, with Hicks taking the lead voice on the Town side, with Warren County Board Chair Cheryl Cullers leading the County contingent of herself, former chairman Walt Mabe and Interim County Administrator Ed Daley.
With it being his and Lloyd’s first Liaison Committee experience, Hicks suggested everyone introduce themselves around the table soon after the 6 p.m. start. Introductions in hand the committee traversed an agenda addressing areas of mutual County-Town interest, as well as the Liaison Committee’s rules and mission. Included in that agenda were County projects occurring within the town limits – at Ressie Jeffries Elementary School and the County’s Health and Human Services Complex at the old 15th Street middle school site; and upgrades to the County’s Building Inspection software designed to make it more user friendly.
Five of the agenda’s seven topics were Town forwarded. They included proposed amendments to the Liaison Committee’s mission statement and process (no forwarding attribution); how County short-term rental ordinances related to the collection of lodging taxes and whether those ordinances could be amended to ease approval of “Air B&B” style short-term rentals within the town limits (McFadden); potential consolidation of permitting and tax payments that require visits to both Town Hall and the Warren County Government Center (Lloyd); and establishment of PILOT (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes) fees for non-profit status Valley Health’s new hospital in town (Thompson).
A fifth topic may have been the most significant long-term for both municipalities – developing a joint vision to the mutual benefit of county citizens on both sides of the town-county boundary line. “Beginning the conversation between the entities is a start to not only to help heal the community but ensure that the citizens are a priority now and into the future,” the agenda topic summary initiative attributed to Vice-Mayor Cockrell stated.
Thompson raised the potential of creation of a “visioning” steering committee with occasional full joint body meetings to try and keep the two municipal bodies on the same page and heading in the same direction. “I think that would be very beneficial and starting the healing process that we very much need,” Thompson said.
“I agree, … but I kind of feel like I would like to keep it casual, where it’s more like we’re breaking bread together and not sitting around a table like we are necessarily now, but more of just a coming together, break bread and then share ideas of what our combined effort is and the fact that we do need, in order to heal the community, we have to heal together,” County Board Chair Cullers added.
Mabe suggested initial monthly meetings on this joint visioning effort, “Then at some time in the future when things are working better than they were, or have, or are, we go to two months and then further down the road, every three months,” he envisioned.
Perhaps that first joint visioning session should be scheduled quickly as the Afton Inn sale for redevelopment is still being held up by Town challenges of the EDA’s right to make that sale and recover a portion of its expenses in maintaining and marketing the property over the past five-plus years.
In fact, the status of the half-century-plus old joint County-Town Economic Development Authority (EDA) was broached early in the meeting when budgets and available municipal dollars were being discussed.
EDA 101: you can’t just close your eyes and make it go away
“The County has this drain I’m going to call it, called the EDA lawsuits,” Daley, who did a stint as Chairman of the re-tooled, post-financial scandal EDA Board of Directors prior to taking over the county administrator’s seat following Doug Stanley’s ouster, began. “And I think until we are not putting money in there, I think we’re going to focus on that before we start any capital projects because that drains any money that would potentially be for … capitol (projects).” As has been widely reported, one of the EDA’s two lawsuits is the Town’s against it, claiming over $20-million-dollars in misdirected Town assets, a great percentage of the total claim in the EDA’s lawsuit against its former executive director Jennifer McDonald and a large number of co-defendants involving the alleged misdirection or fraudulent use of EDA, County and Town assets.
At this point Thompson joined the conversation, asking, “While we’re here and you’ve kind of brought the EDA situation into it, at what point do we stop throwing money at the EDA? They’ve requested about a million dollars and things like that, and take the money that is being dumped there, it seems to me – I’m outside looking in, you know – and put that towards something like our schools and where the kids need it or get drug court started. At what point do we draw a line in the sand and say, we just want this to stop and we want to start anew and afresh and spend our money elsewhere?”
The town council under the guidance of its past interim town manager, withdrew from its initial effort to help re-focus the EDA, into hostile litigation and plans to start a second, unilateral EDA, while technically still legally part of the joint Town-County EDA.
“The EDA must remain in existence until all of the industrial development bonds are paid. So, if we were going to decide to discontinue the EDA, then Valley Health is the number one right now (EDA facilitated loan for new hospital), but the other industrial companies out here would have to pay of their bonds before the court would permit it,” Daley explained. Thompson thanked him for the explanation, noting it helped her understand the EDA situation’s “nuances”, something that apparently has been lacking on the Town side with its decision to separate and litigate, rather than negotiate as former Mayor Eugene Tewalt had unsuccessfully urged council to do.
“It leaves the County kind of sitting in a corner there,” Daley continued of the Town’s withdrawal from the rehabilitation effort that has seen some promising recent recruitments and pending recruitments of new business to the community. Daley added that if the County, which is financially supporting the EDA at this point, didn’t pursue recovery of lost assets through real estate seizures and other court procedures “Then the County’s got to pay off the whole, entire bill.”