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Front Royal ponders additional upgrades to WWTP or Intake-Inflow system

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“Just when you thought you were out, they pull you back in again” – is a famous and somewhat colorfully-delivered Hollywood film reference to membership in an organized crime family. At its December 3 work session the Front Royal Town Council got a similarly unhappy and colorfully-delivered message from Wastewater Treatment Plant Manager Timmy Fristoe.

That message was that after completing $40 million in upgrades to the Town’s wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) council is staring at another $21 million in costs for “Phase Two” of plant upgrades.

Wait, what – WHY so soon for another major expenditure, town taxpayers might ask.

WWTP Manager Timmy Fristoe summarizes the state of the Town’s wastewater intake and outflow. The past year’s heavy rain accumulation has pushed the system to the edge of new expenses – how much remains to be seen. Photos/Roger Bianchini

As Fristoe explained it is because when the Town was staring at federal and state-mandated WWTP upgrades in 2008 to help cleanup the Chesapeake Bay watershed in an effort to preserve the Bay’s billion-dollar-plus fishing industry, the original cost estimate to meet State Department of Environmental Quality guidelines was $60 million.

Unable or unwilling to hike taxes enough to meet that cost at the time, the town government negotiated removal of some components of suggested upgrades to reduce the cost to a more palatable $40 million.

And now that the $40-million upgrade is completed the necessity of adding that deleted $20 million of previously deleted components has raised its expensive head, Fristoe told council.

The reason the issue has arisen so close to completion of the first phase of WWTP upgrades Fristoe and Town Manager Joe Waltz explained, is that the exceptionally rainy season the area has experienced over the past year has pushed the town system near the DEQ trigger point for the phase two WWTP upgrades to kick in.

But wait, Fristoe and Waltz explained there may be an alternative solution available – improvements to the town-wide storm and ground water Intake and Inflow (I & I) infrastructure system. Under a consent order from DEQ on that system, the Town recently commissioned a study of its I & I infrastructure. The estimated cost of I & I upgrades it is hoped would pull the Town back from that DEQ WWTP “trigger point” on phase two upgrades is $10 million.

Yea, what that says – and save about $11 million, at least for awhile.

Having experience with I & I issues from his time as the Town’s Public Works Director, Vice-Mayor Eugene Tewalt observed that Intake and Inflow infrastructure has long been an issue for the Town. Tewalt said he believed a $10-million expenditure to correct long-standing Intake and Inflow infrastructure problems that could help push back the necessity for $21 million more in upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant was a preferable path for council to pursue.

In response to a consensus in that direction, the town manager said he would prepare a work session presentation on the I & I plan being developed from the recent study of the system – “I think you’ll be pleased with what we’re doing,” Waltz told the mayor and council.
The precise numbers presented by Wastewater Treatment Plant Manager Fristoe indicated the Town saved $16,920,000 by reducing the scope of its WWTP upgrades a decade ago. Currently the estimate to add those removed components is $21 million – $3 million for design and $18 million for construction. That is a net loss of $4,080,000.

But with Intake and Inflow infrastructure already on the table for upgrades, the coming staff presentation on the estimated $10-million implementation of that plan could help keep Front Royal from reaching that DEQ trigger point for the additional $21 million in wastewater treatment plant upgrades – but for how long?

That may depend on – take your pick: the weatherman, climate scientists, God or those nefarious cloud-seeding planes some believe the deep state is utilizing to control our weather to whatever nefarious ends, including apparently raising Front Royal’s tax rates and burning California to the ground.

Watch the discussion here:

Download the Powerpoint presentation here:

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. John Costello

    December 5, 2018 at 10:54 am

    Once again, the EDA and its director Jennifer McDonald is in the news. WHY did the EDA overcharge the Town of Front Royal $300,000? Was this intentional? In this small town, it seems implausible that charges of this magnitude could occur without someone at the EDA discovering this discrepancy long before now? Or, did the EDA and Ms.McDonald know about it all along and simply hoped that the erroneous charges would not be discovered? $300,000 could go a long way toward paying for the new police radio system that is in the works. What about the EDA board? Do they not scrutinize some of the EDA’s financial workings or do they simply rely on Jennifer McDonald for their information. Where there is smoke, there is fire. It just has not been public yet.

    In view of the above and other issues that have recently occurred at the EDA such as Jennifer McDonald being charged with filing a false police report relating to a large paver being thrown through the glass at her home, alleged break-ins at the EDA offices in which files were allegedly stolen and knives found in the office(s) with pictures of Ms. McDonald being stabbed, the purchase of land by McDonald and partners using funds reported by McDonald as being won playing slot machines at Charlestown Racetrack, Reports of threats made against Roger Bianchini by McDonald’s husband and a plethora of other negative news, it may be time to get a new Director of the EDA and a board that is more than a group simply following along the current path.

  2. KENNETH DAMERON

    December 5, 2018 at 10:13 am

    Is this what is meant by “unfunded mandates?” I would be tempted to tell DEQ to just shove it.

    Realistically, though, I don’t suppose that we can defy the State and Federal government and refuse to comply with environmental regulations. Maybe we could send the Town Attorney Napier to Richmond to negotiate a way out of at least part of this problem. Maybe the State would be willing to extend a no-interest loan to the Town, repayable over a long period of time so that we could comply with the regulations.

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Local Government

Town Council wrestles with new property maintenance authority

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FRONT ROYAL – It’s rough having the power – especially when you’ve pursued it for so long, then finally achieve it.

What now?

That is the situation the Front Royal Town Council wrestled with at a December 3 work session – how to approach enforcement of a property maintenance code that allows it the same powers as cities and counties to enforce building maintenance standards within its boundaries.

Mayor Tharpe worried over first steps in enforcement – ‘Where do we start? We don’t want to be accused of playing favorites,’ he has commented. Royal Examiner File Photo

As Royal Examiner readers may recall from tracking the issue over the course of the last year and a half, the dilemma is that while the town’s elected officials want the ability to enforce standards that will improve the overall look, livability and property values of Front Royal, how much is it going to cost the town government and its citizens to achieve these things?

The one dissenting vote to both readings of the new property maintenance code, Vice-Mayor Eugene Tewalt, has continued to predict unexpectedly high costs, even for what has been described as a lower-cost, middle ground option adopted by council nearly two months ago.  Tewalt has also been critical of his younger council colleagues for continuing to approve capital improvements, and now additional code enforcement, without creating revenue streams to pay for either long-term debt service or required staff additions.

However, undiscussed thus far has been the potential return on investment from more aggressive enforcement if a corresponding rise in property values leads to increased real estate tax-base revenue.

After months of debate dating to at least July of 2017 for this council, on October 22, 2018 council approved the second reading of a new property maintenance code that took the above-described middle ground approach of five options presented by staff. That option, formerly known as Option C, enforcement-wise “addresses all structures in the Town”; “addresses maintenance issues” and “can be enforced on a complaint basis or proactive enforcement”.

At the December 3 work session Chris Morrison pushed for immediate implementation of that option – “I think things can be implemented now – tell me if I’m wrong,” Morrison challenged his colleagues.

Is he trying to hypnotize me? – Jacob Meza appears uncomfortable with Chris Morrison’s use of his pen to make a point on more aggressive enforcement of the Town’s new property maintenance code. Photo/Roger Bianchini

He also suggested council give citizens some clarity on the parameters of what has been approved – that citizens can initiate action through complaints to the town government.

Morrison has been the chief council proponent of a new property maintenance code and a rental inspection program, the latter eliminated from consideration by a council majority as definitely too expensive to implement. And on the back end of his council tenure having failed to hold his seat in the November election, Morrison seemed driven to see a commitment to forward movement on what has been adopted by his colleagues before the end of his council tenure come January.

Morrison suggested outsourcing the role of a building inspector to make legal judgments on mandated repairs or demolition in the absence of council agreeing to fund creation of its own building inspection department. Morrison noted that council had set aside funds toward some kind of implementation of a building inspection operation. While he cited $40,000 available, staff appeared to put the amount as high as $75,000 in past work session discussion.

“So why can’t we outsource now … why can’t we do it immediately?” Morrison asked his colleagues.

“If we do it under those conditions I have no problem starting with blighted buildings,” Tewalt replied of a proactive approach with outsourcing as necessary when town mandates on corrective action are challenged by property owners.

Council’s biggest skeptic on a broad enforcement approach, Vice-Mayor Tewalt to left, voiced support of proactive movement on a smaller target base – dilapidated buildings, as Councilman Meza ponders council options. Photo/Roger Bianchini

Councilman William Sealock suggested bypassing use of Warren County’s Building Inspection Department and utilization of town staff for initial phases up to the point where a state-certified official whose opinion would have legal standing in court was needed. Morrison agreed.

Town Manager Joe Waltz suggested revisiting the option of partnering with the Town of Strasburg in enforcing a property maintenance code. Like Front Royal now, Strasburg has taken the first step of approval of a property maintenance code but has yet to begin enforcement due to cost parameters.

“We can put it out there and see what kind of prices are set,” Waltz suggested.

“We can start slow – there’s nothing wrong with doing it right,” Mayor Hollis Tharpe suggested of a measured, slow and inexpensive approach to implementation.

“We’ll let Joe get behind the wheel,” the mayor said of having the town manager explore enforcement and outsourcing options.

“We need time so the town manager can put a plan together,” Sealock observed.

“I will move as fast as I can,” Waltz replied.

Morrison said he felt some good had come out of the discussion that will allow the Town to move on complaints forwarded by citizens, as well as initiate proactive movement against derelict structures. However Morrison worried at the lack of “closure” on a process as council’s final meeting of 2018 approached on December 10.

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Local Government

Downtown parking: Mayor breaks tie vote on Virginia Beer Museum parking exemption request

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There were two issues on Downtown parking at the December 10th Town Council meeting. The first dealt with designating and authorizing the Town Manager regarding the installation and placement of traffic signs and parking regulations and to remove all references to the On-Street Parking Policy in the Town Code by rescinding the 1993 Resolution authorizing approval of the On-Street Parking Policy. Download the this agenda item and background information here.

The second was a public hearing on exempting off street parking for the Virginia Beer Museum. Mayor Tharpe broke the tie vote on the first reading. Download the this agenda item and background information here.

These issues will be back on the agenda for the second reading.

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Local Government

BOS: Public Hearing Jan 22nd to adopt new rules for public presentations

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At the December 11th Meeting of the Warren County Board of Supervisors, County Attorney Dan Whitten ask for authorization to advertise for a public hearing on January 22, 2019 to amend the Warren County Code Section 56-3 re: rules for Address to the Board of Supervisors by Nonmembers During Public Comment Period.

Watch the discussion.

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Local Government

Ordinance Amendment to Town Code Chapter 72 (Special Events)

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Rick Novack, owner of Royal Cinemas expresses his concern over changes to Downtown special events. Photo and video by Mike McCool, Royal Examiner.

During a recent Business Forum several business owners discussed concerns with parking during Special Events held in the Gazebo Area located at Main and Chester Streets in Downtown Front Royal.  Town Staff has proposed amendments to Chapter 72 to help alleviate this concerns and has also changed other areas of Chapter 72 to make the Chapter more user friendly.

Download agenda and proposed changes here.

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Local Government

Town Council honors departing Connolly and Morrison

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At the December 10th Town Council meeting, Mayor Hollis Tharpe presented each departing Councilman plaques in recognition of their service to the Town of Front Royal.

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Local Government

WATCH: BMW Real Estate LLC has submitted a request to Town Council revise the proffers on property

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has submitted a request to revise the proffers for their vacant piece of commercial property located on John Marshall Highway. The attached Staff report provides more general information about the property, legal requirements, and the specifics of the applicant’s request. In general, the Applicant is requesting the changes so they may better market the property for a new commercial use.

Download the agenda here.

Download the presentation here.

Download staff report here.

Watch the discussion:

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all-day The Nutcracker in Front Royal @ Skyline High School
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Dec 15 all-day
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Don’t miss The Nutcracker! This professional production of the seasonal classic ballet will be presented at Skyline High School, Front Royal, VA on December 15th and 16th, Saturday 2:30 & 7:00 pm and Sunday 2:30[...]
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The Nutcracker in Front Royal @ Skyline High School
Dec 16 all-day
The Nutcracker in Front Royal @ Skyline High School
Don’t miss The Nutcracker! This professional production of the seasonal classic ballet will be presented at Skyline High School, Front Royal, VA on December 15th and 16th, Saturday 2:30 & 7:00 pm and Sunday 2:30[...]
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R-MA offers Free Christmas Concert @ Boggs Chapel on the R-MA campus
The public is cordially invited to attend the Randolph-Macon Academy (R-MA) Christmas Band Concert on Sunday, December 16th at 4:00 pm. This free concert will take place in Boggs Chapel on the R-MA campus. The[...]
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