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In the School Board’s future: renovations, opt-out forms, food service contracts



Warren County Public Schools (WCPS) on Wednesday, February 16 provided Warren County School Board members with details on a hefty plate of topics they will need to vote on in the coming months.

Board Chair Kristen Pence, Vice-Chair Ralph Rinaldi, and members Antoinette Funk, Andrea Lo, and Melanie Salins gained information from WCPS staff about planned renovations at Leslie Fox Keyser (LFK) Elementary School and the Blue Ridge Technical Center; the accessibility of counseling opt-out forms; and proposed food service contracts, among other items.

WCPS Superintendent Christopher Ballenger also presented the board with the division’s fiscal year 2023 proposed budget — which the Royal Examiner covered in a separate story — and in action, voted to accept the meeting agendas despite some pushback from one board member.

In the proposed budget for the school year 2022-2023, Ballenger pointed out that WCPS has identified $8,100,025 in federal funds to help support a renovation project at LFK, which is considered one of the school division’s highest-priority expenditures.

WCPS Assistant Superintendent for Administration George “Buck” Smith explained to the School Board that the 46-year-old LFK had additions constructed in 1988 and 1993, and a parking reno occurred in 2012, but the school hasn’t had major updates since then.

Situated on 10 acres, the 60,000+ square-foot school, which serves 535 students, has an open pod classroom design concept that Smith said was popular in the 1970s, but which doesn’t serve students well today. The School Board last year approved Grimm + Parker Architecture Inc. to design the renovation and HVHC replacement and in November 2021, WCPS staff began working with the firm to develop the design and construction timeline, Smith said.

Stephen Mundt, a partner with Grimm + Parker, updated board members on the LFK schematic design, which also includes replacing all the school’s electrical systems, including fire alarms, the intercom, the PA system, and clocks. A new generator also would be installed for the building, he said, and all the lighting and technology infrastructure would be replaced.

Additionally, Mundt said a new, restricted, secure entry vestibule would be created at the front of the school to replace the open area that visitors walk into when they enter LFK. After the reno, visitors entering the school would move into a registration area for check-in with the school office where staff would then buzz them into the school.

“This is very important for the safety of the school,” said Mundt, adding that a new, electronic card system would be installed for all the doors to also enhance security.

The design also includes building real walls to provide classroom separations and to eliminate the open concept, he said, noting that all windows and glass doors would be replaced, as would all flooring and ceilings.


Stephen Mundt, a partner with Grimm + Parker, updated board members on the LFK schematic design.

ADA-compliance improvements also would be made, such as in the restrooms, and the clinic and offices for the principal and assistant principal would be relocated. The stage in the cafeteria would be removed to increase space and kitchen renovations and storage also are planned, according to the design.

The tentative schedule would be to start construction in January 2023 with a completion date set for the summer of 2024, said Mundt.

Because there’s an existing stage in the LFK gymnasium that would be updated with new steps, board member Rinaldi asked if those steps could somehow be childproofed. He said he was concerned about kids being in the gym and accidentally “flying into the steps.”

Mundt responded that the design would not make the steps “any more childproof than they are now,” but that the suggestion could be discussed with division leadership and the LFK principal.

Board member Funk was curious about why the design proposed moving school administrators from their location within the front-of-school administrative offices. Mundt said the current school leaders no longer want to be located behind the main office because they think it is less accessible to students. Instead, he said the principals want to be more connected with the student body. “It is a common design to pull them out,” Mundt said, “and this is an arrangement they were most happy with.”

More information will be made available to the School Board on the design schematic and related work bids for the project, according to Smith and Mundt.

Opt-out forms
The second work session item was a discussion on the accessibility of opt-out forms being included in the Student Code of Conduct and Yearly Review of Counseling/School Superintendent Materials.

While WCPS plans to update its website and locate all forms online, School Board Chair Pence said the conversation needed to be started about how the board wants to make the opt-out and/or permission forms accessible in print to parents and guardians — for instance, should all the forms in the Student Code of Conduct be available in the front of the handbook or in an appendix, or should supplemental pages be added.

Ballenger said that the plan is to have the new website up and running for the start of school this August, and a division committee is looking at possible vendors now.

Pence suggested that in addition to the website forms and printed forms, the division also could have information tables set up during Back-to-School nights. The idea is similar to presentations made recently by WCPS counselors on their programs and lessons during the recent open houses after the board voted to suspend the Second Step Social-Emotional Learning Program, which has since been restarted.

“That would be a perfect time for parents to review materials in person,” she said.

“We can have opt-out forms available there, too,” suggested Ballenger, who reminded everyone that parents also may request to come in and view the counseling materials at their school.

Board member Lo suggested getting some feedback from the counselors on the content of the actual opt-out form, which is in a format requesting an opt out from the entire counseling program rather than specific lessons. While several checkboxes on the form would be too overwhelming, maybe the counselors could help guide the board on finding a middle ground between the two, Lo said.

Pence asked for opt-out form samples to be available for board review in May. WCPS leaders agreed to provide them.

Sodexo contracts
Smith made two presentations on proposed food service-related contracts: the Sodexo Food Service Management Contract Renewal and Sodexo Custodial Contract Renewal for the school year 2022-2023. Board action on the renewals will be requested at a future meeting, Smith said.

WCPS Assistant Superintendent for Administration George “Buck” Smith explained to the School Board the Sodexo contracts.

He called the division’s relationship with Sodexo, which has provided such services to WCPS for several years, “a model partnership” and said WCPS recommended both contracts be renewed for the following year.

One highlight of the foodservice management contract, Smith said, is that WCPS does not pay for meals that are not served nor items that are not used, creating a strong incentive for both WCPS, which saves money, and for Sodexo, which strives to serve high-quality meals that get eaten. Sodexo also contributes thousands of dollars in scholarships and charitable giving to the division.

The management contract would increase $11,000 over the current contract, said Smith, who noted that WCPS “can handle the increase quite easily.” Overall, he added, the increase isn’t bad considering the nation’s current 7 percent inflation rate and the increased rates being charged for lunches and breakfasts.

The proposed Sodexo Custodial Contract Renewal, which covers 56 employees, would increase 2.5 percent for the next school year, which Smith said is cheaper than if WCPS employed those 56 individuals and provided them with benefits.

The board will consider the contracts at its March 2 meeting.

Board action
Prior to the start of its work session on Wednesday, in usual business, the Warren County School Board had to vote whether to accept or modify the agenda, and then to do the same for the consent agenda.

Board member Rinaldi made a motion to accept the agenda. While awaiting a second on the motion, Salins objected, saying a personnel item was added too late and it also needed to be made available to the public for comment.

The item she was referring to was a personnel matter that was going to be discussed during a closed meeting held at the end of the work session. Personnel issues are not typically made public, according to WCPS staff.

Salins was reminded about the WCPS Policy Manual, revised as of September 1, 2021, which states:

“Agenda Preparation and Dissemination — The Superintendent and Board Chair shall prepare an Agenda for each regular meeting and work session. Except as permitted at the discretion of the Superintendent, every item to be placed on the Agenda shall be received in the Office of the Superintendent and distributed to the school board, by the close of business on the Monday (48 hours) preceding the meeting.

“The Superintendent may add an action item within 48 hours prior to the meeting with the approval or at the direction of the school board chair. Items that are critical to the operation of the school system may be added prior to the start of the meeting. This may include personnel matters, finance, or items critical to the operation of the division.

“After the initial publication of the meeting agenda, Board members will be provided a description of any changes or additions to any agenda items.”

This policy is available online HERE.

Lo then made a second to accept or modify the agenda and the board voted 4-1 to accept it with Salins voting nay.

Then the board had to vote on the consent agenda, which includes the January 5 meeting minutes; the February 16 clerk’s report; the February 16 personnel report and personnel report addendum; and a compulsory attendance request for release. Following a motion by Rinaldi to accept the consent agenda, with a second by Funk, the board voted 4-1 to accept it with Salins voting nay.

The board then voted unanimously to convene a closed meeting to discuss the employee personnel issue, as well as the superintendent’s midyear evaluation.

School Board work session covers WCPS proposed 2022-2023 budget


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Local Government

After 20-month tenure Steven Hicks ousted as Front Royal Town Manager



Following an hour and 40 minutes behind closed doors to open a 6:30 p.m. work session Monday evening, August 8, an unknown portion of that time spent discussing the performance of both Town Manager Steven Hicks and Interim Town Attorney James Cornwell Jr., in a dramatic roll call vote the Front Royal Town Council, with Mayor Chris Holloway casting the tie-breaking vote, by a 4-3 margin terminated the contract of Town Manager Steven Hicks. Following Holloway’s vote, Hicks rose quickly from his seat at the far end of the meeting room table facing the mayor and simultaneously, Councilman Joseph McFadden stood up and stated, “I resign.”

At that point, Hicks, accompanied by Front Royal Police Chief Kahle Magalis, went to clean out his office at the far end of the Town Hall second floor, leaving by a back stairway without comment to media. Leaving the meeting room with Hicks was Councilman Joseph McFadden, who had voted with Letasha Thompson and Vice-Mayor Lori Cockrell to retain Hicks in his town manager’s position.

“This is a kangaroo court,” McFadden said as he tossed down what appeared to be council credentials, turning over other materials to IT Director Grant Autry on his way into the hallway behind Hicks and the police chief.

Part of the aforementioned drama came after the first two votes were cast on Gary Gillispie’s motion, seconded by remotely connected Amber Morris, to terminate Hicks’ contract. With Cockrell and Gillispie having cast the first two votes, the roll call reached recently appointed member Zachary Jackson at 1-1. Leaning back in his chair, his head looking upward, Jackson paused for 30 seconds before quietly voting “yes”. It may have been that from the closed meeting discussion the newest council member may have known his would be the decisive vote in either sending or not sending a 3-3 tie to the mayor.

That the mayor would vote for termination seemed to be indicated by McFadden’s brief statement to Royal Examiner reporter Roger Bianchini on his way out of town hall. After repeating that what had transpired had been “a kangaroo court,” McFadden suggested the media “investigate some on council and the mayor.”

In a somewhat anti-climatic subsequent vote, council voted 5-1, Cockrell dissenting, to terminate the services of Interim Town Attorney Cornwell of White Stone, Virginia. That would appear to leave Assistant Town Attorney George Sonnett now in charge of the town’s legal department.

Hicks’ termination as town manager also leaves the unilaterally created Front Royal Economic Development Authority (FREDA) without a director, one of the additional management hats Hicks had been given by town council to wear during his tenure.

Council appointed Assistant Town Manager Kathleen Leidich to take on operational oversight of the Town Administrative Office on a temporary basis.

Upon hiring Hicks to what was his second town manager’s job, Front Royal officials had heaped praise upon him for his experience, declaring him “the perfect selection.” Former Interim Mayor and Interim Town Manager Matt Tederick stated, “To date, I have had a very limited time getting to know Steven, but this much I have already observed, he appears to be the perfect selection for our Town. Well done Town Council.” Tederick wasn’t alone in his praise of Hicks.

Then Mayor-elect Chris Holloway commented, “Hicks was selected because of his impressive leadership in operations, bringing business in communities, developing fiscally conservative budgets, managing enterprise departments, and delivering complex infrastructure projects on time and on budget.”

Then Vice-Mayor Bill Sealock said, “Finding the right candidate took longer than we expected. The Council knew what they wanted in a manager and was patient to find the right Town Manager for our community. I believe our efforts have paid off by having the best candidate possible. I’m excited to see what Steven will bring to our Town government, businesses, and community.”
Hicks began his tenure as Town Manager on Dec. 7, 2020, in the wake of some organizational, departmental, and departmental directors flux during Tederick’s tenures as Interim Mayor and Town Manager.

When a council debate arose some time into Hicks’ tenure about the expense of continued use of a consultant “executive search” firm in the hunt for a new town attorney to replace the suddenly resigned Doug Napier, Councilwoman Letasha Thompson asserted that expense would be money well spent, noting, “They got us, Steven.”

But what passes for experience and credentials in some people’s eyes may not be so elsewhere. Royal Examiner discovered that in his first town manager’s job in Selma, North Carolina, after which he came here, Hicks left under a cloud of controversy after less than a year on the job. According to a published report in the Johnston County Report, a Selma-area newspaper, Hicks agreed to resign after just nine months on the job.

The July 30, 2020, issue of the newspaper stated that the council had scheduled a special called meeting for 5:30 p.m. that evening to discuss personnel matters. However, the meeting was canceled after a deal in which Hicks apparently agreed to resign under specific conditions was reached earlier that day.

The Johnston County Report story said, “Sources say the deal will require Mr. Hicks to resign on August 3rd. In return, he will receive his full salary for the next six months, including contributions to his retirement and health benefits. Vacation and sick leave will stop on August 3rd, but he will receive all accumulated time. He will also be allowed to seek employment elsewhere before the six months severance ends.”

The Town of Front Royal press release announcing Hicks as the town manager stated, “Hicks has over 25 years of state and local government experience. He was previously the Town Manager of Selma, N.C., that provided a full range of services, including Solid Waste, Water, Sewer, and Electric, as well as Police and Fire. During Hicks tenure, he was able to develop a transparent operational budget and manage the Town’s enterprise funds delivering positive operating revenue. As part of the budget process, Hicks was able to establish Selma’s first-ever 5-year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) with major emphasis in addressing groundwater and stormwater (I&I) that enters into the Town’s sewer system for treatment. Hicks also partnered with Eastfield Crossing Developers and Duke Energy to amend the 400-acre mixed-used development and incentive agreement to increase the Town’s tax base and create 3,100 jobs.”

According to Selma’s public records, the solid waste was contracted out to a company called GLF when Hicks was town manager though he did oversee the water, sewer, and electric departments cited on his resume.

A Selma source stated that the budget Hicks developed, in fact, required “a bit of hands-on work” by that town council after its initial presentation. The source stated that the “positive operating revenue” cited in that Front Royal press release existed prior to Hicks’ tenure as town manager. Selma public records support that fact as well.

Selma’s public records also indicate that the Eastfield Agreement was amended and significantly changed in 2021.

Prior to the Selma stint, Hicks served as director of the Durham, N.C. City’s General Services Department from October 2015 to July 2019.

More will be forthcoming on this story as additional information and comment from involved parties becomes available. Following the two action item votes, council went directly into its scheduled work session agenda, largely reviewing Special Use Permit applications for advertisement for public hearing, allowing no time for a Q&A with members on the reasoning for their votes.

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Rugged Terrain Crossfit takes home the trophy at the Waggin’ for Dragons 2022 race



Waggin’ for Dragons 2022 is a wrap.

Thank you to all of the participants and volunteers who spent their day with us down on the Shenandoah River with the 22Dragons crew. This year, this fun boat race benefited the Humane Society of Warren County, Front Royal-Warren County Chamber of Commerce, and United Way of Front Royal.

Check out the lineup of teams this year! All of these boats raised at least $1,000 as an entry fee. There were several fierce rivalries that added to the energy and fun!

  • Humane Society of Warren County – Foster Fleabags
  • Rotary – Rotary River Rats
  • Warren County Sheriff’s Department
  • State Farm – Good Neighbors
  • Element Risk – Risky Business
  • Rugged Terrain Crossfit
  • Valley Health
  • Skyline High School
  • Coldwell Banker Blue

The winner of the race on the water was Rugged Terrain Crossfit! Congratulations!

Team Rugged Terrain Crossfit

This tough crew came out and gave it their all. Fun banter was held between the Sheriff’s team and Crossfit, as there was wife vs. husband action on the two boats! Be sure to stop by the Rugged Terrain gym to see this gorgeous Waggin’ for Dragons trophy in person. Bragging rights and good luck will live at this gym for the next year!

  • GOLD: Rugged Terrain Crossfit 1.01.4
  • SILVER: Warren County Sheriff’s Department 1.01.88
  • BRONZE: Coldwell Banker Blue 1.02.08
    (Numbers are appropriately correct)

There were two other categories that were judged: Most Funds Raised, and Most Spirited teams. The Rotary River Rats brought home both of these honors, netting a total of $5,011 in funds raised, a full $2,000 more than next in line. All three of our local Rotary clubs were represented on the boat – Rotary Club of Warren County, Rotary Club of Front Royal, and the Rotary Club of Northern Shenandoah Valley. The team had a representative from the House of Hope, Department of Social Services, and I’m Just Me Movement (a local non-profit that supports our youth through mentoring and positive reinforcement) rowing as well!

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Higher adult meal prices, more preschool slots, new division leader on School Board agenda



The Warren County School Board during its Wednesday, August 3 regular meeting unanimously approved several items — including additional preschool slots and higher prices for adult meals served at the schools — and met a new school division assistant superintendent.

Warren County Public Schools (WCPS) Superintendent Christopher Ballenger introduced board members to the school division’s new Assistant Superintendent of Instruction Heather Bragg, a WCPS Instructional Resource Team member for the last five years who specialized in English, history, and foreign language instruction. Bragg replaces Alan Fox, who formerly held the position before retiring in June.

Heather Bragg (above, at podium) was introduced as the new WCPS Assistant Superintendent of Instruction during the Warren County School Board’s Wednesday, August 3 meeting.

“I believe that my time here [with WCPS] over the last five years… has prepared me to begin the job, but I know that I’ll have a lot to learn and look forward to engaging in those partnerships and continuing those relationships with the principals, teachers, and staff that I’ve already established,” Bragg said, adding that she’s “truly passionate about instruction and curriculum and the positive impact it can have on the lives of our students.”

WCPS Director of Special Services Michael Hirsch (above) provided the School Board with updated COVID-19 guidance, noting that major changes include those for people who are asymptomatic, or who show no symptoms of the virus.

“They no longer have to quarantine,” said Hirsch. “Persons who test positive for COVID should isolate for five days. If they are asymptomatic, their symptoms are resolving, and they’ve been fever-free for 24 hours, they may return to programming after five days.”

Ballenger added that contract tracing by school nurses also is no longer required. “We’re going back to ‘if you’re sick, stay home; if you’re not sick, then come to school,’” he said.

In School Board action, all members were present, including School Board Chair Kristen Pence, Vice Chair Ralph Rinaldi, and members Antoinette Funk, Andrea Lo, and Melanie Salins.

The board unanimously approved 10 items on Wednesday. Among the highlights were approvals for:

1) The 2022-2023 Dual Enrollment Contract between Laurel Ridge Community College and WCPS that sets out the terms and conditions for which courses will be offered to high school students who opt to take college-level courses and receive both college credit and high school credit toward graduation.

2) The first amendment to the lease agreement between Warren County, the Warren County School Board, and the Samuels Public Library for the development and maintenance of an amphitheater adjacent to the library. The original lease agreement between the School Board and Warren County, as well as the lease agreement between Warren County and the Board of Trustees of Samuels Public Library did not permit the library campus to be used for anything except a library, according to WCPS Assistant Superintendent for Administration George “Buck” Smith. The first amendment allows for a portion of the library campus to be used for the construction and operation of the open-air amphitheater, as well as the library, he said.

3) Increasing the adult breakfast rate to $2.40 and the adult lunch rate to $4.00 effective August 9, in order to meet the 2022-2023 Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) minimum Adult Price requirement. Smith explained that adult meal prices must be high enough to compensate for the total paid reimbursement and the commodity value that is not provided by the federal government for these meals. “The paid reimbursement and commodity rates change each school year, meaning adult meal prices may change each year,” said Smith.

4) One additional Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI) teacher and three additional VPI assistants at a cost of $145,000 and $5,000 in non-labor funds for a total of $150,000, covered by an increase in the VPI state allocation. The superintendent is also authorized to request additional appropriations from the Warren County Board of Supervisors. Hirsch said that WCPS has experienced an increase in pre-K enrollment that, in turn, warranted an increase in the allocation from VDOE. “Our new allocation is 173 slots, which brings our dollar allocation to $714,044,” he said. “Our current appropriation for this school year was $564,044.”

5) Five wheelchair-accessible vehicles to transport students that will be largely funded through the $309,038.12 American Rescue Plan flowthrough grant WCPS was awarded in July 2021. Hirsch said the vehicles will alleviate space issues and support social distancing in vehicles. The total cost of the vehicles is $298,450. The balance of $10,588.12 will be used to support plexiglass, car seats, and other accessories that will enhance COVID-19 mitigation strategies, said Hirsch.

Click here to watch the Warren County School Board’s August 3 meeting.

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Local Government

Town Planning Commission moves to officially join Council at Aug. 16 special work session to allow group feedback on contractor Summit Design’s Comp Plan update



After getting new electronic tablets from IT Director Grant Autry as part of a municipal move away from paper material expenses, and approving four items for advertisement for public hearings, a three-person quorum of the Front Royal Planning Commission got an August 3rd briefing from Planning Director Lauren Kopishke on the status of the Comprehensive Plan update currently underway. Present for that briefing were Chairman Darryl Merchant, Vice-Chair William Gordon, and Commissioner Connie Marshner. It was explained that former Chairman Douglas Jones, who is retiring at the end of the month, had a scheduling conflict and that Josh Ingram was dealing with a family medical emergency.

‘I do what and it goes where?’ – As IT Director Grant Autry, standing right, observes, the commissioners present attempt to figure out their new tablets to conduct official town business on.

Pointing for commission feedback on the Comp Plan draft by the end of the month and both commission and council public hearings on approval of a revised Comp Plan by October, Kopishke suggested that commission members attend an August 16 Special Work Session called by the Town Council that includes a presentation on the status of the Comp Plan update from consultant Summit Design and Engineering.

So that commissioners can participate in the work session Q&A with Summit and council it was suggested that the planning commission join council in the call for the Special Work Session, making it a joint session the planners can legally participate in as a group, as opposed to one designated representative.

“You all need to be there,” Kopishke told the commissioners of the 6 p.m. special work session on Tuesday, August 16. “We want to be more involved than last year,” Gordon told his colleagues of what was described as minimal, if any involvement of the planning commission in the launch of the Comp Plan review and update process last year.

After review of the consultant’s draft packet, Planning Director Kopishke observed, “So far – knock on wood – there is nothing controversial in it.” She pointed to a summary page near the outset of the draft Comp Plan citing four major “Big Themes” based on public feedback:

  1. Preserve Downtown and Create more of what we Love (though exactly what that collective “we” loves was not immediately apparent);
  2. Improve Town Aesthetics;
  3. Enhance Safe Mobility and Choice;
  4. Increase Access to the River.

Those four themes were supported by 10 specific “goals and objectives” which were:

  1. Small town character;
  2. Transportation;
  3. Economic Sustainability;
  4. Environmental Sustainability;
  5. High Quality Development;
  6. Housing sustainability;
  7. Tourism;
  8. Public Health & Safety;
  9. Reliable Utilities and Services;
  10. Responsive and Accountable Governance.

Well, okay then.

After reviewing the draft Comp Plan update, Commission Chairman Merchant wondered if a town-wide projected future land use map would be included. Vice-Chairman Gordon offered, “I like the ideas, not the execution” of portions of the graphic presentations in the draft packet.

“And from this we start the ordinance process,” Merchant observed.

“That’s why it’s important we wrap this up by October, November at the latest,” Planning Director Kopishke observed. And on that note the 6 p.m. work session was adjourned at 6:46 p.m.

Prior to that adjournment and the Comp Plan conversation, as noted above the commission authorized four matters to go to public hearing on August 17. First up was Poe’s River’s Edge LLC and Eagle Sky Industrial Park LLC’s request for a Special Exception on the zoning-recommended width of a private street to service the River’s Edge LLC parcels listed at 508 Kendrick Lane and originally proposed for camp site development. The applicant cited a precedent in the town government’s granting of a similar special exception as justification for its application. While not stated, it would appear the referenced previous exception was to Mayor Holloway for his subdivision private road in town.

After some discussion, Merchant noted the circular pattern of the narrower 20-foot width as opposed to the zoning-recommended 36-foot width street through its service area. “I have no problem with it. We’ll see what the public thinks at the public hearing on the 17th.”

Staff, including Planning Director Kopishke, back to camera, Asst. Town Attorney Sonnett to Kopishke’s left, and Deputy Zoning Administrator John Ware, listen as commissioners discuss Phillip Vaught’s SUP application for a short-term tourist rental on Luray Ave. Vaught is the lone remaining applicant pictured in background

The other three applications were for Special Use Permits (SUPs) for short-term tourist rentals at 107 Highfield Lane in an R-1 zone (by William and Melissa Gordon); at 12 Chester Street in a C-2 Zone (Lea Justice); and 124 Luray Avenue in an R-3 zone (Phillip Vaught/Vaught Real Estate LLC). Vice-Chairman Gordon recused himself from discussion of his and his wife’s SUP request.

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Front Royal father and son perish in Potomac River drowning



A Front Royal, Va. man and his son drowned Monday afternoon in the Potomac River at Swan Point in Charles County, Md., according to the Maryland Natural Resources Police Department.

According to Maryland Natural Resources Police Captain Chris Morris, around 4:55 p.m. on Monday, August 1, officers were dispatched to the Swan Point area of the Potomac River in Charles County for a report of missing swimmers.

Elias Isai Sandoval Pimentel, 43, of Front Royal VA, his wife, and three children had anchored their 23’ bowrider on the Potomac River. Two of the children (ages 10 and 12) were swimming when both children began to struggle in the water. Police say Mr. Pimentel entered the water to help both children. Pimentel and his 10-year-old son disappeared in the water and did not resurface. Captain Morris wrote in the release that the 12-year-old child was recovered from the water and transported to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Maryland Natural Resources did not identify the minor child in the release, though family members posted information on social media stating that Mr. Pimentel and his son, Samuel Pimentel Spain, 10, perished by drowning on Monday.

Photo from Facebook

Morris said that Samuel’s body was recovered by the Charles County Dive Team at 10:44 p.m. Monday evening, with search efforts continuing throughout the night. Mr. Pimentel’s body was found at 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, August 2.

Natural Resources Police, United States Coast Guard, Cobb Island Volunteer Fire/EMS, Charles County Dive and Rescue, Newburg Volunteer Fire, Bel Alton Volunteer Fire and EMS, Hughesville Volunteer EMS, Charles County Department of Emergency Services, Seventh District Fire Company, Calvert County Dive Team, and the Naval District Washington Fire/EMS, assisted with the search of the area.

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Community groups and businesses donate almost 500 backpacks



This week several local organizations came together to prepare backpacks and school supplies for our Warren County students. State Farm is a good neighbor in more ways than one. This school year, State Farm has made backpacks available at a reasonable rate for their agents to purchase for give-back campaigns. Our local agents, Ellen Aders and Bill Powers, took advantage of their companies efforts and applied them in a joint effort. Aders brought the project to the Rotary Club of Warren County who together purchased 270 backpacks for our youth.

Powers connected with the Kiwanis Club of Front Royal and combined purchased 200 more! The Salvation Army stepped up and helped organize the purchase of all of the supply inserts. MDUB Chauffeur supported the efforts as well.

Once the packs were stuffed with supplies, the boxes were delivered to Diversified Minds for distribution. Thank you to our Warren County Public Schools representatives, Superintendent Chris Ballenger & Shane Goodwin of Director of Personnel, for helping to get these backpacks to the Warren County children who need them most!

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Thank You to our Local Business Participants:


Aders Insurance Agency, Inc (State Farm)

Aire Serv Heating and Air Conditioning

Apple Dumpling Learning Center

Apple House

Auto Care Clinic

Beaver Tree Services

Blake and Co. Hair Spa

Blue Ridge Arts Council

Blue Ridge Education

BNI Shenandoah Valley

C&C's Ice Cream Shop

Christine Binnix - McEnearney Associates

Code Ninjas Front Royal

Cool Techs Heating and Air

Down Home Comfort Bakery

Downtown Market

Dusty's Country Store

Edward Jones-Bret Hrbek

Explore Art & Clay

Family Preservation Services

First Baptist Church

Front Royal Women's Resource Center

Front Royal-Warren County Chamber of Commerce

G&M Auto Sales Inc

Garcia & Gavino Family Bakery

Gourmet Delights Gifts & Framing

Green to Ground Electrical

Groups Recover Together

House of Hope

I Want Candy

I'm Just Me Movement

Jen Avery, REALTOR & Jenspiration, LLC

Key Move Properties, LLC

KW Solutions

Legal Services Plans of Northern Shenendoah

Main Street Travel

Makeover Marketing Systems

Marlow Automotive Group

Mary Carnahan Graphic Design

Merchants on Main Street

Mountain Trails

National Media Services

No Doubt Accounting

Northwestern Community Services Board

Ole Timers Antiques

Penny Lane Hair Co.

Philip Vaught Real Estate Management

Phoenix Project

Reaching Out Now

Rotary Club of Warren County

Royal Blends Nutrition

Royal Cinemas

Royal Examiner

Royal Family Bowling Center

Royal Oak Bookshop

Royal Oak Computers

Royal Oak Bookshop

Royal Spice

Ruby Yoga

Salvation Army

Samuels Public Library

SaVida Health

Skyline Insurance

St. Luke Community Clinic

Studio Verde

The Institute for Association & Nonprofit Research

The Studio-A Place for Learning

The Valley Today - The River 95.3

The Vine and Leaf

Valley Chorale

Warren Charge (Bennett's Chapel, Limeton, Asbury)

Warren Coalition

Warren County Democratic Committee

Warren County Department of Social Services

Warrior Psychotherapy Services, PLLC

WCPS Work-Based Learning

What Matters & Beth Medved Waller, Inc Real Estate

White Picket Fence

Woodward House on Manor Grade

King Cartoons

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Upcoming Events

6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Aug 10 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]
6:00 pm Fire Pit Fridays @ Shenandoah Valley Golf Club
Fire Pit Fridays @ Shenandoah Valley Golf Club
Aug 12 @ 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Fire Pit Fridays @ Shenandoah Valley Golf Club
…and be sure to attend our Fourth of July event!
9:30 am Forest Bathing Walk @ Sky Meadows State Park
Forest Bathing Walk @ Sky Meadows State Park
Aug 13 @ 9:30 am – 12:00 pm
Forest Bathing Walk @ Sky Meadows State Park
Picnic Area Join Kim Strader, ANFT Certified Nature and Forest Therapy Guide, for a gentle walk (no more than a mile or two) where we will wander and sit. Through a series of invitations and[...]
11:00 am Monarch Day @ Sky Meadows State Park
Monarch Day @ Sky Meadows State Park
Aug 13 @ 11:00 am – 3:00 pm
Monarch Day @ Sky Meadows State Park
Carriage Barn in the Historic Area Habitat loss has caused Monarch butterfly populations to reach dangerously low numbers. Join the Park Naturalist and Virginia Master Naturalists as they set out to collect Monarch caterpillars and[...]
2:00 pm Pregnancy Center’s Community Bab... @ Living Water Christian Church
Pregnancy Center’s Community Bab... @ Living Water Christian Church
Aug 13 @ 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Pregnancy Center's Community Baby Shower @ Living Water Christian Church
The Living Water Christian Church of the Shenandoah Valley is having a “Community Baby Shower” in support of the Pregnancy Center of Front Royal. We are inviting the public to attend and bring wrapped gifts[...]
6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Aug 17 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]
7:00 pm Appalachian Chamber Music Festiv... @ Barns of Rose Hill
Appalachian Chamber Music Festiv... @ Barns of Rose Hill
Aug 18 @ 7:00 pm – 9:30 pm
Appalachian Chamber Music Festival - Opening Night @ Barns of Rose Hill
The Appalachian Chamber Music Festival is delighted to be returning to the Barns of Rose Hill on Thursday, August 18, at 7pm, for the opening night concert of our 2022 summer season. The festival celebrates[...]
6:00 pm Fire Pit Fridays @ Shenandoah Valley Golf Club
Fire Pit Fridays @ Shenandoah Valley Golf Club
Aug 19 @ 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Fire Pit Fridays @ Shenandoah Valley Golf Club
…and be sure to attend our Fourth of July event!
11:00 am National Honeybee Day @ Sky Meadows State Park
National Honeybee Day @ Sky Meadows State Park
Aug 20 @ 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
National Honeybee Day @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area The bees are buzzing at Sky Meadows State Park! Meet the Beekeepers of Northern Shenandoah as they perform a honey extraction. Learn about beekeeping, honeybees and the art of apiculture. Support beekeeping and[...]
12:00 pm Meet the Beekeepers @ Sky Meadows State Park
Meet the Beekeepers @ Sky Meadows State Park
Aug 21 @ 12:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Meet the Beekeepers @ Sky Meadows State Park
Carriage Barn in the Historic Area. What’s that buzzing? Meet with local apiarists of the Beekeepers of Northern Shenandoah (BONS) and discover the art of Apiculture (a.k.a. Beekeeping). This monthly program series examines all aspects[...]