Connect with us

Opinion

Bentonville homeowner questions practices of county officials, warns Front Royal

Published

on

This past week the Front Royal Town Council took a large step forward and adopted the Virginia Maintenance Code. This will help hold bad landlords accountable and hopefully clean up and repair some eyesores located within the town.

However, there is now another obstacle that needs to be addressed. I questioned the Town of Front Royal regarding the agreement the Town and Warren County have in place regarding building inspections.

According to Town of Front Royal officials, the agreement was reached on February 8, 1983 –over 35 years ago. I could find no municipal code that addresses or explains this agreement and inquired of Jeremy Camp regarding the agreement. He informed me, via email, that the person who could track down this document was off work this week.

This agreement with the county and the Warren County Building Official who needs to be addressing issues and making our community’s housing, construction, rehabs, and commercial buildings safer is not doing his job. David Beahm has been in his permanent position for 14 years.

On May 23, 2018, I emailed and asked the following question:

“Can I please have a copy of the policies and procedures for the verification of contractor licenses and the issuance of permits? Also what is the official approved application form for obtaining a building permit?”

On May 23, 2018 Dan Whitten copied from David Beahm answered:

“As for the verification of a license, there is not a written policy in place, there has never been one. The procedure is to verify the license number is current with DPOR and that they carry the proper license level and classification to perform the work.

We verify that the taxes are paid on the property as we have been directed by the Board.

The business license is verified by the Commissioner of Revenue for being valid and current.

Here is the link for the form: https://www.warrencountyva.net/building-inspections-form

There was then a very brief interchange with a friend assisting me:

“I thought your guy Doug had this being addressed? Have we seen the engineering back yet for Cline to do the work?”
and Dan Whitten’s next email stated:

“I am not sure I understand your question. The County is not required by the Virginia Code or USBC to have policies in place.”
THAT STATEMENT IS ABSOLUTELY WRONG!!

The reason I asked for a copy of the permit application was due to a meeting of the Local Board of Building and Code Appeals, David Beahm, building official, stated the permit application was just a piece of paper, however that application is addressed in great detail in Virginia’s Construction Code and the Code of Virginia. David Beahm is guilty of a Class 3 Misdemeanor on every permit granted to an applying entity that did NOT have the proper licensure. (USBC 108.4, Code of Virginia Title 54.1. Professions and Occupations Chapter 11. Contractors § 54.1-1111)

I asked for the policy trying to see where the system failed, then learned we have no documented system.

Fast forward to August 28, 2018, I emailed a list of questions:

“I called the State Technical Review Board, they do not order nor perform inspections, that is up to the locality.

1.What are Warren County’s written standards of protocol regarding the basic inspections the building department performs?

A. Is there a check list or outlined expectations of each inspector and what they are to inspect?

Example: Inspector X gets assigned to inspect Footers. Inspector X knows that he/she must follow:
a.
b.
c.

in order to properly perform his/her duties and complete inspection while also insuring all inspections are performed uniformly across the board.

The next day Inspector Y is assigned a footer inspection, he/she will follow the same standards of uniformity.

2. Does Warren County mandate any additional inspections as part of their USBC compliance during construction?

3. Once a certificate of occupancy is received and a safety complaint is filed with the building department, what policies and procedures are in place to assure complaint is addressed and followed up with uniform standards and USBC compliance?

4. I have read and familiarized myself with the Local Board of Building and Code Appeals bylaws of Warren County. What and where are the written policies and procedures for governing Warren County’s building department and official in these circumstances?

5. Where/what is the policy/procedure that establishes the hierarchy on the building department?

A. What/where is the policy/procedure that establishes how the deputy officials’ work is overseen?

B. Does the building official review the checklist for each inspection?

C. How does the building official insure uniformity and accuracy of inspections?

C. What/Where are the checks and balances for the system?”

The County tried to say these questions needed to be FOIA requested…NO. They attempt to silence citizens with this FOIA issue and redact everything except what the citizen sends to them, but that is another issue. I fought this and explained that surrounding counties such as Fauquier and more have such items readily available and transparent on their website.

Example I shared with them: http://www.fauquiercounty.gov/government/departments-a-g

Mr. Whitten said he would have an answer for me in 5 days and I told the county they better not be buying time to make up these policies up.

In 5 days I received this on September 5, 2018:

“The following are the replies to the questions in your email:

1. The standards for inspections are contained within the Uniform Statewide Building Code (USBC) found at: https://codes.iccsafe.org/premium/document/VRC2012

A. No checklists other than the USBC are in place.

2. Inspections required are the minimum ones required, unless it is determined that additional inspections are required.

3. All issues before and after a certificate of occupancy is issued are addressed as required by the USBC.

4. The items for governing the building inspections department are found in the USBC.

5. A chart is provided within the Warren County budget book which is available on the County website.

A. The deputy building official is a technical assistant as defined by the USBC.

B. No checklists are used.

C. Consistency is provided through training at state and local level.

D. The checks and balances are found in the USBC.”

To which I responded:

“So basically you are telling me there are no intra-department policies and procedures on the local level. No master book that Inspector A knows he must do the identical way as Inspector B.

Every municipality/locality in Virginia has different typography(topography) and needs. The USBC leaves a lot of gray area for the building officials and their departments to operate.

Without strict policies and procedures on the local level that provide for uniform locale inspections, there is no wonder the incident with my home happened.

Look at our surrounding counties, there is transparency in the building department spearheaded by a competent building official.

Warren County has FAILED and by the omission of facts and the reaction to cover your butts, you guys are making a bigger and bigger mess.

It is time to own the mistakes and put Warren County on the straight and narrow.

Shame on you all!! “

I then emailed again just to clarify on September 7, 2018:

“Mr. Whitten,
I just want to make sure I am accurate and I understand your answer. Other than the official USBC, VUSBC documents and USBC, VUSBC policies, Warren County does not have any additional written policies/procedures that are Warren County/Town of Front Royal specific?
Thank you for the clarification”

Response on September 7, 2018

“Kristie,
Those are the only policies applicable to the building department when inspections are performed.
-Dan”

In 14 years, the permanent building official has not written any Warren County/Front Royal locality- specific policies and procedures. In 14 years, a building department hierarchy has not been created.

How do we citizens know whom to contact? I am not searching the budget to do a build-your-own chart, we, as taxpayers should not have to do so.

Why has Mr. Beahm been allowed to hold his job for so long when he has not adequately carried out his duties to fully serve Warren County residents? His actions—and often, a lack of them, have been careless and reckless. Warren County’s building official has not performed his duties and by him not having policies and procedures in place, he is not upholding:

113.7.1 Third-party inspectors. Each building official charged with the enforcement of the USBC shall have a written policy establishing the minimum acceptable qualifications for third-party inspectors. The policy shall include the format and time frame required for submission of reports, any prequalification or preapproval requirements before conducting a third-party inspection and any other requirements and procedures established by the building official.

Folks, think about that power plant, the new bridges, the new schools, the factories, and every single structure that has been constructed in the last few years…Who inspected those and what criteria was used in doing so? We, as citizens, have no idea and there are no policies in place to tell us.

Warren County and Front Royal are in trouble. While individuals, a couple of elected representatives, and groups of citizens take steps and lobby for a better, safer community, other elected government officials and administrators are hampering their efforts. All emails I have shared were sent to Dan Whitten, the Board of Supervisors; Tony Carter, Archie Fox, Thomas Sayre, Linda Glavis, and Daniel Murray, as well as to Doug Stanley and David Beahm.

The powers that be are well aware of the condition Warren County’s building department is in. I have asked and demanded they do something and not one of them will.

WHY??

When I tried post-fire to rebuild my home and life I never set out to have to be in the most challenging and stressful times of my life. In researching and asking questions, I have uncovered so many dirty deeds and unsavory ways of governing. There is no wonder our county is in the shape it is in.

Town of Front Royal, I applaud your step forward, but you just hit a brick wall. Will you Mayor Hollis Tharpe, Town Council members Chris Morrison, Eugene Tewalt, Jacob Meza, William Sealock, Gary Gillispie, John Connolly, and Town Manager Joe Waltz ask the necessary questions and help the Town of Front Royal and Warren County reach its potential?

Not only are the Warren County Building Official’s actions or lack of actions just horrible, they are also ILLEGAL!

Kristie Sours Atwood

Opinion

Letter to the Editor: Protest Board of Supervisors’ attempts to silence Egger

Published

on

All law-abiding citizens of Front Royal are strongly encouraged to attend a public hearing in the County Government Building, 220 N. Commerce Ave. across the street from the post office, on Tuesday, January 22nd at 7 p.m. — and protest the disgraceful actions of three members of the Warren County Board of Supervisors to silence Mark Egger a courageous member of our community.

The three board members — Tony Carter, Dan Murray, and Linda Glavis — are shamefully trying to force a change to Warren County Code 56-3 that has been on the books since 1975 — a total of 44 years. The current law allows a private citizen to appear before the Board Supervisors and talk at length on an item of public interest that two members of the board consider important enough to be heard.

The change to Code 56-3 that Carter, Murray, and Glavis want to implement would:

Eliminate the ability of two supervisors — a minority on the board — to demand a citizen of Front Royal be allowed to speak at length on a subject that the two members deem important.

Limit a speaker to no more than three minutes at any one meeting.

Limit the number of meetings at which a speaker can talk on the same subject to no more than three in a twelve-month period.

The reason Carter, Murray, and Glavis are pushing this change is that Mark Egger had the audacity and courage to stand before the Board of Supervisors at meetings in February, May, and November 2018 and talk for a total of about 37 minutes in detail about the hanky-panky — dirty-trick shenanigans — of the Economic Development Authority (EDA) board appointed by the Warren County Board of Supervisors.

Carter, Murray, and Glavis did not like what Mark said.

In his testimony, Mark presented clear and convincing evidence that:

The EDA board awarded thirty acres of EDA property to a shell company.
Two fake crimes appeared to have been committed.
The EDA board held closed meetings under questionable premises — and the Warren County Board of Supervisors did nothing.
The EDA board told the Front Royal Police Department to stop investigating a crime — and the Warren County Board of Supervisors did nothing.
Members of the EDA board refused to answer legitimate questions from the Warren County Board of Supervisors that appointed them — and the Board of Supervisors did nothing
$140,000 of taxpayers’ money is now being spent to investigate clear financial irregularities of the EDA board — money that could have been saved if the Board of Supervisors had taken prompt action a year ago when Mark brought evidence of irregularities to their attention.
The entire EDA board should be fired and a new one appointed by the Board of Supervisors.

The citizens of Front Royal must not allow Code 56-3 to be changed. The law must remain on the books exactly as written.

If Carter, Murray, and Glavis do pass this change by a 3-2 vote, they must be told at Tuesday’s public hearing — in no uncertain terms — that a rising groundswell of opposition to the corruption of the EDA board will spare no effort to vote them out of office at the first opportunity — and Change 56-3 back to what it was!

Pass the word to family and friends to come to the public hearing and sign up to speak on Mark’s behalf. Get there early to sign up. Speakers talk in the order in which they sign up. Each speaker will be given three minutes to talk.

There are four public hearings on the 22nd. Make sure you sign up for the correct one.

Let’s pack the meeting room at the County Government Building at 7 p.m. on the 22nd with Mark Egger supporters!

P.S. For those of you who want to see and hear Mark speak before the Board of Supervisors in February, May, and November 2018, here are videos of all three appearances:

November 20, 2018

May 1, 2018

February 20, 2018

John Lundberg is a citizen of Warren County.

Continue Reading

Opinion

Move Over Law: Drive safely to protect first-responders and highway workers

Published

on

The families of three firefighters were forever changed on the night of October 11, 2018 when a tractor-trailer crashed into the back of a Hanover County firetruck on Interstate 295. Lt. Brad Clark’s family is reminded daily of his tragic death. Our prayers and thoughts go out to them as they prepare to spend their first Christmas without him. We wish the two firefighters who survived the crash strength and wellbeing as they continue their journeys of recovery. That incident occurred during the heavy rains of Tropical Storm Michael.

Record December snowfall Dec. 9, 2018 led to at least four Virginia State Police troopers being struck by skidding vehicles in a 12-hour period on slick interstates in Central and Southwest Virginia. Thankfully the troopers’ injuries were only minor and the other drivers remained safe.

For the men and women whose “office” is the highway, these incidents are not limited to major weather events. Close calls, injury and death are a daily risk to every state and local law enforcement officer, firefighter, EMS worker, highway maintenance employee, and tow truck operator working across the Commonwealth. Even the arrow boards, crash cushions and barrels in a highway work zone are not enough to guarantee one’s safety. In February of this year, a Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) contract employee was struck and killed in an active work zone on Interstate 95 in Prince George County by a distracted driver. Another family we remember during the holiday season.

At the beginning of this month, Governor Northam issued a directive to establish the Executive Leadership Team on Highway Safety. The mission of this collaboration among the Virginia departments of Education, Health, Motor Vehicles, State Police and Transportation and traffic safety advocates is to reduce the rising number of fatalities on Virginia’s roadways. The directive is to save more lives through the advancement of education, engineering and enforcement relative to traffic safety. Those most committed to achieving such objectives are the very ones most at risk or harm for the purpose of saving others.

Like all 50 states, Virginia has what is called a “Move Over” law. It’s a state law designed to protect those working alongside the highways by requiring motorists to move a lane away from vehicles stopped on the side of a road with flashing red, blue or amber lights. If unable to move over, then the Code of Virginia requires a driver to pass such vehicles “cautiously”. Simple as this concept may be, those few extra feet can mean the difference between life and death. Yet across the nation traffic incidents continue to be the leading cause of death for law enforcement and highway maintenance workers; and the second leading cause for firefighter deaths in the nation.

There are a number of special days and weeks designated to recognize these professionals and their work. April has National Work Zone Awareness Week. June is designated in Virginia as “Move Over Month.” There are efforts underway to designate a National Tow Truck Operator Week in September. In October, Virginia has special days designated to recognize firefighters for their service and sacrifice. Our firefighters, state troopers, police officers, sheriff’s deputies, highway maintenance workers and tow truck operators – spend every day on our highways working to serve and protect the motoring public. They are dependent on every driver observing the Move Over law every day and not just some of the time.

The first priority of a police officer is to go home to his or her family at the end of the shift. This applies to all those working alongside a Virginia highway in a vehicle with red, blue, or amber lights. It is time for Virginians to take a serious step forward to help save the lives of those who have chosen a career to look out for and save ours.

Virginia Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine
Virginia Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran

Continue Reading

Opinion

Elections Matter?

Published

on

Last week, the Stephens City Town Council appeared to take a page from the GOP playbook when they decided to confiscate powers from the newly elected mayor, Michael Diaz. The Council voted to remove powers given to the Mayor by the town charter and transfer them to the town manager.

Mr. Diaz was elected in November to the mayoral position, but the Town Council took it upon themselves to strip the new Mayor of supervisory duties and relegate his role to being “consulted for general advice.”

This unfortunate notion that one party believes their views so correct that they justify usurping the public’s will expressed by voters seems to reflect the Republican view that has seized power in other instances across the country. Apparently, patriotism does not extend to voter representation when it conflicts with the Republican right to rule.

Steve Foreman
Chair, Warren County Democratic Committee

Continue Reading

Opinion

What Christmas is all about: “We cannot go to Him; He had to come to us”

Published

on

Wonderful? Marvelous? Glorious? What words could adequately describe the experience of yet another Christmas?

Yes, Christmas, the celebration of His birth. Whose birth? God’s birth! God incarnate, the God-Man!

Yes, the God of the Bible, the One and only God who created all that exists, including creating and breathing life into man.

Yes, the only and very God who walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden Of Eden! The Scriptures speak of Him as the One “whose going forth are from of old, from everlasting.”

But why? His own great love and nature compelled Him to do so, for mankind had fallen into sin and was lost and separated from Him. The result was that death came upon all men, not only physically but spiritually as well.

For scripture says man became a living soul, and the soul that sins will die. Further, it says “there is none that sinneth not, no, not one.”

Thus, being/having a soul, we are all lost and without hope of living and escaping death. Perishing is where we find ourselves. Our situation: we cannot remove the stain of sin and thus perfect ourselves before God and His law. We cannot find Him. He has to find us.

Further, being temporal, physical beings we are unable to approach Him, and, however earnest and pure in thought, plead our case to Him.

We do not have such standing before His holy, righteous and majestic throne. Simply put, WE CANNOT GO TO HIM. Simply put again, HE HAD TO COME TO US!

And that is what Christmas is all about. He saw that mankind needed deliverance; hence, a Saviour, a Redeemer. God delivered! And because of the babe in the manger, I and all others who accept Him can shout with the hymnal writer, who, in speaking to our physical deaths, says; “….this robe of flesh I’ll drop and rise to seize the everlasting prize!”

God’s gift is eternal life, never to die. Death has been swallowed up in victory!

Rev. Jess Shifflett
Front Royal, VA

Continue Reading

Opinion

Jesus, Miracle Worker

Published

on

Seeing the words, “I make beer disappear” on a man’s shirt, I asked him if he worked miracles since he was able to make beer disappear, and he replied that all he did was put it in his tummy and his tummy did the rest.

Miracles? I immediately thought about Jesus, the greatest miracle worker of all the ages. It was, however, about water, not beer. Not only did he make it disappear, he turned it into wine!

Jesus said that he was doing things that no man had ever done before, which helps people understand that he was saying that he was God; saying “If you can’t believe my words, believe for my works’ sake!”

As God, Jesus could say, “I am the light of the world, and he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” And further, that he would lay down his life for his sheep; indicating the path he would take in order to bestow eternal life to his sheep.

Being God, Jesus could ask when healing the man with palsy, “Which is easier to say, your sins be forgiven you, or take up your bed and walk?” The Jews had just remarked that God alone can forgive sins. Well, only God could do either one! Jesus said further that he said what he did in order that “…you might know that the Son of Man has the power on earth to forgive sin,” saying, in effect, I am God!

But how could God give his life for mankind; who, having spurned his love in the Garden Of Eden, continues to reject him to serve other Gods? Well, God says it’s not about us (who are as filthy rags in his sight; therefore, nothing to love) but all about him. For he said; “I am God and not man!” So in his perfect love he loves us IN SPITE OF our sinfulness and unworthiness. So, can you possibly fathom that God; yes,  Almighty God, the Heavenly Father, in order to “win back” his lost love, came “courting” to regain what was lost to him? Remember that the Scriptures say, “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son.” Truly, he must be saying, “Be Mine!” Believe and follow me and I will give you the water of life and you will never thirst again; and the bread of life and you will never be hungry again; and not only will you never die, I will never leave you nor forsake you!

It’s been said that to love someone you must get to know them. Well, Jesus knows us through and through because he created us! Could it be then, that he doesn’t love us as we are but for what we have the potential to become as the result of the workings of a wondrous miracle of God; or more pointedly, from “the touch of the Master’s hand?”

Rev. Jess Shifflett
Front Royal, VA

Continue Reading

Opinion

Veteran: Jennifer Lewis will protect health care for those with pre-existing conditions

Published

on

To the Editor:

I have been fortunate to count so many veterans as friends and family. As a veteran myself, I am familiar with the many sacrifices these men and women make for our country. I never experience combat myself, but I know some veterans who have and some still carry those scars with them suffering from PTSD or struggling with substance abuse. This issue got my attention recently with a shocking statistic. The Iraq and Afghanistan wars have resulted in nearly 6,000 combat deaths of our service members. In that same period over 200,000 veterans have committed suicide, twice the rate of non-veterans.

On November 6th we go to the polls to pick our leaders in Congress. Leaders who will decide the future of health care, including mental health care, in this country. In the 6th district, one candidate wants to eliminate health care coverage for 20 million Americans and strip us of protections for pre-existent conditions, including PTSD. His opponent is a mental health care worker who has promised to expand access to health care for all and to protect health care for those with pre-existent conditions. That candidate is Jennifer Lewis.

Jorge Amselle
Front Royal, VA 
Continue Reading