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:
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:
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
Those are the only policies applicable to the building department when inspections are performed.
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.
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: Michael Cohen is no John Dean
There have been a slew of comments about the so-called “John Dean Moment” when Michael Cohen was set to testify in an open hearing before a House of Representatives Hearing last week. It never happened.
Michael Cohen has now appeared before the House Oversight Committee. It may have been the longest and closest view (via television) that people ever had of Mr. Cohen. This piece does not presume to say whether or not he was being truthful in the Hearing. It does presume to say that there is both a circumstantial and personal difference in the two events and the two people.
When John Dean spoke, the country was already in a crisis which included members of both parties. The very continuation of Richard Nixon’s Presidency began to unravel as a result of Mr. Dean’s appearance and testimony.
When Michael Cohen spoke, there was a strong feeling by one political party that the testimony would portend the end of the Presidency of the other party. This is still far from happening, and Mr. Cohen’s testimony did not affect both political parties – only one.
When Mr. Dean spoke, here was a dignified (although young) lawyer whose testimony was clear and convincing to both parties. There really was no question of whether or not what was said was truthful. Dean emerged as a hero of the Watergate era.
When Mr. Cohen spoke and continues to speak, there is a question about whether or not what is heard is truthful. One political side says “yes” and the other side says “no”. Mr. Cohen is a convicted liar (via his own plea). He is on his way to a 3 year prison term. He may very well be telling the truth, but he clearly does not carry the same presumption of honesty that Dean did.
The issue of a Presidential pardon is the latest twist to this convoluted puzzle. Did Mr. Cohen probe a possible pardon or not?
What will happen next in this Presidential drama we are living through is certainly not clear. What is clear is that there is a world of difference between John Dean and Michael Cohen.
In full disclosure, I am a fellow Georgetown Law graduate and have had occasional contact with John Dean over the years. I have had no contact with Mr. Cohen.
Charles “Chips” Lickson | JD, Ph.D.
Front Royal, Virginia
Former practicing lawyer, mediator, teacher and Associate Professor of Political Science at Shenandoah University. Lickson is the author of eight previous non-fiction books. He is currently finishing a fact-based novel, REFUGE FOR A SCOUNDREL, due out in Fall, 2019.
Disappointment with the Korea summit and the Cohen appearance
Just a few days ago, it seems, I wrote about the irony of seeing Air Force One landing in Hanoi for a summit between President Trump and North Korea Leader Kim Jong-Un. Like many Americans, I was optimistic (perhaps overly so) that something concrete would come from their meeting. Wouldn’t it have been helpful in tamping down the negative rhetoric of both political extremes if we could have seen something positive emerge in Korea? Political critics and supporters alike would have had something they might agree upon – if that summit had been successful.
And at the same time as the summit, Michael Cohen appeared before the House Oversight Committee. It is most unfortunate for all that these two events coincided – tearing apart the media coverage. It turned out the Hearing was also unsuccessful. Did it get at the truth? One side thinks so; the other does not.
After over 50 years in law and conflict resolution, including having taught hundreds of people in the private sector and many government agencies the skills of mediation, and after having written an internationally well-read little book on “Ironing It Out”, I have learned the dynamics of push, pull or dis-engage.
Perhaps this hiatus, as short as it may be, is a good time to dis-engage and think about what has transpired in Hanoi and at the Hearing Table in Washington. Feelings are so strong on both sides of the political-presidential aisle, it is questionable that anyone can really think about what they are doing or saying on Twitter, the press or on television.
It seems we have no choice in the matter if we are going forward and hope to accomplish anything new in Korea, the rest of the world or here at home. Dis-engagement may be working on the China Tariff front. Let’s all see, if we pause and think first, if it can work for these deep divides here at home.
Charles “Chips” Lickson | JD, Ph.D.
Front Royal, Virginia
Former practicing lawyer, mediator, teacher and Associate Professor of Political Science at Shenandoah University. Lickson is currently finishing a fact-based novel, REFUGE FOR A SCOUNDREL, due out in Fall, 2019.
Air Force One in Hanoi, Vietnam
A friend of mine said yesterday that he found it quite ironic when Air Force One bearing the President landed a few days ago in Hanoi, Vietnam. We are all following the “summit” between President Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un because it portends very good or very bad things in the future for the U.S. and North Korea – and probably the rest of the world.
Some of us are old enough to remember when there were other U.S. Air Force planes in the skies above Hanoi and many other locations in both North and South Vietnam. Some of us were in uniform when soldiers from the U.S. and from North Vietnam were engaged in horrible conflict.
The Vietnam location of talks between the President and North Korea’s “Dear Leader” is significant for many reasons – including the reconciliation between the U.S. and Vietnam. The horrors of war and the suffering of people on both sides in the Vietnam War are proof that no one really wins when it comes to the shooting and the killing. Unfortunately, even as I write, India and Pakistan are learning this lesson. Let’s hope they learn soon.
Let’s also hope that the U.S. President is successful; that something substantial and beneficial for all concerned can come of the meetings in Vietnam.
Another irony is that our President is out of the country at the time, and his own former lawyer is saying unkind things about him on television. Whether all that is said is true or not, he is the President and we should all wish him well.
Let’s also hope that the location of their talks also counts. If so, there will be good news coming out of Hanoi.
Charles “Chips” Lickson
Front Royal, Virginia
Thoughts on the death of Marvin Reifsnyder
We learned of the death of at Hidden Springs Senior Living this past week. We first met Marvin last summer when we were putting up an art exhibit there.
Often, he was sitting outside when the weather was nice and if he was not outside, we probably would find him sitting in the Lobby. Sometimes he would be sitting with other veterans who were living there. If we didn’t see him right away when we arrived at Hidden Springs, he was probably lying down resting in his room or visiting another resident. Whenever, we saw him, he would be proudly wearing his World War II Veterans hat with service ribbons.
Whenever we got to Hidden Springs, we looked for Marvin. He was special not only for his age, but for the stories he would occasionally tell. His military service was also important to us.
We’re both so pleased that now active duty military and veterans of the several wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and other places are given a well-deserved “welcome” and “thank-you” for their service. Chips (who is an Army veteran) recalls that this was not always the case. When Chips (and too many veterans) traveled in uniform during the Vietnam conflict, it did not engender many warm welcomes or thanks.
It was an exhibit of paintings and prints which brought us initially to Hidden Springs… and there was Marvin. Along with Vicky and Daryl Davison, the Principals of Hidden Springs, we always got a warm reception there.
We still plan to go to Hidden Springs on occasion, but we won’t see Marvin. We will be among the many people who will miss him.
Bryane Miller Lickson
Charles “Chips” Lickson
Front Royal, Virginia
Jesus in Valentine’s Day
Valentine’s Day is now upon us, and of course, the central theme is Love. It is the showing of one’s love for someone and being desirous of and asking for another to return such love in a way to say “I love you too”. A proposal, if you will. In this regard, (which involves a suitor) the dictionary defines such as; a man who courts a woman; a wooer. It further defines a wooer as: to seek the love or affection of, especially to marry; to court.
In this respect, allow me to present to you my Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. For the greatest act and show of love the world has ever known, let me direct your attention to the figure there on Calvary’s brow: I can only humbly say, behold Him there! For I am not worthy so much as to even approach Him. As you gaze upon him you will see that he is hanging from a cross by nails driven into his hands and feet. He is covered and “bathed” in his own blood, for as the Scriptures say, “…his visage was so marred more than any man”. The result of a savage, brutal, and one might venture to say, demonic beating.
He wasn’t there merely by chance, but because mankind was under the curse of God’s law which says; ” the soul that sinneth shall die.” His agony was so great, that he cried out; “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” And thus, being made to be sin for us, He took our sin upon Himself! And now hear the prophecies as detailed in Psalms 22, “…I am a worm and no man …despised of the people …I am poured out like water …and all my bones are out of joint …my heart is like wax …my tongue cleaves to my jaw …am brought down to the dust of death.”
His being there was the fulfillment of his intent and determination to die in our place! This was the price that God himself set for our redemption: God himself had to die; God himself had to shed his very own blood! By saying, “If I be lifted up I will draw all men to me,” He is doing exactly that on the cross. He is drawing us, asking us, “to come unto me.” Yes, and by asking the Father to, “forgive them for they know not what they do”, He is throwing the door wide open for us while tugging at our hearts. And, one could almost hear him say “Be Mine”.
Be mine and your sin will be forgiven and no longer under the curse; I am reminded of the prophet who said, “though your sins be as scarlet ye shall be white as snow. Be mine for I am going to prepare a dwelling place for you. Be mine and you will never die, for my special gift to you is eternal life; and you will never thirst or hunger, for I will give you both the bread of life and the water of life.”
But what could be the proper response to such a suitor and his appeal or proposal? To learn of the best, and indeed, the only accepted response (a simple I will) we need only to look again at Calvary’s brow and hear the thief on a cross next to our Saviour when he says; “Master, remember me when you cometh into your kingdom.”
In saying “Be Mine”, “come unto me”, and “Whosoever believeth in me shall never die”, isn’t he asking us to consider and look expectantly upon the eternal, heavenly scene. We have the ‘picture’ of a people for whom a pure, white, shining garment has been prepared. And as we stand so arrayed before the very throne of God our hearts are suddenly filled with an overwhelming measure of love, and our eyes are filled with great tears of joy; for we are now aware that He is present! The Lamb of God Himself has stepped forth from the midst of the throne. And, performing the acts and duty as our Groom, places a wedding ring on our fingers; and then presents us to all the holy, righteous hosts of Heaven as his greatly beloved, glorious, precious Bride! The Church! And all the host of Heaven bow down; reverently, lovingly, and adoringly as kings cast their crowns down before Him!
And so, indeed, as the Lord said on the cross, “It Is Finished!” Thus, the message of God written indelibly throughout space and time by his own blood is there for all to see: I love you! Love has conquered!
Rev. Jess Shifflett
Front Royal, VA
A day and night of football in America: Exactly what we needed
I know that Football may be controversial. It is violent, potentially injurious and often played at less than perfect weather times. How could the coming Super Bowl be better than the Championship games played less than 2 weeks ago.
Yet, on football Championship Sunday – 2 weeks ago – from 3PM until almost 10PM (EST), America was transformed from our divided Nation where blame is rampant and people may be suffering into a huge collection of football fans and even non-football people who had to watch TV because someone significant in their lives was glued to the NFL-AFL Championship round.
And were we ever treated to a spectacular display of talent of players and coaches on the football field. There probably never has been in sports history such a day as yesterday. We, who love the sport, were treated to professional football games that will go down in sports history.
So, for close to 7 hours of play and many hours of hype before and after the games, we had to set aside our politics and painful political choices. Instead, so many Americans and people across the world, watched or listened to men and women talking about football – Not the Shutdown, Not who was right or wrong, Not impeachment, Not the Probe, Not the Russians, Not the Leaks, Not the Chinese, Not even the future of this wonderful country.
For this escape from what we are thinking about, and talking about, from wondering what political parties are going to do next, from our concerns about hurting people, from what happens next – to being thankful for the brilliant performances on the two fields of play and for the coaching and TV or radio coverage of two of the best Championship football games ever!
Thank you Los Angeles Rams. Thank you New Orleans Saints. Thank you New England Patriots. Thank you Kansas City Chiefs.
Now, back to the reality of what happens next.
BUT WAIT, we still have the Super Bowl coming this weekend.
Charles P. Lickson
Front Royal, Virginia