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Kushner outlined Town downsizing plan’s critique, if not tone as questions mount for elected officials



As previously reported 20 of 24 public speakers addressing the Front Royal Town Council, Mayor Eugene Tewalt and Interim Town Manager Matt Tederick on February 10, regarding recent staff terminations and planned governmental downsizing in the Fiscal Year 2021 Budget proposal were highly critical of the plan, the process or both. Two speakers took a more middle ground approach and two tied to the Warren County Republican Committee of which Tederick and at least four council people are members, defended the plan.

In our initial report on that meeting we summarized salient points made by the 20 critics with more detail on the two municipal downsizing defenders and council and the town manager’s responses to the criticism. We promised more detail on the numerous criticisms and this is that additional detail.

Due Process?

First public concerns speaker Gary Kushner established an initial outline, if not the occasionally accusatory tone, of what was to come for the most part of the first 90 minutes of Monday’s council meeting. Kushner opened with a criticism of the process and inconsistencies with that process compared to Tederick’s own previous statements on his perception as his role as interim town manager.

Beginning public comments on Feb. 10, Gary Kushner laid out the case for the prosecution, or rather citizen critics of the Front Royal Town Council and its appointed interim town manager’s town government downsizing plan and process tied to the FY 2021 Budget proposal. Royal Examiner Photos by Roger Bianchini. Video by Mark Williams, Royal Examiner.

“I thought that the Interim Mgr. was appointed to:

1 – supervise ongoing government operations and projects;

2 – shepherd the process to get candidates for a permanent manager; and

3 – prepare a (Fiscal Year) 2020/21 budget – NOT change personnel in the (current) 2019/2020 budget … The interim manager said that he intended to prepare options for a permanent (town) manager to consider but then actually implemented his ideas instead. Those actions are not consistent with the citizens’ desire for more transparency and a greater opportunity to participate in their government,” Kushner said of the public mood in the wake of the Town-County Economic Development Authority financial scandal.

He then added observations about one of the FY 2021 budget plan’s most controversial re-organizational aspects, Tourism marketing.

“The interim manager has criticized staff and said they are not ‘AGILE or NIMBLE’ enough to manage tourism, but offered no definitive evidence to support such a conclusion. I believe many with government experience would attest that Tourism is exactly what should not be conducted by an outside, disconnected entity,” Kushner said reflecting early feedback from a number of town business owners involved in catering at least in part, to a tourist clientele.

Immediate Terminations

Of the five staff terminations, including three department heads, two of whom are directly or indirectly involved in tourism and downtown redevelopment, that were implemented on January 29, five days before the budget plan was presented to the mayor and council, Kushner noted Tederick’s public comments indicating those terminations were NOT performance-related, but rather an immediate effort to cut the Town’s operational budget.

“Such actions without a well thought out plan to address the immediate responsibilities they worked on raises questions and demonstrates a clear management failure. This is especially true for tourism whose most significant period begins in only a few months,” Kushner observed.

This point seemed borne out by the confusion expressed two days later by members of the Town-County Joint Tourism Advisory Board concerning what the Town’s intentions are toward tourism promotion and a financial commitment to it at their Wednesday, February 12 meeting at Town Hall.

On Feb. 12, the Town-County Joint Tourism Advisory Board, comprised largely of community business owners and managers, was operating in a vacuum of information from the town government on a radical overhaul related to tourism marketing, current and future funding commitments, and outsourcing plans.

It was a meeting as previously reported by Royal Examiner, that the interim town manager was aware of but chose not to attend despite its close proximity to his office. Of course, with his council-endorsed terminations of the Town’s Community Development-Tourism Director, Planning Director and Town Engineer, not to mention Council Clerk and Planning Department Technician, Tederick has been a busy man lately. So busy, in fact, that he has written a request for an assistant town manager into his budget proposal.

Previous discussion has indicated that in the past the Town Engineer has generally filled the role of an operational assistant to the town manager; and that when discussion of the position last arose during Joe Waltz’s tenure as town manager, Waltz opted to go with a Town Engineer, a position filled until January 29 by Robert Brown.

Waltz informed the council of his resignation as town manager, effective November 8, on October 9, about five months after the council appointed Tederick interim mayor. While we have not been able to contact Waltz since his departure, at least three people close to Town Hall have speculated that Waltz’s resignation may have reflected disagreement with the termination and downsizing plan now being implemented by his successor, with the town council’s blessing.

At the time Waltz simply said he wished to return to the energy sector where he started out, taking a job with an energy cooperative in Ohio to do so.

Former Town Manager Joe Waltz on the job in June 2017 while still sporting the title ‘Interim’, as his successor will for his entire term.

Conflicts of Interest?

Before concluding, Kushner did flirt with topics that would lead to some of the more pointedly personal critiques to come concerning potential conflicts of interest between the departmental downsizing plan, perhaps reflected in previous initiatives brought forward and seemingly supported by Tederick during his interim tenures at Town Hall.

Kushner pointed to Tederick’s efforts:

1 – on behalf of what he called “a radical change” in the Town’s water policy that would have added private-sector residential development as a mandated reason for the Town to expand its water-sewer utility beyond the town limits onto County land;

2 – an alleged failure to disclose what Kushner termed Tederick’s “personal relationship with the Crooked Run West property owner” who was seeking that central Town water-sewer for north corridor residential development; and

3 – what Kushner called a related failure of the interim town manager to disclose his presidency of “an LLC involving real estate development”; among a few others.

As noted in our first story on the February 10 meeting, Tederick and council defender Amber Poe Morris described the interim town manager and fellow Warren County Republican Committee officer as becoming “the Trump of Front Royal” due to the number of conspiracy theories and allegations of such potential conflicts of interest made during his interim tenures with the town government beginning in late May.

Current Interim Town Manager Matt Tederick fields questions from citizen prior to convening of the February 10 Town Council meeting at which 24 members of the public addressed the Town downsizing plan: 20 against, 2 for, and 2 in the middle.

Ultimate Responsibility, Promises & Gambles

However, Kushner concluded by laying responsibility, not at Tederick’s doorstep, but rather that of his bosses on the Town Council.

“I can’t imagine that the interim manager’s efforts are without Council approval or guidance, so this rests solely on your plate. While the interim manager’s actions may have been well-intended, the public is neither satisfied with his results nor his style,” Kushner said.

Included in that style, drawing additional criticism from the evening’s first public speaker, was what appears to be another joint interim town manager-council initiative – “promotion of an adversarial relationship on EDA issues, rather than pursuing a cooperative approach”.

Several council comments on this front referenced “promises” made by former EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald concerning 1.5% interest rates tied to a New Market Tax Credit (NMTC) program that the Town’s Police Department construction project did not qualify for, and which nothing in writing has ever been produced by the Town in support of its rising damage claims against the EDA. In fact, in early 2018 the NMTC Program’s administrator, People Inc.’s Brain Phipps, advised the council to take a guaranteed 30-year, bank-offered 2.65% interest rate on the FRPD construction project because the Town would be competing for limited funds with multiple municipalities.

It was advice mirroring that of the Town’s own staff, Town Manager Waltz and Finance Director B. J. Wilson. But perhaps mirroring McDonald’s admitted propensity for the Charles Town slot machines, council decided to GAMBLE on “McDonald promises” and a nine-year interest-free payback period that the new FRPD headquarters did not even qualify for as a non-job creating municipal project.

Above, former EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald celebrating what she told Royal Examiner in early 2018 were a majority of winning days at Charles Town’s casino slots; below, Jacob Meza was a prime advocate of not taking staff and NMTC administrator advice on private-sector financing and a fixed 30-year 2.65% interest rate for the FRPD construction project – ‘Jennifer promised us an NMTC 1.5% interest rate’ appears to be the rationale for that decision; as well as a basis for the Town’s refusal to pay an $8.3 million debt to the EDA on principal payments on the police station FRPD is currently housed in.

Kushner concluded his remarks pointedly at the council, “Many think this is all a done deal, but I sincerely hope that’s not the case. Council’s responsibility is to REPRESENT the people, rather than just GOVERN them. It is imperative that their opinions be solicited, heard and addressed.”

Not only Kushner’s but following public comments indicated a growing belief that the plan emanating from the interim town manager’s office has been vetted and fully supported by the town council.

In fact, the council’s collective response, including an impassioned one from Gary Gillespie, did nothing to dispel that perception. See Royal Examiner’s linked videos for those defenses of the town downsizing plan, as well as other public comments to the council. Additional exploration of that heavy majority critical comment will be forthcoming in a related story.

Tederick, council defend budget plan, staff terminations in face of pointed public criticism

Town-County Tourism Advisory Board moves forward in a vacuum of information on Town plans

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Town Planning Commission, Town Council Advance A.S. Rhodes Temporary Classroom Project



In a unique shared session, the Town Planning Commission and the Front Royal Town Council combined forces to quickly approve the temporary siting of modular classrooms at A.S. Rhodes Elementary School on Strasburg Road, as part of the larger renovation project that will soon be underway. There were no public comments regarding the request.

Acting Superintendent Melody Sheppard answers questions from Planning Commission members. Photo and video by Mark Williams, Royal Examiner.

School officials and project managers answered questions from the Planning Commission and Council members regarding the temporary classrooms. Commissioner Dr. Cee Ann Davis asked if the Project Team had consulted with the County Health Department regarding the modular building. Acting Superintendent Melody Sheppard acknowledged they had not. Once the commission had completed its questioning, the Commission unanimously approved the request, leading to an unusual lateral pass of the request to the Town Council.

Councilman Lori Cockrell informed the Mayor that she would be abstaining from discussions or votes regarding the School request due to her 30-year career in the School Department. Councilman Chris Holloway voiced concern about student traffic between the modular classrooms and restrooms in the school itself. He questioned the WCPS representatives closely about the location of restrooms in relation to the proposed structure. When a council motion for approval was offered By Councilman Letasha Thompson, seconded by Councilman Bill Sealock, Councilman Holloway offered an amendment to the approval motion that would have required School Officials to add the requirement for restrooms within the modular structure itself. His amendment died for a lack of votes before the original motion went on to approval.

Following the approval of the A.S. Rhodes project by both the Planning Commission and the Town Council, Chairman Doug Jones, and Mayor Eugene Tewalt adjourned their respective bodies, and each met separately for work sessions.

The Town Planning Commission Work Session was largely devoted to a preliminary review and discussion of a potential new facility for the House of Hope, a service to homeless men in Front Royal. The commission received a presentation on the mission and objectives of the Program, feedback from the Commission members regarding necessary steps in working with the town to provide an improved facility for its services. Commissioner Daryl Merchant urged the House of Hope representatives to seek a location that was compatible with Town zoning ordinances. Planning Staff was asked to research property and zoning to support the commission in evaluating future requests.

Aaron Hike from Hike Construction addresses the commission regarding a project to build a set of townhouses on a lot currently occupied by a blighted house.

Aaron Hike from Hike Construction then addressed the commission regarding a project to build a set of townhouses on a lot currently occupied by a blighted house. The lot proved to be slightly smaller than would allow the construction, and the company hoped to either to reduce the side setback through a zoning variance or to propose a zoning ordinance amendment to reduce the minimum width of a townhouse from 20 to 18 feet. They had also initiated an action with the Board of Zoning Appeals for the variance in addition to their presenting a proposal to the Planning Commission to amend the zoning ordinance.

Commissioner Merchant clarified that amending the zoning ordinance to accommodate a smaller lot size would conflict with the requirement for each townhouse to provide two parking spaces a minimum of 10 feet in width. The discussion then centered on the need for planning staff to research what an amendment to the zoning ordinance would entail. The commission agreed that language for an ordinance change would be the likely next step for the Commission to consider. Commissioner Davis reminded the attendees of unintended consequences of ordinance changes.

The commission members then discussed various strategies for helping continuing services during a period of reduced staffing at the Town Planning Department. The town is currently recruiting for a Director of Community Development and Planning.

Watch the joint meeting in this first Royal Examiner video and the Planning Commission work session in the second.

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Council majority moves to lock in half-cent real estate tax decrease



Perhaps the most telling moment in the Front Royal Town Council’s multi-faceted Wednesday evening did not occur at a Special Joint Meeting with its Planning Commission called to facilitate permitting to allow the installation of modular classrooms to allow A.S. Rhodes renovation work to proceed on schedule, nor during a dizzying council work session discussion of financial variables that threaten to jeopardize a $700,000 matching State/Federal funded Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) committed to physical redevelopment of downtown business frontages and the Village Commons and Gazebo area.

With Lori Cockrell abstaining due to her career in public education, the full Front Royal Town Council (right) and Planning Commission (left) minus one absence agreed after some debate on safety issues, to permit classroom modules during A.S. Rhodes Elementary School renovations in the coming year.  Photos by Roger Bianchini. Video by Mark Williams, Royal Examiner.

While those two discussions dominated much of the council’s attention, it was a third discussion near the work session’s end related to the funding of the coming Fiscal Year 2021 budget that was an eye-opener on the council’s thought process for the coming budget cycle.

Despite ongoing uncertainty among some on council about the plan to privatize and outsource the Town’s Tourism marketing function in the wake of scathing public and impacted business owner criticism of that plan; and the seemingly unavoidable presence of $29 million in physical capital improvements in the coming budget year, a 5-1 council majority committed to advertising a Real Estate Tax Rate of 13 cents per $100 of assessed value in the coming year.

That rate will maintain Interim Town Manager Matt Tederick and the council majority’s desire to implement a half-cent Real Estate Tax rate cut in next year’s budget. Tederick has commented that implementation of a tax cut despite the coming capital improvement needs will be a sign of the Town’s economic strength despite the $15 million in lost assets it has thus far claimed in the Economic Development Authority (EDA) financial scandal.

Only Vice-Mayor Bill Sealock asked that council at least keep the option of maintaining the existing 13.5-cent Real Estate Tax Rate and Town governmental revenue stream where it is. Sealock explained he had serious concerns about the plan to outsource the Town Tourism function and suggested the $64,000-plus of revenue that half-cent of Real Estate Tax would provide could help fund Visitors Center operations in the next budget year.

To left, Mayor Tewalt and Vice-Mayor Sealock found themselves outnumbered 5-2 on keeping a flat real-estate tax revenue option at least available to the council.

As Mayor Gene Tewalt noted in also expressing a desire to keep the flat tax rate option open, once advertised a tax rate can be adjusted down, but not up. Following the work session, Town Finance Director B. J. Wilson told Royal Examiner that one option available should it become apparent that the Town will need to keep its current revenue stream to fund coming fiscal year capital improvements and operations, would be to re-advertise a tax rate higher than the 13-cent one currently poised to be put forward.

However, several council comments seemed to indicate that as an unlikely option.

Newly-appointed Councilwoman Lori Athey Cockrell said she was in favor of “keeping taxes as low as they can (be)” in voicing support for the half-cent real estate tax decrease being committed to this early in the budget process.

Then Jacob Meza pointed a path forward for council should it do an about-face on the Tourism Department – that path cuts to other town governmental functions to allow the half-cent Real Estate Tax reduction to stand.

At center between Letasha Thompson and Chris Holloway, Jacob Meza may have spoken for the council majority when he said, if not tourism then another town department should be earmarked for outsourcing or cuts to its budget to facilitate a half-cent decrease to a real estate tax rate already 3.5 cents below the median level for Virginia towns.

“If the council wants to change something, I’d rather instead of keeping tax rates high or increasing taxes, figure out what other areas of the budget need to go … I want the council to find the areas that we’re willing to do without or willing to change. So again, if Tourism is the hot-topic button right now if that’s the direction the council wants to go, fine. Let’s figure out what other reductions we can have in the budget … because I can support some of the changes that we’ve made whereas the justifications were reducing some of our tax bases, not find other reasons to spend the money and increase it again,” Meza said.

Following Meza’s call to reduce the town governmental function in some, even as-yet-undetermined way, rather than keep tax revenue at existing levels, Mayor Tewalt polled council on its preference on a rate to advertise. And as noted above, only Sealock expressed support of keeping the option of a flat Real Estate Tax open to the council as a means of funding the Visitors Center function.

Beginning with Cockrell’s call to keep tax rates as low as possible in support of the 13-cent rate advertisement, Gary Gillespie, Letasha Thompson, Meza, and Chris Holloway all concurred to advertise the 13-cent rate, cementing in the $64,629 of lost Town revenue in the coming budget year.

Town Finance Director B. J. Wilson, seated blue shirt, and other Town and County staff, citizens and downtown business owners listen to consultant Craig Wilson traverse the complex and expensive bidding ground of Community Development Block Grant programs and processes. Stay tuned as the interim town manager was instructed to keep council posted on developments as a mid-September deadline approaches and a ‘materials only’ option on façade and other improvements are considered to reduce an exorbitant bid price.

The following day we called Town Finance Director Wilson to see where the Town of Front Royal ranks statewide with its municipal real estate tax rate. While he did not have specific rankings, Wilson noted that the Median Real Estate Tax Rate for Virginia towns is 17 cents per $100 of assessed value. So, the Town’s existing 13.5-cent rate was 3.5 cents below the Virginia town median; the proposed cut will take that to 4 cents below the median level.

According to staff numbers included in the work session agenda packet, the revenue produced at the 13.5-cent real estate tax rate in FY 2020 was $1,744,970. The proposed FY 2021, 13-cent rate will provide $1,680,341, or as observed above, a $64,629 reduction.

Council decided to keep the Personal Property Tax rate flat at 64 cents per $100 of assessed value. That rate provided $597,872 of tax revenue to the Town last year.

See the full Town Council-Planning Commission Special Meeting and council work session in linked Royal Examiner videos:

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EDA: Request for qualifications for the provision of an FY18 and FY19 audit



The Front Royal Warren County Economic Development Authority (“EDA”) is soliciting proposals for Auditor Services (“Services”). Sealed proposals for this work will be accepted until Friday, March 6, 2020, at 12:00 p.m.

Please submit one (1) original and three (3) copies of your proposal in a sealed envelope marked “Auditor Services,” with the Proposer’s name and address marked on the outside of the sealed envelope, no later than 12:00 p.m. EST, Friday March 6, 2020.

Send to:

Front Royal Warren County Economic Development Authority
P.O. Box 445
Front Royal, VA 22630
ATTN: Gretchen Henderson, Administrative Assistant

Questions regarding this Request for Qualifications (“RFQ”) should be directed to:

Doug Parsons, Executive Director,
Front Royal Warren County Economic Development Authority

To access the full RFQ, including Scope of Work and Terms and Conditions, please click here. You can also visit the EDA website to learn more.

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Local pro-militia group vows to support, protect



A band of local 2nd Amendment advocates concerned about the Commonwealth’s proposed gun safety laws returned to state their cause during the Warren County Board of Supervisors (BOS) February 18 meeting.

“A few weeks ago, I actually delivered a resolution to you all,” said Sam Haun of Front Royal, Va., during the general public comment period of the BOS meeting. “I’m not going to beat a dead horse and ask you to pick it back up, however, there is a group locally that has been operating out of Warren County and we’re trying to maintain 100 percent transparency for everybody.”

In fact, Haun brought that proposed resolution — which seeks “Promoting the Order of Militia Within Warren County” — to BOS members during their January 7 meeting, saying it is a Constitutional right for Warren County citizens to have a militia. The BOS to date has not acted on the resolution.

Sam Haun said on Tuesday night that his group’s intention is to support local law enforcement and first responders in helping residents during any mass casualty events or natural disasters.

“We’ve even gone so far as to meet with the local sheriff’s department, the town police department and we’re making arrangements now with the local fire department and EMS for additional training for all the members,” said Haun.

At the same time, Haun told the supervisors that he wanted to keep them in the loop about what his group is doing as it progresses.

“The way that things are going, we don’t want to pick up a bad name, so every few weeks, once we’ve accomplished something, we’ll come back and let you know exactly what’s going on,” he said. “That way, you feel a little bit better because you know what we’re doing, and it keeps us in the public view.”

Paul Aldrich, a Front Royal resident who said he handles communications for the pro-militia group, also spoke during the general public comment period of the BOS meeting and presented an ordinance for their consideration.

Specifically, the proposed ordinance relates to State Senate Bill 35, which would grant local governments the authority to ban the possession of firearms in public spaces during events that require a permit, like protests. The Virginia Senate in December 2019 passed the bill, 21-19, along with a party-line vote and the measure is under consideration by the Virginia House of Delegates.

After traveling on February 17 to Richmond, Va., to hear debates on the proposed legislation and to speak with district representatives, Aldrich told the supervisors that he was putting forth what he called “a simple proposed ordinance” that would “handle Senate Bill 35.”

Aldrich said the ordinance states: “The County shall not exercise any ordinance pursuant to Virginia 15.2-915 Section E and Section F.”

“That literally eliminates [the] bill even being an issue here” in Warren County, he said.

Board Chairman Walter Mabe, who represents the Shenandoah District, asked that Aldrich provide them with a copy of the proposed ordinance, which Aldrich agreed to email.
“Our goal is to improve the community, bring the community together, and protect it at the same time,” Aldrich said about the pro-militia group.

For example, during recent flooding in Tazewell County, Va., Aldrich said guys from their group were dispatched to bring supplies — including water, blankets and food — to needy residents. A second group went down on February 17 with more supplies to help out, he said.

At that point during the comment period, Chairman Mabe said he had a question.

“The group that you’re trying to get together, I understand that, and I understand you working with the sheriff,” said Mabe. “Are you working with other groups that are within the area that are trying to do exactly what it is that you’re trying to do?”

Earlier in the day on Tuesday, Mabe said he had spoken with another group that said it had never heard of Haun’s and Aldrich’s group. “I believe there has to be an effort put forth so that everybody knows what everybody is doing,” he said.

Aldrich agreed.

Mabe continued: “If I would want a militia — and I don’t like the word militia, everybody knows that, because it denotes a bad connotation — again, I would like to know who’s in charge, who’s funding it, who’s vetting it, and the 2,800 other questions I have about this very thing.”

Mabe also said that if the County were to “put people out there, they’ve got to be safe and we’ve got to protect the people who, honestly, don’t want a militia. If we don’t do that, we’re behind the curve.”

Additionally, according to the BOS chairman, communications must be key.

“I can’t emphasize enough how much you have to be involved with everybody so that you’re not confusing everybody,” he said.

Aldrich agreed and said his group has proposed an April volunteer day to the Town in which “we’re going to bring the volunteer community together,” including law enforcement from both the County and Town, 4-H, Boy Scouts, the fire department, and search and rescue, among others, so that everyone can share what they do and for their pro-militia group to recruit potential participants.

Haun added that he’s contacted other groups and plans to bring them together for a February 28 meeting, though he didn’t provide details. And he said he’s spoken with the sheriff about possibly running background checks locally rather than having to send potential members down to Richmond for them.

“If we bring the community together, we’re better off across the board, in my opinion,” said Aldrich.

“I believe this county is doing better,” Mabe said, “and it’s because of the new board and I believe we’re doing the right things. We have a request from the people who come in front of us to do the right thing, as well.

“The connotation that you’re putting forward is a tough situation and we have to get past that,” he added. “I don’t want to approve anything that I’m going to have to pay for that’s going to scare people.”

“And we wouldn’t ask you to pay for something that’s going to scare people,” Haun responded.

Similar to the pro-militia group’s stated goal, Mabe said he also wants to help the community and he also wants to remain involved. “And I’m happy to talk with you anytime, anytime. Just let me know,” he told them.

Watch the general public comment period of the Warren County Board of Supervisors’ February 18 meeting at the end of the meeting on this Royal Examiner video.

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Public decries golf course proposal; Warren County supervisors listen



Local citizens prevailed in forcing members of the Warren County Board of Supervisors (BOS) to postpone action on a proposed golf course management agreement and lease during a public hearing at their February 18 meeting.

Specifically, the BOS postponed action on a proposal submitted by New Direction Golf Management Corp., which would manage and lease the County-owned and -operated Front Royal Golf Club for an annual $100,000 fee over an initial term of 36 months, with payments on the total due monthly, according to Warren County General Services Director Brandy Rosser.

At the end of the three-year term, New Direction also would have the option to extend the agreement and lease for another three-year term, with the annual fee dropping to $70,000 per year.
Many residents, however, denounced the BOS plan as a huge waste of money.

“We already have four other golf courses” in Warren County, said Gary Kushner, a Browntown, Va., resident who spoke during the public hearing on the proposal. “It’s not like we don’t have golfing opportunities in this county.”

Kushner also wasn’t happy about a Warren County plan “to pay somebody to make money off a County property.”

“It just seems crazy to me,” he said. “Normally, when you lease something to somebody you get a return on it. As I understand it, the contractor is going to take the profit out of this. The County’s not going to get anything.”

Kushner suggested that the item not be considered during the Tuesday night meeting and that the BOS conduct further analysis “on whether we want to keep this property at all and save $100,000 and see if the County can get a tax benefit out of it in the future.”

He also suggested that if the BOS does go forward with the proposal, a profit-sharing provision be added to the contract.

Front Royal resident Paul Gabbert agreed with Kushner, adding that the Front Royal Golf Course “will never, ever be a golf course that people from the city would come to play. It will never be a golf course that would take people away from the golf courses that are already here. There is no way. It’s a shame that [the property] has to stay a golf course when it’s not a money-making golf course and it never will be.”

Gabbert also said that while he didn’t know what the BOS could do with the municipal course, he suggested turning it into a large dog park.

Another speaker during the public hearing was Ginger Morrison Winkler of Charlottesville, Va., whose father Lynwood Morrison of Bentonville, Va., built both the local Shenandoah Valley Golf Club and the Bowling Green Country Club. Winkler said that she and her brother, Lynwood L. “Woody” Morrison Jr., continue to own and operate the Bowling Green Country Club.

Ginger Morrison Winkler said, “There are so many holes here in the county attempting to make a go of it and it would be ludicrous for anyone to think that we have not done all of the things” suggested by New Direction to bolster business.

Winkler acknowledged the legal implications associated with the Front Royal Golf Course, the property for which originally was gifted to the County with the stipulation that it remain a golf course. But, she said, “it seems out of control to keep this thing going.”

“I see it as a losing game,” she added.

Lynda McDonough of Linden, Va., also doesn’t think the proposed $100,000 yearly contract with New Direction is a good idea and asked that the BOS table the idea pending further consideration.

“Why can’t we just give it back to the family” who donated it, “and wash our hands of it,” McDonough asked the BOS.

On the other side of the situation was New Direction Golf Management President Mike Byrd, who told the BOS that it has “a wonderful asset in this community and unfortunately, it’s been a little under-utilized.”

In fact, according to data provided last night by Rosser, the Front Royal Golf Club has operated at an average yearly deficit of more than $100,000 from 2014 through 2018.
Nevertheless, Byrd said that New Direction has evaluated the course “very closely and we see that it could fit very nicely in this community, but most importantly, it’s going to be the leader in growing golf in this community.”

While there are plenty of golf holes in Warren County, he said, “what we need are a lot more golfers.”

Byrd thinks that under the leadership of New Direction, that’s exactly the goal that could be accomplished if the company’s submitted proposal is approved.

“We don’t run a golf course, so to speak,” Kenneth Roko said of Warren County. “We don’t have professionals there, we don’t have a big staff, we don’t cater to the golfing community on a regular basis.

Kenneth Roko of Middletown, Va., a member of the County’s Front Royal Golf Club Advisory Committee, said the group has gone through several iterations of what would be the best choice for oversight of the County’s municipal golf course.

“We have part-time staff there and that’s fine and dandy,” he said, “but if we want to make it grow, we really need to have those who do it for a living perform that service.”

Roko said the committee looked at the economic implications of having a management company run the County’s golf course that could reduce expenditures while growing the game for the area.

“New Direction offers a unique approach,” he said. “They use technology, they use social media, and they’re very savvy … they do a good job of attracting people not just from the surrounding area but from” elsewhere, including Northern Virginia.

Roko noted that hiring New Direction also would save the County money when compared to the yearly deficit it’s experienced over the last several years.

Kushner, however, said there’s an option that hasn’t been considered yet: not having a golf course at the 902 Country Club Road location in Front Royal at all.

Interim Warren County Attorney Jason Ham told the BOS that the proposed management and lease agreement between the County and New Direction was tweaked during the last week or so since the January BOS work session when the proposal was first discussed. He said the contract is in an “acceptable position” for action.

After some discussion, North River District Supervisor Delores Oates motioned for the BOS to postpone the item until its March 3 meeting “so that we can delve into it further,” Oates said, adding that she’d also like to better understand the legal implications of the bequeathing of the golf course by reading the will and testament of the donators.

Tony Carter, supervisor representing the Happy Creek District, gave the motion a second with the entire Board of Supervisors, including Oates, Vice Chairwoman Cheryl Cullers, Chairman Walter Mabe and Fork District Supervisor Archie Fox voting unanimously to postpone their review.

In other action on public hearing items, the BOS also postponed action on a requested conditional use permit for a short-term tourist rental at 64 Rocky Lane in Front Royal, which is owned by Brian and Ann M. Conley of Bentonville, Va.

Board Vice Chairwoman Cullers forced the Board’s postponement of action on the Conley’s request explaining that she wanted assurances from a nearby neighbor that he is on board with the property being used as a short-term rental.

While the Warren County Planning Commission received a signed letter from neighbors Elwood and Barbara Wines in August 2019, Supervisor Cullers wants to authenticate that Mr. Wines actually signed and understood the document, which says he and his wife understand that the Conley’s cottage is less than the Warren County-required minimum distance of 100 feet, but that they don’t object to the conditional use permit.

“I don’t want to drag this out,” Cullers said, “but I want to be comfortable with it.”

The golf course management agreement and lease public hearing are in this first Royal Examiner video. The second video is the complete Board of Supervisors meeting of February 18, 2020.

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Local Government

Warren County budget process continues with requests from County Departments and Constitutional Officers: Airport, Sanitary Districts



The Warren County Board of Supervisors held their second budget work session regarding the FY 2020-2021 budget on Tuesday, February 11, 2020. In this meeting, the Board of Supervisors heard from County Departments and Constitutional Offices. All members of the Board of Supervisors were present for this second meeting. County Administrator Doug Stanley and Assistant County Administrator Bob Childress also attended this second meeting.

In part 6, Stanley gave a brief overview before the first request from Northwest Community Services presented their budget request, followed by the Warren County Sheriff’s Office.

In part 7, the Building Inspections/Permits, the 26th District Circuit Court and the Commissioner of the Revenue presented their budget requests to the Board of Supervisors.

Ralph Rinaldi discusses the budget request from the Shenandoah Farms Sanitary District with the Board of Directors. Photo and video by Mark Williams, Royal Examiner.

In part 8, the Voter Registrar, County Treasurer, and Parks and Recreation presented their budget requests to the Board of Supervisors.

In part 9, the Clerk of the Court, Commonwealth’s Attorney and the Virginia Cooperative Extension presented their budget requests to the Board of Supervisors.

In part 10, Social Services and Fire and Rescue presented their budget requests to the Board of Supervisors.

In part 11, County Administration, General Services and the Planning Department presented their budget requests to the Board of Supervisors.

In part 12 we wrap up the second budget meeting with budget requests from Airport Services and the Sanitary Districts. This part is a long one – nearly two hours. It ends with some comments from Doug Stanley.

Watch the budget process on this exclusive Royal Examiner video.

Front Royal-Warren County Airport

The Front Royal-Warren County Airport (FRR) is nestled in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley on 90 acres where the Shenandoah River curves gracefully by the Blue Ridge and Massanutten Mountains. The Airport is located three miles southwest of Front Royal and fifteen miles south of Winchester. The facility is the home to Cass Aviation, the Randolph-Macon Academy Flight Training Program, the Skyline Soaring Glider Club, and Front Royal Aero Services.

The Airport’s location is just outside the Washington ADIZ which makes it attractive for low-stress flying. FRR has a 3,000-foot by 75-foot runway and offers 100LL aviation fuel. The airport has undergone an extensive improvement plan that includes a new terminal and ramp, resurfaced runway, a ten bay T-hanger, and a 16 bay jet pod unit in 2003. In addition, the Airport is part of the regional general aviation system serving the entire Eastern and Middle Atlantic United States and offers less than a one hour flying time to Baltimore, Maryland; Charlotte, North Carolina; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and New York, New York.

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Upcoming Events

4:30 pm Novel Ideas @ Samuels Public Library
Novel Ideas @ Samuels Public Library
Feb 25 @ 4:30 pm – 5:30 pm
Novel Ideas @ Samuels Public Library
Children will explore popular books and book series through S.T.E.M. activities, games, food, and more! Tuesday, February 25 – Children will explore popular books and book series through S.T.E.M. activities, games, food, and more! After[...]
10:15 am Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Feb 26 @ 10:15 am – 12:00 pm
Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
10:15 Toddler story time | 11:00 Preschool story time Wednesday, February 19 and Thursday, February 20: Come in for some great stories, songs, and a craft about our feathered friends, Birds!  Siblings welcome. Wednesday, February[...]
10:00 am Day of Giving @ Samuels Public Library
Day of Giving @ Samuels Public Library
Feb 27 @ 10:00 am – 8:00 pm
Day of Giving @ Samuels Public Library
In conjunction with “Love Your Library Month,” Samuels Public Library will hold its first “Day of Giving” on Thursday, February 27, 2020. Thanks to an anonymous donor, all donations made in-person at the Library or[...]
10:15 am Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Feb 27 @ 10:15 am – 12:00 pm
Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
10:15 Toddler story time | 11:00 Preschool story time Wednesday, February 19 and Thursday, February 20: Come in for some great stories, songs, and a craft about our feathered friends, Birds!  Siblings welcome. Wednesday, February[...]
7:00 pm Love Revival – FREE Monthly Comm... @ Love Revival Ministry Center
Love Revival – FREE Monthly Comm... @ Love Revival Ministry Center
Feb 28 @ 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Love Revival - FREE Monthly Community Dinner @ Love Revival Ministry Center
Free Community Dinner for everyone! Come enjoy a hot meal on the last Friday of every month at Love Revival Ministry Center.
10:00 am Loom Knit a Kitten @ Strokes of Creativity
Loom Knit a Kitten @ Strokes of Creativity
Feb 29 @ 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Loom Knit a Kitten @ Strokes of Creativity
Loom Knit an adorable kitten. In this beginner’s class for teens and adults, you will work on a 24 peg loom to knit a small stuffed toy. *Instruction will be right handed. No prior knitting[...]
11:00 am Kooky Chefs Cook It Up: Soups @ Samuels Public Library
Kooky Chefs Cook It Up: Soups @ Samuels Public Library
Feb 29 @ 11:00 am – 1:00 pm
Kooky Chefs Cook It Up: Soups @ Samuels Public Library
Nothing is more comforting than warm soup on a chilly day! Learn how to make some yummy soup, and do some taste-testing to choose your favorite. For ages 8 and up. Registration begins January 29.
11:00 am Trauma & Resiliency Training for... @ Samuels Public Library
Trauma & Resiliency Training for... @ Samuels Public Library
Feb 29 @ 11:00 am – 12:30 pm
Trauma & Resiliency Training for Early Childhood Providers @ Samuels Public Library
Statistics show us that one in four children will experience trauma by the age of four. This trauma could be abuse, hunger, homelessness, witnessing violence, medical trauma, or grief. We know that a child’s greatest[...]
1:00 pm Bingo Fundraiser @ Elks Lodge
Bingo Fundraiser @ Elks Lodge
Feb 29 @ 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Bingo Fundraiser @ Elks Lodge
2:00 pm Speed Dating with Books @ Samuels Public Library
Speed Dating with Books @ Samuels Public Library
Feb 29 @ 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Speed Dating with Books @ Samuels Public Library
Do appearances, of people or books, influence you?  How much time does it take for you to decide that you are/are not interested? What criteria determines interest? Come spend time in a “speed dating” atmosphere,[...]