Soil and rock testing will require a series of overnight lane and shoulder closures at the interchange of Interstate 81 and Route 50/17/522 (Millwood Pike) at exit 313 in Frederick County near Winchester. Traffic restrictions will be in place Sunday through Thursday nights from October 13-17 and October 20-24. Details are as follows:
Sunday to Thursday, October 13-17 from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.:
• The right lane of northbound I-81 will be closed from mile marker 313 to 314.
• Alternating lane closures will be in place on Route 50/17/522 in the area of the I-81 interchange.
• All on- and off-ramp ramps between I-81 and Route 50/17/522 will remain open throughout this time period but will have occasional shoulder closures as needed.
Sunday to Thursday, October 20-24 from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.:
• The left lane of northbound I-81 will be closed from mile marker 313 to 314.
All work is weather permitting.
Virginia traffic alerts and traveler information can be obtained by dialing 511. Traffic alerts and traveler information also are available at http://www.511Virginia.org.
Important updates from Congressman Ben Cline
Our Nation is facing a historic crisis. In the last month, COVID-19 has infected over 85,000 Americans, more than any other nation on Earth. Over 1200 of our fellow Americans have perished, and we are making every effort to stop the virus from taking from us thousands more of our neighbors, our friends, and our family members. The first Virginian was infected only three weeks ago, and since then we have seen life as we know it across our Commonwealth come to a screeching halt.
The crisis created by this virus is twofold. It is first and foremost a health crisis, made worse by the stealth with which the virus spreads. Often those infected feel no symptoms and unsuspectingly pass the virus on to weaker and more vulnerable targets. And it takes advantage of the very characteristics that make us a great Nation, preying on our love of freedom, our love of social interaction, and our love of community. As the government has sought to eliminate the virus, it has urged practices that contradict many of these characteristics that make America great. Who would’ve thought that in America we would be advised not to gather in groups, eat out at a restaurant, or attend a graduation program, music concert, or church service?
The second crisis created by COVID-19 is economic, and the combination of the virus itself and the actions taken to fight the virus has brought our economy to its knees. As lock-downs are announced and bans on gatherings of more than 10 people enforced, the impact of our economy has been pronounced. The stock market has lost a third of its value, main streets across America are empty, and sporting events and other celebrations have been canceled. Just this week, it was announced that over 3 million people filed for unemployment last week, shattering the old record of 665,000 in March 2009. We cannot lose sight of the need to beat the virus on both the health front and the economic front.
Fortunately, Congress acted this week to address both the health crisis and the economic crisis surrounding COVID-19 bypassing the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which provides resources to hospitals and health care workers while supporting American workers and small businesses through this challenging time. While I did not agree with all of the provisions, I was pleased that the Senate rejected Speaker Pelosi’s progressive wish list and was proud to vote in favor of this legislation. It provides much-needed assistance to Sixth District residents and businesses and gives our hospitals and health care providers the best fighting chance to contain COVID-19 and rid it from our Nation.
On Tuesday, I hosted a special telephone town hall focusing on the coronavirus. I was joined by Dr. Laura Kornegay, Health Director of Central Shenandoah Health District, and Delegate Chris Head, who sits on the Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee in the Virginia General Assembly. To listen to the audio recording, please click here.
In the Commonwealth of Virginia, Governor Northam has issued an executive order to reduce the spread of COVID-19. He has discouraged all gatherings of more than 10 people statewide. This does not include gatherings for purposes of providing healthcare or medical services, access to essential services for low-income Virginians, law enforcement operations, or government operations.
Recreation and Entertainment Businesses:
As of March 24, the following business is considered non-essential and must close to the public:
• Theaters, performing arts centers, concert venues, museums, and other indoor entertainment centers;
• Fitness centers, gymnasiums, recreation centers, indoor sports facilities, indoor exercise facilities;
• Beauty salons, barbershops, spas, massage parlors, tanning salons, tattoo shops, and any other location where personal care or personal grooming services are performed that would not allow compliance with social distancing guidelines to remain six feet apart;
• Racetracks and historic horse racing facilities;
• Bowling alleys, skating rinks, arcades, amusement parks, trampoline parks, fairs, arts and craft facilities, aquariums, zoos, escape rooms, indoor shooting ranges, public and private social clubs, and all other places of indoor public amusement.
Restaurants & Bars:
The following establishments must be closed to the public but may continue to offer delivery and/or takeout services:
• Dining establishments;
• Food courts;
• Farmers markets;
• Wineries; and
• Tasting rooms.
The Governor has issued specific guidance for retail businesses. The following retail businesses are considered essential and may remain open during normal business hours:
• Grocery stores, pharmacies, and other retailers that sell food and beverage products or pharmacy products, including dollar stores, and department stores with grocery or pharmacy operations;
• Medical, laboratory, and vision supply retailers;
• Electronic retailers that sell or service cell phones, computers, tablets, and other communications technology;
• Automotive parts, accessories, and tire retailers as well as automotive repair facilities;
• Home improvement, hardware, building material, and building supply retailers;
• Lawn and garden equipment retailers;
• Beer, wine, and liquor stores;
• Retail functions of gas stations and convenience stores;
• Retail located within healthcare facilities;
• Banks and other financial institutions with retail functions;
• Pet stores and feed stores;
• Printing and office supply stores; and
• Laundromats and dry cleaners.
All essential retail establishments must, to the extent possible, adhere to social distancing recommendations, enhanced sanitizing practices on common surfaces, and other appropriate workplace guidance from state and federal authorities.
The Governor has also closed all public schools through the end of the academic year. The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) will issue guidance to help divisions execute plans to continue instruction, while ensuring students are served equitably, regardless of income level, access to technology, English learner status, or special needs. This includes options for additional instruction through summer programming, integrating instruction into coursework next year, and allowing students to make up the content. VDOE will submit a waiver to the federal government to lift end-of-year testing requirements and is exploring options to waive state-mandated tests.
Students who are in need of meals can still access them. To learn more about meals, text “FOOD” or “COMIDA” to 877877.
Guidance for Small Business Owners:
Small business owners who are struggling amidst this crisis should look into the Small Business Administration Loan Program. Applicants may apply online, receive additional disaster assistance information and download applications at sba.gov. Applicants may also call SBA’s Customer Service Center at (800) 659-2955 or email email@example.com for more information on SBA disaster assistance. Individuals who are deaf or hard-of-hearing may call (800) 877-8339. Completed applications should be mailed to U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX 76155.
At cline.house.gov, you can access further information about the coronavirus pandemic, including administrative, congressional, and state action that has been taken to curb the spread of the virus, resources for businesses, and information from the CDC on how to keep you and your families healthy. While Congress works on legislation and the CDC works toward vaccines and cures, there are several steps you can take to protect yourself and others from infection:
• Practice social distancing, and avoid close contact with other people.
• Stay home if you are sick.
• Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
As U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said, “Caution is appropriate, preparedness is appropriate, panic is not.” Rest assured, I will continue to keep you informed, monitor the situation in Virginia and around the country, and work with my colleagues to ensure the full, coordinated force of the federal government is behind our efforts to stop the spread of this disease.
If you experience symptoms or have been exposed to someone recently diagnosed with COVID-19, contact your doctor immediately to determine if you need screening.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Resources:
Follow @CDCgov on Twitter
Resources for Business:
EDA passes series of motions following 3-hour, virtual closed session
One day after the Warren County-Front Royal COVID-19 Coronavirus Emergency Management team held its first briefing available to the public live only by remote video link-up, the Town-County Economic Development Authority followed suit at its monthly meeting of Friday, March 27.
However, the EDA took additional steps on the pandemic response social distancing frontier and the enabling of live remote participation and viewing. Only EDA Executive Director Doug Parsons and Administrative Assistant Gretchen Henderson were at the EDA Kendrick Lane office where board meetings are normally held. The six EDA Board of Directors members, as well as media, public and county board representatives were all linked in remotely by home or office audio-video computer hook up.
Or as the meeting notice colorfully stated, “Due to the state and local state of emergency declarations, this meeting will be conducted virtually, as will all EDA board meetings until further notice during the emergency. The EDA sincerely welcomes public access to this unprecedented event. The EDA will be using the web conferencing platform Zoom”.
Access was also available by telephone link-up.
A tally of those connected virtually included two members of the public (Linda Allen, James Wolfe), one county board member (Oates), two media (Royal Examiner, NVD), three attorneys (Pandak, Seltzer, Seigel), the six EDA board members and two EDA staff – may be only a couple supervisors short of normal 8 a.m. in-house attendance.
After virtual meeting moderator and EDA Board Vice-Chairman Jeff Browne helped participants through their connections, the board adjourned to closed session to discuss four primary topics:
1 – legal advice on the “disposition of … 2 East Main Street/Afton Inn”;
2 – a prospective business or industry client at the 426 Baugh Drive warehouse;
3 – legal consultation on the Town of Front Royal’s civil litigation against the EDA and the EDA’s civil litigation against its former Executive Director Jennifer McDonald et al; and
4 – auditor contracts with Yount, Hyde & Barbour P.C. and RFO auditor services regarding small business loan debt collection.
As noted above, three attorneys were involved in the meeting’s virtual hook up, the EDA’s contracted attorney Sharon Pandak and Sands Anderson attorneys Cullen Seltzer and Dan Siegel, the latter two who have been involved from the March 26, 2019 filing in the EDA’s now $21.3 million civil actions against McDonald and 14 co-defendants alleging embezzlement, fraud, and misdirection of EDA assets. Hired as independent EDA counsel in the wake of Dan Whitten’s resignation as County and EDA attorney, Pandak has been the EDA’s legal adviser in response to the Town’s now-amended $20-million-plus litigation against the EDA.
With that full plate of closed session business, the estimate of an hour behind virtual closed doors coming shortly after 8 a.m. fell about two hours short.
And while there were no announcements or motions regarding the two civil litigations or the now apparently disputed by the Town of Front Royal status of Afton Inn ownership, a series of resolutions and motions were approved by 6-0 votes prior to the meeting’s 11:10 a.m. adjournment.
However, as to the status of the Afton Inn, in the written monthly Asset Committee Report it is noted that “There is no public report on the Afton Inn status other than the Town of Front Royal has listed the Inn in their revised complaint in the Town of Front Royal vs. FR-WC EDA. This simply provides a new dynamic that we have to deal with in our continuing efforts to re-position this property. We continue to discuss the dynamics of this with 2 East Main (LLC, the proposed redeveloper of the property under contract with the EDA as current owner).”
As for the series of approved motions and resolutions, they included:
1 – a resolution to return the $5,000 deposit of William Huck after the failure to close a contract with the EDA on the old Stokes Mart building at 506 East Main Street;
2 – a resolution to approve a contract on a backup offer to sell the 506 East Main building to an alternate buyer at a price of $190,000;
3 – a resolution to amend EDA bylaws to facilitate the electronic meetings during the COVID-19 Coronavirus state of emergency declarations;
4 – an amendment extending the deadline on the removal of the solar panels from the EDA Kendrick Lane Office Complex from the original April 30 date. The new deadline will be 30 days after the Governor of Virginia lifts the COVID-19 state of Emergency.
That contract with Sunshine Properties LLC will pay the EDA $40,500 for the two-building solar panel array originally installed during McDonald’s executive directorship in an arrangement with Earth Right Energy. McDonald, ERE and ERE principal Donnie Poe were all named as defendants in the EDA’s March 2019 civil litigation. Consequently, the plan for the provision of solar power to the EDA office complex went south with the filing of that litigation and other technical complications;
5 – a motion authorizing the reacquisition of the 3.5-acre Royal Lane parcel from the Cornerstone LLC branch of the Aikens Group at cost of $26,776.54. The difference in the EDA’s sale price of ten dollars to Cornerstone LLC reflects pre-construction work and planning services done by the Aikens Group for work it will not now be able to achieve after resolving the situation on the somewhat inexplicable late November 2018 EDA transfer of a property it paid $440,000 for. That price was agreed upon by the McDonald-led EDA board Chaired by Patty Wines after an initial $10 gift by McDonald’s relatives was negated by a missed tax rebate deadline.
Serving as EDA attorney on that sale in the wake of then EDA-attorney Dan Whitten’s recusal, Joe Silek Jr. said the deed of sale was sent to Cornerstone attorneys without a price on it. Then EDA Board Chairman Gray Blanton, who signed the deed of sale, said he only saw the signature page. At the time the sale situation became public in early 2019, the Winchester-based Cornerstone attorneys’ group never responded to three messages left seeking information on how the $10 purchase price was established.
While the Royal Lane parcel was intended for the development of a workforce housing apartment complex under EDA direction, Parsons told Royal Examiner after the Friday’s meeting adjournment that the EDA will likely seek to sell the parcel to the private sector for residential development, which as he has previously noted, is not a normal undertaking for EDA’s.
6 – a motion to amend the loan agreement with First Bank on a $3.59 million note covering several older projects to illustrate the County’s support of the EDA on the issue as it grapples with the aftermath of the financial scandal the above-referenced civil litigations revolve around;
7 – a motion on a monthly payment agreement on a rural business enterprise loan with Ontiveros;
And 8 – Due to the governor’s COVID-19 emergency declaration closing “non-essential” businesses, the EDA will offer rent/loan payment forbearance “to all clients in good standing”. The plan is to temporarily waive April payments and then offer quarter payments on a monthly basis until there is some resolution to the emergency declaration allowing businesses to reopen.
And so it goes on the Front Royal, Warren County Economic Development front as the retooled EDA Board of Directors, staff and County officials try to navigate the turbulent waters, increasingly stirred to a boiling point by the Town of Front Royal’s hostile litigious stance, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic emergency declarations wreaking havoc with small businesses across the town, county, commonwealth, and nation.
Governor Northam COVID-19 update briefing – March 27, 2020
Valley Health establishes local community call line
Valley Health has established a community call line for patients with respiratory symptoms and possible COVID-19 symptoms; anyone can call this line. However, the intended purpose is to provide our citizens who do not have a Primary Care Physician a non-emergency number to call for respiratory/COVID-19 related assistance. The number is (540) 536-0380; operational hours are 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM, Monday through Saturday.
If you have a Primary Care Physician, please contact them first if you are sick or think you may have respiratory or COVID-19 related symptoms. As always, if you are experiencing a true medical emergency, call 911 or report to the closest hospital’s emergency room for emergent treatment.
This is a rapidly changing situation, and the most current information is available on the following websites: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus or www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus/. Please consult www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus for the latest number of COVID-19 cases in Virginia.
Virginia U.S. Attorneys issue statement on Virginia recommendations regarding medical prescriptions during COVID-19 pandemic
On Wednesday, March 25, 2020, Virginia Health Commissioner Dr. Norman Oliver, in response to a surge in demand of potential treatments for COVID-19 for drugs commonly used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, HIV, lupus, malaria, and bacterial infections, reminded physicians and pharmacists that these life-sustaining medications should only be dispensed under specified limited circumstances based on legitimate medical need. Dr. Oliver also warned against improper dispensing and potential hoarding of these medications.
On March 27, 2020, U.S. Attorneys Thomas Cullen and Zach Terwilliger issued a statement confirming that federal prosecutors are aware of Dr. Oliver’s warnings regarding this increased demand and potentially improper behavior by physicians and other health-care providers who may be improperly prescribing these drugs to themselves, their families, and others without a legitimate medical purpose. The U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Eastern and Western Districts of Virginia, as part of their joint COVID-19 Fraud Task Force, will be closely monitoring this disturbing trend and are prepared to investigate potential violations of federal and state law committed by any individuals or entities, including physicians, dentists, and other healthcare providers, related to these prescription drugs.
“At a time when many doctors, nurses, and first responders are risking their health and personal safety to treat those affected by the coronavirus, it is incredibly disturbing that a selfish minority in that field may be undermining these valiant efforts by prescribing outside legitimate medical practice,” said U.S. Attorney Cullen. “We will work closely with our federal, state, and local partners to identify unscrupulous physicians and other health-care providers who are putting their own well-being ahead of those with a true medical need and hold them accountable under the law.”
“Our office is committed to protecting the public at this critical time, including Virginians who rely on life-sustaining prescription drugs,” said U.S. Attorney Terwilliger. “We will act swiftly in coordination with our law enforcement partners to safeguard these critical medications for those who need them against healthcare providers who improperly dispense them.”
If you believe you have been a victim of fraud, or need more information about COVID-19, please visit: https://www.justice.gov/usao-wdva/covid-19-fraud
For more information from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, please visit: https://www.justice.gov/usao-edva
To report fraud directly to the FBI, please visit their website at https://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx
VDOT: Warren County Traffic alert for March 30 – April 3, 2020
The following is a list of highway work that may affect traffic in Warren County during the coming weeks. Scheduled work is subject to change due to inclement weather and material supplies. Motorists are advised to watch for slow-moving tractors during mowing operations. When traveling through a work zone, be alert to periodic changes in traffic patterns and lane closures.
*NEW* or *UPDATE* indicates a new entry or a revised entry since last week’s report.
*NEW* Mile marker 0 to 13, eastbound and westbound – Right shoulder closures for sign installation. Monday to Thursday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Mile marker 0 to 15, eastbound – Right shoulder closures for shoulder work. Tuesday to Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
No lane closures reported.
Route 340 (Winchester Road) – Alternating lane closures between the Clarke county line and Route 661 (Fairground Road) for vegetation management. Sunday to Thursday nights from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Route 613 (Bentonville Road) – Northbound right shoulder closures for utility work at various locations between Route 340 (Stonewall Jackson Highway) and Route 738 (Jennings Lane), 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. through March 31.
*NEW* Route 659 (Hardesty Road) – Stop-and-proceed traffic pattern just east of Route 603 (Howellsville Road) for pipe replacement, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. through April 24. Vehicles limited to 9 feet in width.
Various roads – Flagger traffic control for utility tree trimming. Monday through Friday during daylight hours.
Vegetation management may take place district wide on various routes. Motorists are reminded to use extreme caution when traveling through work zones.
Traffic alerts and traveler information can be obtained by dialing 511. Traffic alerts and traveler information also are available at http://www.511Virginia.org.
The VDOT Customer Service Center can assist with reporting road hazards, asking transportation questions, or getting information related to Virginia’s roads. Call 800-FOR- ROAD (800-367-7623) or use its mobile-friendly website at https://my.vdot.virginia.gov/. Agents are available 24 hours-a-day, seven days a week.