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Local attorney Stephen Jerome seeking Clerk of the Circuit Court of Warren County seat

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Stephen Jerome

Stephen Jerome recently announced that he is seeking the Republican nomination for the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Warren County. Mr. Jerome is an attorney in Front Royal with the firm Lawson and Silek, PLC, where he has worked for over fifteen years. His main practice area is wills, trusts and estates. He also assists clients with various business and personal transactions, probate, trust and estate administration and civil litigation.

When asked about seeking public office,  Jerome replied, “I look forward to bringing my experience and skills from private practice to my work as the Circuit Court Clerk. My experience as an attorney probating estates, preparing and filing deeds, and litigating cases before the Circuit Court while using the services of the clerk’s office has uniquely prepared me to serve both the public and the Circuit Court judges and staff as the next clerk.”

In addition to his private practice, Jerome is involved in community and civic activities, including: HEART Networking, Knights of Columbus Council #7771, the Warren County Bar Association, the National Rifle Association and the Virginia Citizens Defense League, Inc. He also serves on the board of the United Way of Front Royal, the Northern Virginia 4-H Center’s Board and the Advisory Board to the Warren County Department of Social Services.

Jerome said the clerk’s office would be a new opportunity to further serve the community and to continue the improvements made by previous clerks. He said he is enthused and proud to be in the running to publicly serve his Warren County neighbors.

The candidate said the quality of life, common sense values and the culture of the Shenandoah Valley drew him and wife, Kristen to Warren County to live and to raise their seven children.  The Jeromes are parishioners of St. John the Baptist Church; they have lived in Front Royal for over seventeen years.

For more information please call 540-724-1766 or send an email to elect@jeromeforclerk.com

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SamiCon 2019

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SamiCon 2019. First Place winner was Kelly Clark, left. Susan, Connor and Mason Clark. Mason won 2nd place in the 12 and under group.

Samuels Public Library’s own mini Comic-Con celebrates reading and technology literacy at the library, in our community, and beyond through comics, graphic novels, manga, anime, gaming, and computer technology. This is the culminating event of Library Card Sign-up month.

This year’s theme was Lord of the Rings! Cosplayers, programs gaming, crafts, maker space, scavenger hunt, inside vendor fair, local talent, costume contest – there was something for everybody.

The Royal Examiner was there too. Watch as we traveled around the Library and spoke to vendors, cosplayers and don’t miss the costume contest at the end. Congratulations to Kelly Clark for First Place in the costume contest.

The community came out and supported this event. To name a few:

Conquest Technologies
Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum
Boy Scout Troop 53
Samuels Library S.T.E.M.
C & C Frozen Treats
Mama Lucie’s Kitchen
Batman & Friends
501st Legion
Front Royal Joker & Harley Quinn
Ghostbusters Tri-State
Rebel Legion
Allied Communications
Alvasari Wargaming
BattleGrounds Fitness / Crossfit Front Royal
cloutriGS
Communty Table
Connie’s Creations
Digital Bookmobile by OverDrive
Empathy Studios
Escape211
Front Royal / Warren County Tree Stewards
Historical Miniature Gaming Society
Infotech
The Kiln Doctor
Northern Virginia Academy of Ballet
Pagemaster Books
Ravyn Raver
River & Peak Outfitter
Simply Stitched Crochet
Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
Steven Reinagel, Author & Game Designer
Stoneworks
Strokes of Creativity
Warren County Fire & Rescue
Wild World Designs

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EDA in Focus

EDA Reform Committee receives audit update; reviews properties

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Fork District Supervisor and EDA Reform Committee Chairman Archie Fox mulls the Sept. 12 committee agenda while Town Council Clerk Jennifer Berry preps for the start of the meeting. Photo by Kim Riley. Video by Mark Williams, Royal Examiner.

FRONT ROYAL — The Reform Committee of the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority (EDA) learned during its September 12 meeting that the Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 audit of the authority’s financials — which currently are at the center of a major fraud and embezzlement scandal — should be ready by year’s end.

EDA Executive Director Doug Parsons told committee members that in-house accountants are finished reviewing the proposed adjusted journal entries on the asset side of the balance sheet done by investigative public accounting firm Cherry Bekaert, and now are working to finish the adjusted entries for debt on the capital side of the balance sheet.

“It’s going to be their best effort to represent what has happened,” Parsons said. “We are hopeful by September 27 that they’ll have everything ready to go … for the audit,” which will be completed by the EDA’s auditing firm, Yount Hyde and Barbour (YHB).

The EDA Board of Directors first will need to sign off on what gets submitted by the accountants to YHB, which will conduct the audit and inform the EDA about its current financial standing.
Fork District Supervisor and EDA Reform Committee Chairman Archie Fox asked whether, at the end of the audit, the members would know if the EDA was solvent. “Is that a fair question?” he asked.

“We have cash,” answered EDA Board Chairman Ed Daley, “but we’re like the federal government. If somebody called the federal government and said, ‘We want you to pay all of your bills today,’ the federal government’s in trouble; they can’t do it. We’re in that type of a position where what we owe, our liabilities, exceed our assets, but we have cash.”

In fact, according to Parsons, the EDA is $41.9 million in debt with roughly $1.8 million in the bank.

Front Royal Town Councilman Jacob Meza, another reform committee member, asked what the plan is for getting the EDA back to a normal operating level.

Parsons said EDA properties will be sold in order to recover as much taxpayer money as possible, and funds should be recouped through lawsuits. He said most of the EDA’s debt is covered.

“The First Bank and Trust IT Federal Loan, for example, is covered by Mr. Tran’s payment. From cash flow we’re covered on that loan and that’s big; that’s a pretty good-sized loan and that’s a huge payment. Thank goodness he’s making his payments faithfully,” said Parsons.

Going forward, Daley said that one of the future conversations to be had by the EDA Reform Committee must regard the role the EDA should play in the acquisition of properties “and how speculative, if you will, we should be.”

He suggested that the EDA, Town Council and Warren County Board of Supervisors come up with a recommendation around that idea.

During his updates, Parsons also provided committee members the status of several EDA properties, including 404 Fairground Road.

“We’ve been marketing that property and we have a fully signed and executed letter of intent to sell that property and we’re working with the client on a sales contract,” Parsons said, adding that the buyer wishes to remain anonymous until the contract and subsequent sale are finalized.

A potential buyer also exists for the EDA’s warehouse at 426 Baugh Drive, where Parsons said, “We have a very interested party that we are in negotiations with at this time.”

It’s an entirely different situation for the EDA’s properties at 506 and 514 E. Main Street, which are the old Stokes Mart and nearby apartment building, which remain on the market.

“We thought we had a buyer, but they backed out,” said Parsons. “We will continue to market those two properties.”

Meza asked if there’s a strategy that the EDA has adopted to select certain properties for sale and for what reasons.

“If I had a magic wand,” Parsons said, “the ones I’d want to sell first and foremost would be Stokes Mart and the apartment building, which the EDA has no business owning, in my opinion.”

And while 404 Fairground Road is a fine property, Parsons explained it also isn’t in the realm “of what EDA should be owning and marketing in an effort to create new jobs and bring in a new tax base.”

Comparatively, Parsons said that the EDA’s 426 Baugh Drive is “exactly the kind of property the EDA should own and I’m glad that we do; of course the idea there is to bring in a major employer to make a significant contribution to the tax base so we’re actively marketing that property. We have the ability to be a little discerning about who we sell it to and make sure we get the most bang for our buck.”

Daley added that it’s very important to the EDA Board that the Baugh Drive property is bought for its intended use, which should be “some type that’s going to develop jobs and the tax base.”

Meza said it seems that the EDA has put its properties into two categories — to get rid of the ones that it shouldn’t hold on to and to identify the most strategic properties to market to companies. He also asked if there’s another category, like one that’s designed to maintain EDA solvency by just selling off properties and keeping the monies.

While that is part of the overall strategy, Parsons said “it’s not a desperate fire sale for all of the properties.” Instead, there’s a “sliding scale” of priorities or more of a willingness to be more discerning about who buys the properties. “You can only sell them once,” he said.

Other EDA Reform Committee members present Thursday were Town Attorney Doug Napier, County and EDA Attorney Dan Whitten, County Administrator Doug Stanley and Council Clerk Jennifer Berry.

Watch the Royal Examiner video to hear the discussion between Whitten and Meza about whether the EDA can be dissolved or file for bankruptcy. Hint: Bankruptcy for such an authority as the EDA isn’t legally permitted, according to Whitten.

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EDA in Focus

Exploring Warren County’s EDA financial scandal – How did it happen?

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The Warren County Courthouse continues to be ground zero for legal consequences of the EDA financial fraud investigation. Royal Examiner File Photos/Roger Bianchini

As the final weeks of the summer of 2019 arrive in the northwestern Shenandoah Valley, one small-town, rural community remains conflicted, perhaps even collectively traumatized by a financial scandal that has carried the names Front Royal and Warren County across Virginia and occasionally beyond into major media markets across the country.

In September, less than six months after civil litigation was filed seeking recovery of millions of dollars of allegedly misdirected economic development assets there have been:
– forty-one criminal indictments served against five defendants related to alleged financial fraud within the local Economic Development Authority;

– four surviving EDA civil defendants and their companies have been sued for the return of up to $21 million dollars of those economic development assets;
– a long-time, generally well-thought-of sheriff is dead, possibly on the eve of himself being criminally indicted after being named one of the EDA civil suit defendants;
– the Town of Front Royal has filed a civil suit against the EDA and its former executive director that has climbed from an initial $3 million figure to as much as $15 million;
– a Special Grand Jury looking into potential criminality surrounding all of this has asked for a six-month extension to March 31, 2020, to continue its work begun in early April.

We must remember that everyone who has been charged civilly and/or criminally will have their day in court with an opportunity to give their side of the story and claim misunderstanding or innocence. But human nature being what it is, fingers have been pointed – sometimes rationally, sometimes not – and an ongoing, collective query remains on the lips of a community – whoever and however, how and why did it happen?

“We’re here tonight because there was a catastrophic failure that allowed criminal embezzlement and rampant mismanagement to flourish,” recently-elected EDA Board of Directors Vice-Chairman Jeff Browne said on behalf of the EDA to open the August 27 joint meeting of County, Town and EDA boards and staffs.

That is the short answer.

“None of us ever want to see that happen again. The failures can be grouped into two categories … failed procedures and failed oversight,” Browne added of the outline for a path forward.

EDA Vice Chairman Jeff Browne, at far right end of the not-quite-round-table meeting of County, Town and EDA officials on Aug. 27 – Browne’s opening statement outlined the primary institutional failures that facilitated what has developed into a multi-million dollar municipal and economic development scandal.

What led to those catastrophic failures of people and processes will take a bit longer to unravel.

While ultimate legal responsibility will be the province of the civil and criminal court systems, likely even at the federal level on the criminal side, there can be little doubt that large amounts of money designated for public use related to economic development in Front Royal and Warren County were moved haphazardly with little, if any consideration to due diligence. LINK-Criminal and non-criminal dereliction of public duty: Where might they apply in the EDA financial scandal?

One can only wonder where the pertinent question that might have prevented it all was from a total of 19 elected and appointed board members from the Town, County and EDA over the past five-plus years. It wasn’t a difficult question – “Is what I’ve been told to justify a large investment of public funding, let’s say $10 million, verifiably true?”

Oh, that’s right – that question WAS asked three years ago.

In October 2016 Bébhinn Egger, far right, confronted EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald about claims being made about the business model of ITFederal and its contract base, as well as the apparent presence of an EB-5 Visa funding stream to ITFederal. McDonald was sparse on detail in response to those questions. However, Egger’s colleagues seemed uninterested in answers.

However when first posed in mid-2016 by a lone municipal voice, Town Councilwoman Bébhinn Egger, as well as the Royal Examiner news staff, it was initially ignored and/or vilified by every other involved public official.

The vilification was that “negative press” was threatening the successful conduct of EDA business, particularly ITFederal business. It is a business now asserted in court filings as having fraudulently received the largest single chunk, $10 million, of EDA assets being sought for recovery in the EDA civil litigation.

But three years ago then Councilman Bret Hrbek, a recent if unsuccessful applicant for a seat on the EDA board of directors, seemed to speak for a distinct town council majority of five and the mayor when he suggested that the question about the truth of what was being presented to this community about ITFederal was counterproductive.

Why?

Because that “negative press” being generated by Bébhinn Egger and Royal Examiner about the ability of Truc “Curt” Tran and his ITFederal LLC to live up to the promised $40 million investment creating 600 high-paying tech industry jobs in this community had led the ITFed CEO to consider taking his ball and going home – or rather to take his LLC trumpeted as the first commercial redevelopment client at the Avtex Brownfield site, and go elsewhere.

Councilman warns ITFederal CEO may bail over questions

But would that have been such a tragedy – particularly before the Town offered its initial one-month, twice-extended $10-million “bridge loan” that enabled the EDA to finalize its $10-million
loan to ITFederal through First Bank & Trust?

From left, Bret Hrbek, Gene Tewalt and Bébhinn Egger at late November 2016 council meeting; Hrbek was the harshest council critic of Egger’s or media questions about the ITFederal project, warning at that meeting that those questions might cost the town and community the ITFederal project.

According to documentation in the Cherry Bekaert EDA financial fraud investigation, Tran listed ITFederal assets of $2,020,000 as collateral for the $10-million bank loan facilitated through the EDA. But $2,000,000 of that amount was the value of the 30-acre property at the Avtex site/Royal Phoenix Business Park which the EDA “gifted” behind closed doors to Tran for $1 – yes, one dollar American – after public discussion of a $2-million dollar sale price.

Red Flag?

Royal Examiner thought so in its first month of existence when it broke the news of that one-dollar, 30-acre gift to ITFederal leading to a year’s delay in approving the transaction by federal oversight authorities.

Feds OK ‘Dollar Special’ on first Avtex property sale

As noted in the linked October 27, 2016, Royal Examiner story, approval from the U.S. Justice Department to remove the ITFederal parcel from a bankruptcy court-ordered $2.06 million lien on the Royal Phoenix/Avtex property came on September 23, 2016. That was just over a year after the request to allow the one-dollar sale was sent out by then EDA/County Attorney Blair Mitchell on September 18, 2015. The stated rationale was that facilitating the ITFederal project with a give-away of land valued at $67,000 an acre would jump start other full-price purchases at the site.

“This 30 acres has been sold for $1.00 in order to get a developer to come in and begin the process of other buyers,” Mitchell wrote, adding, “The EDA already has a buyer for a 3-acre parcel to sell at $67,000 per acre, so selling this parcel as a way of breaking the ice will pay off in the long run. While the $1 will not be used to pay down the $2,060,000 lien, sales proceeds from future sales will be applied toward the paydown of the secured debt.”

Three years later we see how that plan worked out:
1/ no three-acre sale to CBM Mortgage at Royal Phoenix;
2/ no other land sales at Royal Phoenix;
3/ no $40 million investment or any jobs created by ITFed at the Royal Phoenix site.

Well ITFederal remains on the 30 Royal Phoenix acres gifted to it by the EDA for a dollar, but the $40 million investment and 600 jobs seem to have hit the highway, along with our Sixth District Congressional representative credited with bringing the project here.

In fact per the ongoing sweetheart agreements he was dealt by the EDA, it appears Tran may invest about $2 million to create an unoccupied 10,000 s.f. building at his “get the redevelopment ball rolling” gifted acreage with no further obligations other than that he have a certificate of occupancy issued by the middle of 2020 and continue to make monthly payments for the balance of 30 years on that $10 million bank loan through the EDA.

And the Cherry Bekaert investigation verifies what Royal Examiner and Bébhinn Egger were saying at the time – that there was no evidence the $140-million dollar federal government contract ballyhooed by Tran, his D.C. political sponsor Robert Goodlatte and EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald as the basis for ITFederal’s investment here ever existed.

A ‘Perfect Storm’ of silence raises questions about 1st Avtex client

The Perfect Storm of Silence, Part 2: a cattle ranch, $10-mil & …

How did it happen – not just the ITFederal and Workforce Housing debacles that first attracted this media outlet and Councilwoman Egger’s attention – but all of it, the 16 specific project allegations cited in the Cherry Bekaert working papers report and summary?

Work on Afton Inn redevelopment across the street from Town Hall stopped after the project was cited as a means of embezzling EDA assets in the March 26 EDA civil suit. Town officials have reported the 2 E. Main St. development group unnamed in the financial scandal, as anxious to get the project going again.

Those projects in order of their listing in the Cherry Bekaert summary are: Workforce Housing Project/Royal Lane Property; Afton Inn Property Improvements; Criminal Justice Training Academy; Bargain Land Sale and Issuance of $10,000,000 Loan to ITFederal; Payments to or on Behalf of ITFederal; Payments to Earth Right Energy; New Market Tax Credit Projects; Leach Run Parkway Easements; Wetland Credits; New Hope Bible Church; 999 Shenandoah Shores Road; Payments to (McDonald) Relatives; USDA Intermediary Relending Program; Stokes Mart/B&G Goods; Payments to Known and Suspected (McDonald) Business Partners; USDA Rural Business Enterprise Loans.

How could personal and procedural checks and balances collapse so catastrophically for such a length of time, in so many directions?

“I had no reason not to trust her,”

If Jennifer McDonald’s late January 2018 story to Royal Examiner about a 3-year run of luck at Charles Town’s Hollywood Casino slots didn’t raise alarm bells with EDA and municipal colleagues, it did among those in the community with some background in the gambling industry. Rather than win about $2 million over 3 years by spending a maximum of around $6,000 annually, Virginia State Police say she netted a three quarters of a million dollar loss.

“I had no reason not to trust her,” is a comment offered by more than one EDA or municipal official in explanation of the lack of due diligence performed on project proposals and financing or the purchase and sale of properties through the EDA on the word of its former executive director. LINK-Hitting it BIG at Charles Town’s Hollywood Casino – a local success story
Perhaps it is that personal comfort and familiarity – “I had no reason not to trust her” – born of long-time social, professional and organizational ties that gives us a clue at a root cause of that “catastrophic failure” of procedures and oversight cited at this story’s outset.

It is a familiarity born of business and legal transactions, organizational memberships, not to mention in many cases political party affiliations. In Warren County those political affiliations are almost exclusively on the Republican side of the political aisle, from local to state and federal levels. And that is not to point a finger at one party or the other, but rather just to acknowledge the local political landscape.

Were there to be only Democrats in electoral and judicial office here, the situation would be the same – “I know you; we have common interest and cause, why would I not trust you?”

McDonald did double duty as Front Royal Rotary Club President, circa 2016-17.

It is such personal or professional familiarity that has forced the eventual recusal of all the county’s circuit court judges from hearing EDA legal matters at an evidentiary level. Chief 26th Judicial District Judge Bruce D. Albertson, now hearing EDA civil and criminal cases in place of Judge Clifford L. Athey Jr., has indicated he will soon appoint another judge from outside the county to take over the EDA Special Grand Jury bench as Athey heads to the Virginia State Appeals Court.

It is that small town “everyone knows everyone” personally, organizationally, professionally and politically that can contribute to that apathy toward fundamental organizational due diligence, if not worse.

From left, South River Supervisor Linda Glavis, School Board Chairman Cathy Bower, Warren County Middle School Principal Amy Gubler and School Superintendent and EDA Board Chairman Greg Drescher listen as Robert Goodlatte speaks at the July 31, 2017 WCMS ribbon cutting.

Why would anyone in local elected or appointed office here not trust then-U.S. Sixth District of Virginia Republican Congressman Robert Goodlatte’s 2014-15 assertion that ITFederal would invest $40 million dollars and create 600-plus high-paying jobs here based on a $140-million federal government contract there was no evidence existed?

Why?

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Rollback of Wetlands Protections undermines Chesapeake Bay Cleanup

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The non-partisan, environmental watchdog group that alerted the public to dangerous levels of E Coli contamination in the Shenandoah River in 2017 has released a critical appraisal of new Trump Administration roll back of one aspect of Chesapeake Bay watershed protections.

Is the Shenandoah River safe for recreational use?

The Town of Front Royal’s work in recent years on improving its wastewater treatment facility and processes was mandated in part by the Shenandoah River Basin being included in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed impacted by regulatory protections at federal and state levels. In addition to helping clean up local waterways, the end result of those regulations is protection of the Chesapeake Bay and its billion dollar annual fishing industry.

So, while yesterday’s release doesn’t involve wetlands in the Shenandoah Valley, we are connected in the end result of negative impacts on regulatory protections of the Chesapeake Bay and consequent negative impacts on the seafood we, the nation, and likely a good bit of the world, eat from it.

Environmental Integrity Project Executive Director Eric Schaeffer – Courtesy Photos EIS-Tom Pelton-Ari Phillips-US Fish & Wildlife Service

On Thursday, September 12, Environmental Integrity Project Executive Director Eric Schaeffer issued the following statement regarding the Trump Administration’s new “Waters of the U.S. Rule,” which was finalized Thursday, September 12:

“This regulatory rollback by the Trump Administration is a clear setback for the Chesapeake Bay cleanup because it threatens to strip federal protections from some wetlands in our region that provide important water pollution filtration services. Specifically, the change could eliminate federal protections from 34,560 acres of scattered wetlands called ‘Delmarva Potholes’ on the Eastern Shore that help reduce the runoff of farm fertilizer into the Bay.”

‘Delmarva Pothole’ wetlands play a filtration role for the Bay in providing a habitat for amphibians, birds, and other wildlife that help stem farm runoff pollution from the Chesapeake Bay and tributaries feeding it. Pictured are wetlands near Damsontown Rd. in Ruthsburg, Md.

The press release continues to explain and map out the so-called “Delmarva Pothole” wetlands and their role in providing watershed protections to the Chesapeake Bay.

“A December 2018 report by the Environmental Integrity Project, titled ‘Undermining Protections for Wetlands and Streams’ mapped the location of these Chesapeake wetlands at risk in the Trump Administration rollback. Although seldom discussed, 4,950 “Delmarva Potholes” wetlands cover 34,560 acres of Eastern Shore farmland in Maryland and Virginia. That acreage is the equivalent of 54 square miles of wetlands – a landmass almost the size of Washington, D.C. – that provide important habitat for amphibians, birds, and other wildlife and perform filtration services to keep farm runoff pollution out of the Chesapeake Bay.

Map showing the Delmarva Peninsula, in Maryland and Delaware, including individual Delmarva Bays that were identified using lasers from airplanes (Light Detection and Ranging or LiDAR imagery). Gray areas represent zones where LiDAR data were not available. From “Distribution, Morphometry, and Land Use of Delmarva Bays,” by D. E. Fenstermacher and colleagues published in the journal Wetlands on October 8, 2014.

“Delmarva Potholes are non-tidal wetlands in low-lying areas that are not usually connected on the surface to rivers or streams. Their waters often connect beneath the ground, or through ditches, to nearby streams and waterways, especially in rainy seasons. In appearance and formation, Delmarva potholes are often oval-shaped depressions carved out by the wind in past centuries. Historically, 119,000 acres of these ‘Delmarva potholes’ existed on the Delmarva Peninsula. But over the last three centuries, farmers drained more than two thirds of them to convert them to cropland. The remaining patches of Delmarva pothole wetlands — an endangered species, of sorts — are now usually wooded patches with wet soil surrounded by acres of corn and soybean fields.”

‘Delmarva Pothole’ wetland border development off Camp Road, south of Denton, Md.

Schaeffer is a former Director of Civil Enforcement at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

For more information on EPA’s action today, visit EPA’s “Waters of the US” webpage here: https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/epa-us-army-repeal-2015-rule-defining-waters-united-states-ending-regulatory-patchwork

For a copy of EIP’s analysis of the impact of the rollback on the Chesapeake Bay region, visit: https://www.environmentalintegrity.org/news/report-details-impact-on-the-chesapeake-bay-of-trumps-proposed-rollback-of-wetlands-regulations/

(The Environmental Integrity Project is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization based in Washington, D.C., and Austin, Texas, that protects public health and the environment by investigating polluters, holding them accountable under the law, and strengthening public policy.)

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Community game center comes online – InfoTech’s new tournament center

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Everyone loves to plays. Photos courtesy of InfoTech.

On September 12th, which was also coincidentally “National Gaming Day,” Front Royal’s Community Gaming center opened its doors.

Announced at last week’s regular Town Council Meeting by Interim Mayor Matt Tederick, the center is an example of the entrepreneuring spirit here in Front Royal. Kevin and Trudy Rogers, who some may know as the owners of the InfoTech Cellphone Repair store on Main street, started down the road of this project when they hosted a game tournament for fun in their store earlier this summer. When asked what gave them the idea to host this game tournament, Trudy responded “I decided when I was playing games with my son, something we like to do in our free time, and he told me about these Fortnite tournaments and it intrigued me. I just thought the idea of people coming together to have fun playing games was really cool.”

The success of this tournament, which brought out more than a dozen kids, inspired the couple to expand it into a business. Trudy’s love for gaming and the social experience it can offer moved her to create a tournament center in the backroom of the InfoTech store. After completely remodeling the room to encompass dozens of monitors and a top-of-the-line WIFI station, she dedicated the room to her grandmother who loved gaming as much as Trudy does; calling it the EMR Cave. They finished construction at the end of August, only a few months after the first successful tournament.

Some people would question the usefulness of this center, such as concerned parents who worry that their kids play to many video games. Trudy responded to these objections by reminding those at the open house that the center exists to bring the kids out of their rooms to meet and make friends with others. “Wouldn’t it be better to see the people you play with face to face? The answer is a resounding yes! It’s good for the kids.”

The EMR Cave will be open for use to any group that wants to use it. Tourney Gaming will be hosting monthly tournaments with a $20 buy in. Players can also rent out the room for 2 hours for $140 and bring friends or even throw a party. The first tournament will be a Fortnite tournament held September 21st at 2 P.M. with a free trial for a solo Apex Legends match afterwards.

Tournament’s will work as a “bring your own console” because Trudy want’s to let players play with their own settings. However, if a player for some reason can’t bring their own, they do have Xbox’s available for use. The center also has rental headsets and controllers, everything a gamer would need to play well.

Trudy’s long-term goals for the center include installing Virtual Reality (VR) consoles, as well as expanding tournament games to any competitive shooter out there. Businesses can also sponsor tournaments, bringing in the kids and advertising directly to them.

If you want to learn more about the Tourney Gaming Center, visit their website at www.tourneygamer.com

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A Place to Be

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On the Saturday of the 5th annual Appaloosa Festival an organization called “A Place to Be” presented the healing power of music. This is not just some good feeling, soul-searching activity.

Music therapy is a medical and psychological science based on the clinical use of music interventions. It helps clients to carry out goals within a therapeutic relationship between a them and the therapist. “A Place to Be” uses music to treat anything and everything, from stroke survivors to those on the autistic spectrum. Having started in Middleburg and expanded to four Inova hospitals, they are well credited in their treatments. Music Therapy is now accepted as a discipline alongside other paramedic professions such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and psychology in paramedic services and special education services provided by health and education authorities.

“A Place to Be” gathered in the workshop at Appaloosa to teach kids about Music Therapy. Photos by McCarthey Andrews.

At an interview with Music Therapist Brad Hassan, he explained exactly how music is used in some treatments. “In music there is tension and release, so we create tension with rhythm which motivates the patient. Rhythmic music helps people move more fluidly, singing supports speech recovery, preferred music can change affective states, associations can engage memory, all to help patients overcome their obstacles.” The effects of the treatment are incredible. Just one example was Ms. Dionna who suffers from a stuttering speech impediment, but after treatment was able to confidently stand on stage and sing beautifully.

Ms. Dionna performing on stage, showing how music therapy has helped her overcome her struggles.

Another example of music therapy’s treatment is the artist Daniel Derrico. Daniel suffered from a speech impediment most of his life, and it had started to become crippling when it prevented him from going to school or even communicating simple ideas. However, after participating with “A Place to Be,” not only did he overcome his impediment in simple tasks, Daniel also became a successful singer and songwriter. At Appaloosa he sang on stage in front of thousands without a single stuttered word. He still partners with and advocates for “A Place to Be” to help support others in overcoming their struggles.

Daniel Derrico, a member and advocate of “A Place to Be,” showing that a disability doesn’t have to get in the way of your dreams.

To learn more about “A Place to Be” and what music therapy can do, visit their homepage at: http://www.aplacetobeva.org/music-therapy.

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Upcoming Events

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7:00 pm Faith and Science Presentations ... @ Warren County Community Center
Faith and Science Presentations ... @ Warren County Community Center
Sep 16 @ 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Faith and Science Presentations at Community Center @ Warren County Community Center
The first of a 5-part series of video presentations and discussion concerning faith and science will begin Monday, September 16th, 7:00 PM at the Warren County Community Center, 538 Villa Ave. (off W. 6th St.),[...]
Sep
17
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9:00 am First Baptist Church Golf Tourna... @ Shenandoah Valley Golf Club
First Baptist Church Golf Tourna... @ Shenandoah Valley Golf Club
Sep 17 @ 9:00 am – 12:00 pm
First Baptist Church Golf Tournament @ Shenandoah Valley Golf Club
Tuesday, September 17th 9:00 a.m. registration 10:00 a.m. shotgun start
1:30 pm Watercolor Landscapes @ Art in the Valley
Watercolor Landscapes @ Art in the Valley
Sep 17 @ 1:30 pm – 4:30 pm
Watercolor Landscapes @ Art in the Valley
This four week course with instructor Elena Maza will focus on learning basic skills to create watercolor landscape paintings: basic composition and use of color and value to create a sense of depth and distance.[...]
Sep
18
Wed
10:30 am Children’s Art Class “Back to Sc... @ Art in the Valley
Children’s Art Class “Back to Sc... @ Art in the Valley
Sep 18 @ 10:30 am – 12:00 pm
Children's Art Class "Back to School" Session @ Art in the Valley
We are offering classes for children ages 7-12 who would enjoy expressing themselves through art. The students will expand their creative side with drawing, painting and constructing, using various mediums such as acrylic, pastels, watercolor[...]
1:30 pm Botanical Drawing @ Art in the Valley
Botanical Drawing @ Art in the Valley
Sep 18 @ 1:30 pm – 4:30 pm
Botanical Drawing @ Art in the Valley
Learn and practice the art of botanical drawing in pencil with local artist and instructor Elena Maza. This four session course will focus on learning basic drawing skills as applied to botanicals: basic line drawings[...]
Sep
19
Thu
12:30 pm Watercolor Painting Essentials @ Art in the Valley
Watercolor Painting Essentials @ Art in the Valley
Sep 19 @ 12:30 pm – 3:00 pm
Watercolor Painting Essentials @ Art in the Valley
This class will teach you the necessities to create your own watercolor paintings. Setup of materials and proper studio techniques will be shown. Indispensable ideas about drawing and color mixing as well as paint application[...]
4:00 pm Sketching with Pencils @ Art in the Valley
Sketching with Pencils @ Art in the Valley
Sep 19 @ 4:00 pm – 6:30 pm
Sketching with Pencils @ Art in the Valley
Pencil sketching is a great way to capture a visual record of your experiences and ideas. This class will give students a strong foundation for making pencil images for a journal or sketchbook. Principles for[...]
5:30 pm WomanGathering @ Middle of Main
WomanGathering @ Middle of Main
Sep 19 @ 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm
WomanGathering @ Middle of Main
Guest Speaker: Debbie Copeland, Author FB LIVE @ 6 PM with hostess Eka Kapiotis and videographer Jen Avery THIS IS A FREE EVENT – Please join us and other women looking to be inspired! WomanGatherings[...]
Sep
20
Fri
9:00 am Annual FRUMC Book Sale @ Front Royal United Methodist Church
Annual FRUMC Book Sale @ Front Royal United Methodist Church
Sep 20 @ 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
Annual FRUMC Book Sale @ Front Royal United Methodist Church
At the Front Royal United Methodist Church in the Fellowship Hall. Sept 20, 9am – 4pm Sept 21, 9am – 1pm Books for everyone available: religion, biographies, history, fiction, food, and children’s books. All proceeds[...]
10:00 am The Fundamentals of Oil Painting @ Art in the Valley
The Fundamentals of Oil Painting @ Art in the Valley
Sep 20 @ 10:00 am – 12:30 pm
The Fundamentals of Oil Painting @ Art in the Valley
This class will focus on proven approaches for successful oil paintings. Subject matter will be the student’s choice. No previous painting experience with oils necessary. The class will introduce students to fundamental concepts of color[...]