Monday’s regular meeting of the Front Royal Town Council got off to an unexpected start when Valley Health employee Jacob Meza emotionally read a prepared statement resigning his seat, effective immediately, into the meeting record. Meza then exited stage right of the Warren County Government Center main meeting room to an affectionate farewell from his colleagues and rousing applause from a full house this reporter estimated at 150 people, there, for the most part, to comment on Councilman Scott Lloyd’s Emergency civil rights ordinance proposal to prevent Valley Health, and other private-sector employers within the town limits, from mandating employees to receive the COVID-19 Coronavirus vaccination at threat of termination.
Things turned ugly at the open meeting’s adjournment approaching 11 p.m. when a number of citizens verbally and loudly expressed their displeasure with the 3-2 vote of denial, Lloyd and Joe McFadden, the latter by remote hookup, dissenting.
Scattered boos and a loud “Evil Triumphs” was heard, along with “We won’t forget this” among other negative comments aimed at the council majority of Letasha Thompson, Gary Gillespie and
Vice-Mayor Lori Cockrell. That majority had prefaced their votes with explanations that legal research by the Town Attorney’s Office had indicated the Town has no legal authority to make such a legislative mandate in response to private-sector vaccine mandates, particularly in a Dillon Rule state like Virginia, where municipal authority cannot exceed what is authorized to it by the state government.
And as Town Attorney Doug Napier had explained during the work session discussion, the state is authorized legally by code and/or its Constitution to mandate vaccines during a public health crisis. That legally hamstrings municipal governments from attempting to counter public health emergency vaccine mandates.
After the two-phased public comments on the Lloyd proposal lasting 3-hours-and-2 minutes – broken into two sections to facilitate council taking care of other business including two public hearings – Mayor Chris Holloway called for a motion. After an extended silence and a second call for a motion, Lloyd made the motion to approve his ordinance proposal. It was seconded by McFadden, whose father Tom was the second of 49 speakers in favor of the ordinance proposal.
Gillespie observed that he felt the Lloyd initiative countered the conservative Republican principle of limited government he, and other Republican conservatives espouse.
Speaking first following Lloyd’s motion to approve his emergency ordinance proposal, reading from a prepared statement Thompson told the audience that, not only did council not have the legal authority to pass such legislation, but that passing it would not protect the Valley Health employees who spoke in favor of Lloyd’s proposal, including doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners, from termination by their employer. While stating she personally believed in choice on medical decisions, as her vote with council in not mandating town employees to be vaccinated indicated, she observed that “Freedom goes in both directions”. She elaborated that in Virginia as a “Right to Work” state limiting union influence, employees anywhere can be fired for virtually any reason an employer might cite.
Thompson said that with the facts before them, she did not believe voting to approve the ordinance “to make everyone in the room happy” was “the right thing to do.”
In fact, Thompson cited Lloyd’s insistence in bringing his legislative initiative to a vote despite the lack of legal grounds for it as “political theater” geared toward the councilman’s personal agenda, which she had confronted him about at the July 12 work session perhaps being beyond the boundaries of the Town of Front Royal. As has been previously reported, Lloyd has past national political exposure, serving as the Trump Administration’s Director of Refugee Resettlement during a particularly controversial period at the southern border when refugee/immigrant children were being incarcerated separately from their parents or guardians who had entered the country illegally as administration policies delayed legal entry at prescribed border crossings for weeks.
Lloyd has noted he did not create the child-separation policy and was simply in the administrative position to implement it. He has also publicly noted he is far from a “zero-tolerance” stance on immigration.
A minority of two
However, one of the two people speaking against Lloyd’s anti-vaccine-mandate ordinance, Stevie Hubbard, ended her comments by loudly saying that whatever Lloyd did to protect personal liberties as a councilman, “Won’t make up for what you did to those kids at the border.”
When Hubbard cited COVID-19 case-fatality statistics found at the Virginia Health Department website to counter some of the pro-ordinance statistics presented by the anti-vaccine mandate majority, a number of people laughed derisively at her source.
Many of the pro-ordinance speakers reflected skepticism of, not only government information on the Coronavirus pandemic, but media coverage of it, as well as any legal roadblocks to the approval of Lloyd’s effort to counter the Valley Health COVID-19 vaccine mandate or others.
In addition to Hubbard, speaking against Lloyd’s proposal was Gene Kilby, whose family was at the center of fighting the local “massive resistance” effort to prevent the racial integration of Warren County Public Schools in the late 1950s, early ‘60s. In fact, Kilby observed, “This community has a history of going against the grain. It’s almost reminiscent of back in the day with the massive resistance problem.
“The State mandated that the schools be integrated. But because of groups like this (the county) built massive resistance, which was totally illegal,” he reminded council of the eventual legal outcome, adding that while he agreed people “should have their choice” that a final legislative decision must be grounded “in the rule of law – and you must act in the best interest of the general public,” Kilby concluded to a smattering of applause.
A majority of 49
John Lundberg opened the public comments on the Lloyd ordinance first citing an oft-revisited assertion that available COVID-19 vaccines were “experimental drugs” not yet approved by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) due to the public health emergency pace at which the vaccines were made available to the public.
Some speakers claimed there were more traditional options “safer than Ibuprofen” available as an alternative to the vaccines. Others said that masking and social distancing were more effective barriers against COVID-19 contagion than the vaccine has proven to be.
A number of speakers raised religious belief as grounds not to accept a vaccine mandate. Others were critical of the religious exemption form Valley Health uses to determine if employees qualify for such exemption. “What’s next,” another asked, “are they going to go after our churches and tell us we can’t worship God?!?”
Manuel Vincente called the approaching vote on Lloyd’s proposal “a choice between liberty and fascism”. As for legal precedents against passage, Vincente said the U.S. Supreme Court had “decided in favor of genocide over and over again” in legalizing abortion.
One speaker called COVID-19 “the Communist Chinese Virus”, while Matt Morrazzo referred to it as “the Wuhan-Fauci virus”. Gene McGirk later playfully criticized that reference “for giving Wuhan top billing”.
Morrazzo also wondered if the next step beyond vaccine mandates wouldn’t be “vaccine passports” you will need to go anywhere or do anything – “The infantry will be coming for all our rights,” he worried if the Coronavirus mandate trend continued.
Recently appointed Warren County School Board member Melanie Salins cited a COVID-19 vaccine packaging warning not to take it if allergic to any of its ingredients, observing that the vaccine package insert did not list the ingredients – “You can’t give informed consent if you’re not informed,” Salins said to applause. She compared Valley Health’s vaccine mandate to a legal definition of “assault” as “physical contact that happens without your explicit and voluntary consent”, drawing more applause. She concluded by asserting that the vaccine mandate violated “the Nuremberg Code” on medical ethics established after World War II in reaction to Nazi medical experiments conducted on imprisoned Germans or conquered populations.
Many Valley Health employees became emotional pondering the choice they were being given to accept the vaccine or face termination. Many wondered how frontline workers such as themselves had gone from being “heroes” for their efforts against the pandemic to targets for termination for their belief the vaccines are dangerous, not adequately tested, immorally developed, or in violation of their religious beliefs.
In arguing for his proposal, policy attorney Lloyd echoed some public comments in support of the emergency ordinance proposal, saying just because something had been ruled illegal in the courts, didn’t make it right or unchallengeable. While admitting the Town did not yet know whether its Virginia Municipal League municipal liability insurance would cover such a legal challenge of state authority on the matter, he offered to represent the Town in any subsequent legal challenge of his ordinance, if passed Monday night, and VML insurance paid attorneys ended up not being available to the Town.
Following the roll call vote and 3-2 defeat of Lloyd’s ordinance proposal by the now-five member council, as the angry and disappointed crowd disbursed, one man yelled at Councilwoman Letasha Thompson, who yelled back “watch your mouth” telling him not to “disrespect” her from the floor of Government Center meeting room. That only led to an escalating exchange leading to the man’s escort from the building by the Front Royal Police. Involved officers said the man was not arrested as he was compliant and settled down after their arrival.
See all the action, explanations, opinions, concerns on this important matter to the community, along with other business including the tabling of action on changes to the Town’s Special Events Code to further work session discussion, in the linked Town video.
Two downtown businessmen, Royal Cinemas Rick Novak and C&C Frozen Treats William Huck addressed the draft Special Events code, urging council to take more care in formulating a final draft regarding issues raised about a rating-approval matrix system seemingly geared toward larger, tourism and revenue-generating events at the perceived expense of smaller, community events.
Front Royal Moose Lodge 829 supports Fire and Rescue initiative
Recently, the Warren County Department of Fire and Rescue Services partnered with the Front Royal Moose Lodge 829 to increase the safety and accountability of our local emergency responders operating on structure fire-type incidents.
Over the past several months, Warren County has worked alongside the Winchester City and Frederick County Fire and Rescue Departments to develop a regional workgroup. This workgroup was tasked with focusing on safety, accountability, and standardizing responses to emergencies in a regional concept.
“One of the first initiatives implemented by the workgroup was a regionalized Incident Command and Personal Accountability System Program. This program will focus on standardizing emergency operations of a fire incident, establishing incident command and personal accountability of all individuals on the incident throughout the region” stated Captain Zachary Burrows, who serves as Warren County’s representative on this workgroup. This initiative will require an unfunded mandate to change the style and design of our incident command boards to become compliant with the regionalized concept. As such, our department turned to the local community to seek alternative ways to fund this potentially live-saving program” Burrows continued.
“Upon hearing the need of our local Fire and Rescue Department, Lodge 829 was eager to assist in ensuring the safety and accountability of our firefighters and emergency responders while operating on an emergency scene. We immediately approved the appropriation of $3,500.00 of our Heart of Community Funds to support the Fire and Rescue Department” stated Wayne Sealock, Front Royal Moose Lodge Treasurer who coordinated the efforts on behalf of the lodge.
The safety and accountability of our emergency responders have been a top priority of Fire Chief James Bonzano and his leadership since taking over as Fire Chief of the department in January of this year. “These funds will be utilized to outfit all emergency response apparatus in our response system with regionalized incident command and accountability tracking boards,” stated Fire Chief James Bonzano. “Our career and volunteer responders have the knowledge, skills, and abilities to operate in a safe and accountable manner, these funds will provide the much-needed tools necessary to do just that” stated the Chief.
For more information on the Warren County Department of Fire and Rescue Service or to learn how to join your community fire station, visit www.warrencountyfire.com
Royal Tint & Detailing opens in Front Royal
Nike Foster Cales of the Front Royal/Warren County Chamber of Commerce, along with fellow Chamber members, welcomed Greg Bell of Royal Tint & Detailing to our community. Royal Tint & Detailing is located at 507 N. Royal Avenue (at the Liberty).
Royal Tint & Detailing in protecting customers’ investments such as homes or vehicles by keeping them in good condition. The company’s professional technicians offer auto detailing, window tinting, and residential power-washing services with a guarantee. The trained and dedicated staff gives each car and house the attention it deserves while providing great customer service.
- Auto Detailing: Vehicles of all sizes get a thorough hand wash, cleaning, and waxing to help preserve their value.
- Auto Window Tinting: This service aims to block heat and upholstery-fading UV rays, reduce dangerous glare, and give a sense of privacy.
- Power Washing: Professionals give dirty decks, patios, driveways, and home exteriors a deep cleaning.
VDOT: Warren County Traffic alert for September 20 – 24, 2021
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 or revised entry since last week’s report.
*NEW* Mile marker 7 to 8, eastbound and westbound – Alternating lane closures for inspection of bridge over the railway and Shenandoah River, Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Mile marker 7 to 15, eastbound and westbound – Overnight alternating lane closures for paving operations, 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. through September 19.
No lane closures were reported.
Route 55 (Strasburg Road) – Overnight mobile lane closures for line-painting operations between Shenandoah County line and Front Royal town limits, 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. through September 23.
Route 624 (Happy Creek Road) – Flagger traffic control between Front Royal eastern town limits and Route 647 (Dismal Hollow Road) for the safety improvement project, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily. Estimated project completion December 10.
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 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 my.vdot.virginia.gov. Agents are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Meteor latest explanation for BOOM and earth shaking in Shenandoah County Friday morning
A meteor strike has been proposed, if not yet confirmed late Friday afternoon, to explain a loud BOOM and consequent reports of earth-shaking in Shenandoah County on Friday morning, September 17. Initial reports, including social media sites, of an explosion or earthquake, were found to be unsubstantiated. No explosion was found to have occurred in the area and the USGS (U.S. Geological Service) reported no earthquake in the region.
So, eyes have turned toward the sky for a possible explanation. It was noted that meteors coming into the earth’s atmosphere often make sonic boom sounds, particularly if they are traveling at supersonic (speed of sound) speeds, which they do many times over.
But then so, one might imagine, do UFO’s or UAP’s (Unidentified Flying Objects or Unidentified Aerial Phenomena) popular in, not only science fiction circles, but military funding ones these days as well.
Steve Foreman announces write-in campaign For Warren County Board of Supervisors-Fork District
Area resident Steve Foreman is announcing his write-in candidacy for the Warren County Board of Supervisors, representing the Fork District.
Foreman, who has a background in communication tech and a B.A. in Business Administration from National-Louis University, feels he is well-suited to help the board with ongoing plans to expand broadband in the area. A former project manager for Sprint who supervised multi-state engineering projects, Foreman says that getting broadband expansion right will depend on asking the right questions as providers and county officials move forward.
“Our decisions need to be based on facts, not opinions. I bring a fresh viewpoint into county leadership and can build on the progress started by the last additions to the board.”
Earlier in his career, Foreman was a lineman in Northern Indiana and plans to work with the school board to make sure they have all the resources needed for vocational training to help educate students looking for careers in new technologies like high-speed internet and solar power.
“We have a lot of great teachers and people in our schools, but ask anyone in education, and they’ll tell you they need more. I consider myself a fiscal conservative, but as a father, I know the best investment we can make is in our kids’ education.”
“Coming off the farm in Indiana where I was raised, I was grateful to receive good job training to become a telephone lineman. That work meant a lot to me, even when it was hard because it meant I was earning a good living and doing something useful, keeping my community connected.”
“Today’s technology and jobs are different, but the need for training is just as important, which is why I want to be sure when we approve budgets, they include programs for all kinds of students, the ones with college in their sights, but also the ones who want training to fast-track a more hands-on career.”
Foreman feels that a well-trained job force is a part of what it takes to draw business to the area. “I want Warren County to be the place where our kids can grow up and decide to raise their own kids right here if they want to. Too often, they feel they need to move away or lose time to a long commute to make a living wage, but if we get this right, we’ll have the jobs, education, and infrastructure to make it possible for them to build their futures right here.”
In matters of infrastructure, Foreman says he feels that Warren County is on a good path, but he wants to lend his experience and perspective to move plans forward.
“In the aftermath of the EDA scandal, a large turnover in county management has actually had a positive effect. Once the dust settled, the EDA put a lot of good measures in place to make their work more transparent. A lot of progress has been made with respect to both the town and county in terms of relations and cooperation. Let’s add to that and keep the progress going.”
Area residents who want to learn more about Foreman’s plans or volunteer to help the campaign can visit www.foremanforfork.com/connect or reach out to campaign spokesperson Paul Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org.
VDH lifts harmful algae bloom advisory for North Fork of the Shenandoah River from Chapman’s Landing to Riverton
Effective immediately, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) has lifted the recreational advisory due to a harmful algae bloom (HAB) on the North Fork (NF) of the Shenandoah River in Shenandoah and Warren Counties from Chapman’s Landing to Riverton. This river segment (approximately 52.5 miles) was placed under a recreational advisory on August 10 due to widespread algal mats, which contained both cyanobacteria cells and toxins at elevated levels.
Weekly observations at numerous sites along the river where algal mats were previously widespread which resulted in the recreational advisory being issued indicate these mats are no longer visible. Confirmatory water samples collected September 14 indicate no cyanobacteria cells were present and toxins at or below detection limits, well below those that pose a human health risk. The HAB status report for the NF Shenandoah River has been updated along with the Algan Bloom Map for reference of the prior advisory areas, samples, and observation sites.
VDH would like the public to be aware that while the bloom appears to have dissipated based on recent observations and testing, it is possible for algal blooms to reappear when there is adequate sunlight, nutrients, and warmer temperatures to make conditions favorable for algal growth. Most algae are harmless, however, some may produce irritating compounds or toxins if ingested. Because it is difficult to tell the difference, VDH advises everyone to avoid discolored water, scums, or mat material that are green or bluish-green because they are more likely to contain toxins. The algae bloom, which occurred in this area, may produce mats along the river bottom that may then detach, float on the water surface, or accumulate along downstream shorelines.
The North Fork of the Shenandoah River serves as the drinking water source for the Towns of Strasburg and Woodstock, and the City of Winchester. All three localities took every precaution to prevent impacts to drinking water, including routine testing for cyanotoxins and optimization of treatment processes for cyanotoxin removal. Anatoxin-a, the main toxin present in this HAB, has not been detected in the Town of Strasburg’s raw (untreated) or finished drinking water since August 12, and toxin levels remained below VDH and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) health advisory levels at all times during this event. Anatoxin-a was below detectable levels in the Town of Woodstock and the City of Winchester’s raw and finished drinking water for the duration of the HAB. Drinking water remains safe to drink and use in all three localities.
Harmful algae can cause skin rash and gastrointestinal illnesses, such as upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Some toxins in algae blooms can be fatal to dogs and other animals when ingested. If you or your animals experience any negative health effects after swimming in or near an algal bloom, seek medical or veterinary care promptly.
Whenever recreating in natural water bodies, follow these healthy water habits:
- Avoid contact with any area of the river if you observe algae or algal mats to be present.
- Humans and pets should never consume water or material from a natural water body because this water is not treated water and is not suitable for consumption.
- Notify VDH of an algae bloom or fish kill, use the online HAB report form.
- If you suspect you or your animal experienced health-related effects following contact with a bloom, contact the Virginia Harmful Algal Bloom Hotline at (888) 238-6154.
The Virginia Harmful Algal Bloom Task Force (VDH, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, Old Dominion University Phytoplankton lab, and Virginia Institute of Marine Science) respond to bloom events to protect public health during the recreational season of May through October. The majority of algal blooms will dissipate when temperatures and sunlight are reduced in the fall and winter months.
For more information about harmful algae blooms and the HAB Task Force, visit www.SwimHealthyVA.com.