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Local Government

Outline for Town communications policy raises questions



Town Information Technology (IT) Director Todd Jones presented an outline of his credentials and ideas for development of a Town of Front Royal Communications policy at the Monday, November 18, Town Council work session at the Warren County Government Center.

The initiative of a communications director to oversee Council and Town staff interactions with the public on processes of Town services and other questions was brought forward by Matt Tederick during his Interim Mayor’s term. Now as Interim Town Manager, Tederick introduced Jones to brief council on his media and community background and ideas for development of a more effective communications strategy between Town officials and the public.

Jones traced past work with several cable companies and two television stations in promotions and production during which time he worked on “thousands and thousands and thousands of television commercials”. He also cited his 34 years in the community and marriage to a local girl “born in Warren Memorial Hospital” – something that future generations may not be able to say for some time after the Town, County and EDA approved a $60-million dollar bond issue for a new Valley Health hospital in town without a Maternity Ward – and a desire to assist in helping “the community heal a little bit” in the wake of public outrage surrounding the $21.3 million dollar Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority financial scandal.

Todd Jones described a four-pronged approach to the new policy.

“So, I’m really excited about the opportunity to … help the Town communicate with its citizens, and really let the citizens have a better communications level with the Town Council and the Town staff,” Jones said in prefacing his outline of a communications plan.

Jones described a four-pronged approach addressing 1/ dialogue with citizens, including utilization of social media accounts – though not in a combative manner with any social media outlet communications that might be thrown the Town’s way Jones explained in response to a question; 2/ communications with the press featuring pre-submitted questions to Town officials; 3/ implementation of regular “Town Hall meetings” in which the public can engage in direct back and forth with Town officials, including department heads; and 4/ a 90-day review process between the communications officer, council, mayor and town manager on what is working and not working in the process.

About Number 2
On press row the immediate reaction was that pre-submitted questions, particularly to the Town’s elected officials, by the media would definitely not work, and would in fact be counterproductive to a number of crucial aspects of the press’s role in covering governmental affairs. Those aspects include acquiring elaboration on the thought process of individual council members and the mayor in presenting or rejecting policy initiatives and rationales for those policy and voting decision; as well as establishing that individual elected officials are doing their homework in reviewing staff agenda item summaries of the issues before them.

Contacted the following day about that aspect of his presentation, Jones said his goal in the pre-submitted media question aspect of his communications plan summary was “not to be restrictive” but rather to see that the Town was “speaking with a single voice, rather than hundreds of voices”.

When it was suggested that such a policy might be justified in communicating established departmental policies regarding Town services and the process of those services to the public, but not in media questioning of seven elected officials who often approach policy initiatives from different perspectives for differing reasons, Jones admitted, “There not the same thing, you’re right.”
He added that the developmental process of overall improved communications between the Town and the public was “all in the early stages – we’ll see how it ends up”.

And Jones stressed again that the goal was to improve the Town’s communications line with its citizens and make those citizens aware that the Town government is there for them; and to clarify how they can get answers to questions that impact their daily lives as residents of the Town of Front Royal – “to build a bridge between the people and the Town,” he said by phone Tuesday afternoon.

Just don’t let it end up like that John Lennon song “Walls and Bridges” from the media perspective, Todd, and we’ll be good.

As for the bridge of regular “Town Hall Meetings” during which citizens could get direct information from department heads on services, as well as council on issues, Jones suggested every 90 days.

However Mayor-Elect Gene Tewalt, who was chairing the work session in the temporary absence of Vice-Mayor Bill Sealock, suggested holding the Town Hall’s on a monthly basis after the turn of the year.

Jones suggested that another aspect of a Communications or Public Information Office or Officer would be to “coordinate with law enforcement on mass casualty drills and things like that … to make sure that the Town is aware of how to do that, so that you as council members know how to handle those types of things to prepare you for those types of mass casualty events and make sure the information gets out to the public accordingly”.

After the presentation Interim Town Manager Tederick added some comments on how he envisions the process proceeding.

“Just so I can lay out my vision as to how we are going to crawl, walk, run with this, we’re still trying to develop the system and the processees … of a public information office. I’d like for Todd to spearhead it, develop this as we go. It’s going to take several months of getting it up and running.

Interim Town Manager Tederick added some comments on how he envisions the process proceeding.

“And my idea is not to necessarily to make it a permanent position in our budget because I want to make sure if a new town manager comes in and then he gets his opportunity to flush it out and determine whether we want to make it a position, or maybe we want officers, that’s still an option as well,” Tederick told council.

See the entire discussion about the future of the Town of Front Royal’s communications with its citizens and the media in this exclusive Royal Examiner video:

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Local Government

Liaison Committee ponders drug abuse committee logistics, solid waste disposal costs, and ongoing projects



Town and County officials reviewed a number of projects at the Front Royal-Warren County Liaison Committee meeting of Thursday, October 22nd. Those included early stages of formation of a joint municipality and law enforcement committee to work more proactively to stem the tide of drug, particularly heroin and opioid abuse in the county; adjustment of Town payments to the County on its solid-waste disposal to reflect current costs to the County; the status of implementation of Building Inspection software to facilitate online applications and payments; recent Development Review Committee discussion of Town and County projects; and two County projects ongoing inside the town limits.

Adjusting the name of the currently referenced “Drug Task Force Committee” to more accurately portray its joint civilian-law enforcement mission of education, prevention and rehabilitation of aspects of the community, particularly young people and other vulnerable groups, targeted by drug dealers was suggested. “Joint Substance Abuse Committee” was cited as a leading candidate for that renaming.

The committee by whatever name will meet at 8:30 a.m. this coming Thursday, October 29th at the Warren County Government Center in a room determined to be large enough to hold all involved parties.

The bulk of the Liaison Committee agenda packet – 16 of 20 pages – referenced background on the solid-waste agreement between the two municipalities dating to 2009. At issue is that the Town’s current $50.72 per-ton payment on the Commercial tipping fee on its commercial waste does not cover current costs incurred by the County under the old, agreed-upon 73.5% the Town pays on its waste.

Lori Cockrell, center, asks what the bottom line on solid-waste numbers was for the Town. Another $1.28 per ton or about $663 per year was the answer. Royal Examiner Photo by Roger Bianchini – Royal Examiner Video by Mike McCool

Asked by Councilwoman Lori Cockrell what the bottom line of the dizzying array of numbers, various fees and percentages presented was, it was determined the Town needed to increase it’s per-ton payment by $1.28 per ton to $52 per ton. Cockrell then asked what the yearly tonnage of Town commercial waste handled by the County was.

The answer, 518 tons per year, meant that a year’s underpayment at the current rate equated to a County loss of $663.04 annually. It wasn’t clear if the rate adjustment would include compensating the County for any past losses, though as Cockrell observed, the annual total didn’t equate too much of the Town’s annual budget.

A County staff suggestion was that moving forward, the rates and any necessary adjustments be reviewed and made annually.

Among ongoing projects recently discussed by the Development Review Committee were a request for “60 apartments on East Main Street”, a proposed gas station-convenience store at the old Joe’s Steakhouse location on the town’s Southside at South Royal and Criser Road intersection; and the November 1st reopening of the thermal shelters offered to the community’s homeless through the cold weather at the County’s Health and Human Services complex on 15th Street in the old middle school building.

Cockrell, representing the Town with Mayor Tewalt and Gary Gillespie, pointed out that an inquiry had been made about the potential of adding locker space where homeless could keep their possessions during the day.

Interim County Administrator Ed Daley also observed that it was believed the 18 to 24 maximum thermal shelter accommodation at the site might not be enough for the anticipated number of homeless needing winter accommodations in the coming years. The possibility of establishing an alternate site that could both accommodate increasing numbers and provide lockable space for their possessions might be necessary long-term was discussed without a pinning down of a potential location.

See these discussions and others in this exclusive Royal Examiner Liaison Committee meeting video:

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Local Government

Baugh Drive warehouse rental lease approved; EDA looks toward a ‘Strategically’ consistent future



The EDA Board of Directors met for their regular monthly board meeting, Friday, October 23. Following a one-and-a-half-hour Closed Meeting the Board approved the following motions:

  1. Approved a 3-month lease agreement with Dollar Tree Distribution Inc. for parking lot space at 426 Baugh Dr. at $2,100/month;
  2. Approved a $90,000 settlement agreement with the heirs of Daniel McEathron;
  3. Approved giving board Secretary Greg Harold authority to review and award a contract for mold remediation of the Avtex Building, as Executive Director Doug Parsons is away on personal leave/vacation.

Two additional actions were bookkeeping items introduced in the report of the Finance Chair Jorie Martin. Both motions were unanimously approved: a/ to eliminate the EDA Rent account at Atlantic Union and transfer all monies to the EDA Cash-Operational account. b/ To recode specific payments made by the Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission as Note Receivable payments, as they were previously recorded and deposited incorrectly to the EDA Rent account at Atlantic Union. These payments will be deposited in the EDA Cash/Operational account.

Jim Wolfe led the EDA Board through a game plan growing out of the recent two-day Strategic Planning session. Royal Examiner Photos by Roger Bianchini

The remaining portion of the meeting was devoted to Director Jim Wolfe and his review of the results of the Strategic Planning conference held October 9-10. He appreciated all of the conversations and involvement by all of the attendees which led to the development of draft goals for the EDA. He reported that he’ll be assigning specific topics for further research to the other Directors with the goal of having a draft Strategic Plan at the next regular board meeting on December 4.

Planning, direction and consistency will be crucial to the EDA’s future as the new board rebounds from past mistakes and financial scandal.

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EDA in Focus

EDA settles civil claim against McEathron estate for $90,000



Following an hour-and-thirty-five-minute closed session on a variety of topics that opened its monthly meeting of October 23, the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority Board of Directors approved a motion agreeing to a settlement with the estate of late Warren County Sheriff Daniel McEathron.

The settlement amount agreed upon between the EDA and McEathron’s widow and two adult children is $90,000. McEathron was linked to the EDA financial scandal due to his partnership in former EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald’s DaBoyz LLC real estate company. In the EDA’s civil litigation initially filed in March 2019, McDonald is accused, among other things, of unauthorized moving of EDA assets to her own benefit through her real estate companies DaBoyz and MoveOn8. Still Sheriff at the time, McEathron along with McDonald and the two real estate companies, were on the initial list of civil case defendants.

Sheriff Daniel McEathron – File Photo/WCSO website

After taking early retirement effective May 1, 2019, just over a month after being named a co-defendant in the EDA civil litigation, the county’s long-time sheriff was found dead on his Bentonville property 28 days later, May 28, from an apparent suicide. Some questions about the death arose after Sheriff’s Office personnel, ostensibly alerted by McEathron to his planned suicide by phone, removed the body from the scene where it was discovered in proximity to an expended firearm before the Virginia State Police, the EDA criminal case investigating agency, was notified of the death.

On Friday, EDA Asset Committee Chairman Greg Harold, who made the motion to approve, addressed the McEathron Estate settlement prior to the vote.

“Mr. Chairman, I want the community to know that the EDA has negotiated in good faith for this settlement for a long time. This is something that we’ve taken very seriously; this is something that we have called back and forth with, with our attorneys and the estate’s attorneys. While we feel there are certain risks and rewards with these situations, I think the EDA is comfortable at this time that we have done the best that we can for the community and that it’s time to put this matter behind us as the motion is written,” Harold said.

EDA Asset Committee Chair Greg Harold, pictured during Friday’s ZOOM meeting, recounted the process leading to the settlement with the estate of late Sheriff Daniel McEathron. Royal Examiner Photos by Roger Bianchini

Thank you for that,” Board Chairman Jeff Browne responded. There was no other comment prior to the vote on Harold’s motion, seconded by James Wolfe, which then passed by a 4-0 margin of the members remaining after the closed session, the above three and Tom Pattison. Jorie Martin and Melissa Gordon were present for the 8 a.m. convening of the meeting into closed session but had left to other commitments prior to the closed session’s 9:45 a.m. conclusion.

The motion on approval of the settlement read into the record by EDA Administrative Assistant Gretchen Henderson states in part, “Whereas the Front Royal-Warren County EDA has certain claims against Daniel McEathron; Whereas the EDA and McEathron’s heirs desire to resolve any claims that may exist between them; Now therefore be it resolved the chairman and the secretary of the Front Royal-Warren County EDA Board are authorized to enter into an agreement … (with those heirs) for the purposes set forth in this resolution which agreement shall provide for the payment of $90,000 dollars to the EDA …”

The motion adds that if any FOIA request are received by the EDA related to the settlement, McEathron’s widow or her attorneys will receive notice of those requests having been made.

As initially reported by former Royal Examiner Editor Norma Jean Shaw, McEathron and McDonald’s first transaction in DaBoyz dated to October 2016 and the pair purchased a total of $2.8 million of real estate between then and 2019. The LLC was involved in a number of transactions cited in the EDA civil litigation filed to recover allegedly misdirected assets, including a mysterious one in which a property was bought and sold back to the owner a month later at a loss of $600,000.

January 2018 Royal Examiner file photo of Jennifer McDonald in her EDA office displaying tax receipts she said indicated winnings at Charles Town’s Hollywood Casino. Coincidentally, the blue star on her chair is the logo of her favorite football team, the Dallas Cowboys from whom the real estate LLC ‘DaBoyz’ name was taken.

A number of McDonald and her two LLC’s existing properties were frozen by the court early in the civil case process. However, civil claims against McDonald assets have been complicated by her recent filing of bankruptcy, which put her assets under control of the Harrisonburg-based bankruptcy court.

The EDA civil litigation has grown to 24 human and business entity co-defendants, with total claims, actual and punitive, of about $25 million dollars. And as previously reported, the Harrisonburg Special Prosecutor’s Office has turned the criminal investigation into the EDA financial scandal over to the U.S. Western District of Virginia federal prosecutor’s office.

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Local Government

A non-agenda topic dominates the supervisors’ attention – is it too late for compromise on Confederate statue?



What appeared to be a fairly routine agenda of the Warren County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, October 20th ended up being anything but. The first sign that something might be up was a nearly full Warren County Government Center parking lot with perhaps 15 people talking and scattered about outside 15 minutes prior to the open meeting’s scheduled 7 p.m. start.

While there were six public hearings scheduled, none appeared to be of a contentious or controversial nature that might draw such a crowd. And a six o’clock closed session to discuss committee, board, and EDA personnel matters; personal property assessments; and even the Front Royal Golf Club management contract, wouldn’t likely be pulling such numbers in.

“Just waiting for the meeting to start,” was the response to a “what’s going on” query by this reporter. And about three minutes after that meeting start as the 60-minute opening public comments portion of the meeting began, it quickly became apparent what the crowd was there for – the courthouse grounds Confederate soldier statue debate.

Above, at issue is this 109-year-old statue commemorating county men who served in the Confederate army’s presence on the Warren County Courthouse lawn. FR Unites, under the leadership of Samuel Porter, seated below Tuesday night in center-right foreground with four supporters, has tied the statue’s presence there to the organization’s initial call for equal justice for all and an end to institutional racism marked by undue police violence against people of color in America. Royal Examiner Photos by Roger Bianchini – Royal Examiner Video by Mark Williams

To the caucus room front side of the meeting room, a four-person contingent was seated with Front Royal Unites principal Samuel Porter, who was a day or so off a social media spat with Front Royal Unites co-founding member and original organization president Stevi Hubbard’s 13-year-old daughter over her and her mother’s separation from the group.

Scattered throughout the public seating were some of those who had been outside, including at least one centrally located, colorful MAGA hat-sporting member, some familiar faces from recent Warren County Militia events including organizer Sam Haun, as well as two past public commenters in favor of leaving the statue in place, Richard Hoover and Gary Kushner.

Sixty-two minutes and 22 public speakers later, 17 of whom addressed the statue issue with a 13-4 split in favor of it remaining where it is, the meeting agenda moved past public comments to those six public hearing matters, before finishing up with board and staff reports, and approval of past meeting minutes, accounts, appropriations and fund transfers.

But it was the increasingly divisive expression of conflicting attitudes on the necessity or lack thereof for the removal of a memorial to the county’s citizens who went to war on the side of the Confederacy, some to die, all likely to be changed in some way forever, that put an imprint on the supervisors’ evening of October 20, 2020.

Above, perhaps anticipating a negative result in the non-binding November referendum on moving the statue, FR Unites supporter Kristin Iden tells the supervisors that ‘the majority opinion is not always the right thing to do’ drawing the ire of some opponents of moving the statue. Below, one of those opponents, eighteenth speaker Mike Mayer, made a loud and colorful approach to the podium telling companions to “hold my beer, baby”, then first focusing on his affection for Board Clerk Emily Ciarrocchi’s last name before re-focusing his attention on the ‘ill-informed, emotionally inept and asinine minority” on the statue issue.

For that conversation, sometimes reasoned, sometimes not; occasionally reaching toward communication and compromise, at other times expressing deafness to any opinion other than one’s own; and at times even ominously threatening as to unrealized “consequences” of demanding what certainly that evening was the minority opinion for removal, was a reflection of where we are as, not only a county but as a nation divided as Election Day 2020 approaches.

Perhaps the most reasoned thing said on the statue topic was by fifth speaker Richard Hoover’s suggestion that the statue remain with other war memorials on the courthouse grounds, but that a statue to the county’s black citizens who were enslaved be added to memorialize their sacrifice next to the county’s memorials to those who sacrificed by going to war on the right or wrong side of history.

Above, Richard Hoover voiced perhaps the best idea expressed during the evening just as his 3 minutes expired. That idea was to leave the statue where it stands, but add a statue commemorating the sacrifice of the county’s slave population on the courthouse grounds. Below, the dedication on the Confederate soldier statue in question.

But as Hoover reached his point of reasoned compromise following an exploration of the nuances of local and national history, the strictly enforced three-minute time limit bell went off, cutting his reasoned compromise idea off as it was leaving his mouth.

Another speaker who appeared to be with the leave the Confederate soldier statue where it is contingent, Craig Anderson, failed to mention the statue at the podium, targeting what he called the “COVID mask thing” as a political hoax or “political fear thing” orchestrated, apparently by Democrats. Anderson asserted that the CDC (Center for Disease Control) has “told us” that rather than the 220,000-plus deaths now attributed to the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic in the U.S., the actual number was only 10,000 fatalities that the virus has been responsible for nationally.

But the statue wasn’t the only topic of controversy addressed during public comments. Perhaps the most aggressively personal comments delivered the supervisors’ way came from Shenandoah Farms Sanitary District management critic Nancy Winn. Winn railed at the supervisors by first names for a lack of attention to her submissions and expenditure on a lawyer to assemble evidence of what she feels were misappropriations of Sanitary District funds by the Property Owners of Shenandoah Farms (POSF).

As the bell and Chairman Mabe noted her three minutes at the podium were expired, she continued to complain on what she sees as inaction by the board, again calling the chairman out by his first name as she returned to her front-row seat.

“Don’t tell me to shut up,” she said loudly, apparently directed her husband Dale Orlowske’s way before he approached the podium to support his wife’s assertions that Sanitary District money was spent in places it should not have been under POSF management.

Forget the statue – what about POSF management of the Shenandoah Farms Sanitary District, eighth speaker Nancy Winn wanted to know. Time up, Winn continued to belabor the board, its chairman, and her husband as she packed up to leave in a huff.

POSF official Ralph Rinaldi later rose to tell the board that he and the POSF were prepared to present their side of the story at a date of the supervisors choosing. Board Chairman Mabe informed Rinaldi that he had been sent information that day on a date for the POSF presentation in response to Winn and Orlowske’s allegations.

If POSF critic Winn is there, that should be MUST SEE Royal Examiner TV.

This writer could continue to quote from the above-described exchanges but will just suggest you “get the popcorn” or a preferred snack and settle in for the hour-and-three-minute show as it transpired in this Royal Examiner video.

Opposing sides file out without incident as board takes a five-minute break following the 63-minute Public Comments portion of the meeting.

Then there is the rest of the meeting – erosion and sediment control ordinance updates to align with state law changes; Conditional Use Permit applications for flower-arranging classes at an Ag District farm (vote postponed to Nov. 4); a short-term tourist rental application; and two zoning modification requests by Frank Barnett Jr. and the Warren County Fair Association/Frank Brugh; and establishment of a small 14-lot Sanitary District at the Shannon Woods subdivision (public hearing recessed to Nov. 4) – but what an anti-climax, unless one of those applications was yours.

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Local Government

Council approves budget transfer on FRPD construction; remaining CARES Act distribution plan



In other business at its October 19 meeting, by a 5-0 vote, Meza absent, the Front Royal Town Council approved a Fiscal Year-2021 Budget Amendment allowing an “Interfund Budget Transfer” of $8,483,001.15 to facilitate payment on the United Bank loan on the construction of the new Town Police Headquarters. During the public hearing on the budget amendment, Paul Gabbert rose to tell council it was a transfer long overdue.

Gabbert also questioned council’s congratulatory “back slapping” on alleged savings of “millions of dollars” noting that with an unknown interest rate in 10 years when an estimated $4.78-million-dollar balance will have to be refinanced, exactly how much money will be saved or lost remains a long-term unknown. Gabbert also told town officials they should calculate contracted attorney’s fees related to the Town’s litigation against the EDA against those publicly bragged about savings.

“There are no back pats from the public,” Gabbert asserted of council’s choices of litigation with the recovering from financial scandal EDA and the two-year impasse over assuming financing on its police headquarters construction project.

Council approved several budgetary items Monday and tabled another till more information on Contingencies was available. Royal Examiner Photos by Roger Bianchini – Royal Examiner Video by Mark Williams

Also, by a 5-0 vote, council approved “Option 1” of two options on the distribution of a remaining $309,058 in Phase 1 CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Securities) Act relief funds. The Town’s share of that first $3.5 million received by the County from the federal-enabled, state-distributed money was $1,276,558.

One apparent difference between the two options was a small percentage change in the “Additional Payout” category from 31.4% in Option 1, to 30% in Option 2 that appeared to reduce the “Estimated Chamber of Commerce Administration Fee” from $18,808 in Option 2 to $5,000 in Option 1. Contacted on those numbers, Town Finance Director B. J. Wilson said Option 1 would result in a lesser payment to the Chamber for its administrative work on the CARES distribution. He noted that the Chamber had offered to do the work at no charge, but that council felt some compensation was in order, choosing the $5,000 compensation on the Phase 1 work.

Consideration of a transfer of Contingency funds was removed from the agenda on a motion by Vice-Mayor Bill Sealock. Sealock indicated some questions about involved resources remained to be clarified. And council agreed to table consideration of the transfer pending more information.

Also, during the Interim Town Manager’s Report, FRPD Chief Kahle Magalis came forward for a promotion ceremony of Officer Zachary King to sergeant in the patrol division. His wife Jess, two children River and Tyler, and mother Dot were present for the brief ceremony during which Jess successfully pinned her husband’s new rank on his chest.

FRPD Chief Magalis introduces Office Zachary King, wife Jess, and older son River to council and the mayor as mom and younger son observe from the back row.

Jess pins her husband’s new rank to his chest without incident, as has not always been the case in past promotions.

Mom Dot and younger son Tyler get a closer look at Sgt. King’s promotion.

One local businessperson, Holly Leach, thanked the Town for its efforts on behalf of downtown businesses in the opening public comments period.

During his report, Interim Town Manager Matt Tederick presented social media statistics, views, and “likes” from the past weekend’s Fall leaf season during which a promotional effort by the contracted Tourism marketing company Strategic Solutions by Trish brought what Tederick called “influencers” or people with social media posting sites and followers related to travel and tourism, to Town.

Interim Town Manager Tederick explains the role of social media ‘influencers’ in promoting tourism in the community.

However, there were no numbers presented that indicated a direct correlation between revenue generation and the social media “influencers” posts, responses, and “likes” compared to past Fall season Tourism numbers. Though such statistics may only be known over time, when and if “likes” translate into visits, not only to our national and state parks but downtown and other tourism-related businesses as well.

And those results in hard business revenue numbers will have to be judged against past tourist season revenues for a final judgment on the “influencer’s” influence on tourism destinations.

Watch these discussions, ceremonies, and public comments in this Royal Examiner video:

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Local Government

Town Council urges Valley Health and Anthem to resolve cost impasse



In a final agenda item before adjourning to closed session Monday night, October 19, the Front Royal Town Council passed a Resolution urging regional medical provider Valley Health and insurance giant Anthem/Blue Cross Blue Shield to continue to negotiate to a mutually acceptable resolution on the existing impasse on costs associated with renewing their contract which expires at the end of the 2020 calendar year, December 31st.

The resolution on a motion by Lori Cockrell, seconded by Letasha Thompson, was approved by a 5-0 vote, with Valley Health employee Jake Meza who likely would have recused himself from voting, absent. There was no council comment prior to the vote, as there is an apparent community-wide consensus the two private sector health care entities need to resolve their new contract cost dispute.

Motorists passing the current WMH on N. Shenandoah Ave. may soon be thinking ‘I have to drive where for my Anthem insurance to do me any good?!?’ Royal Examiner Photos by Roger Bianchini – Royal Examiner Video by Mark Williams

As first reported by Royal Examiner contributing writer Malcolm Barr Sr. on September 28, (“Major health insurance carrier may quit Valley Health; health care costs may rise for many in 2021”) were the Anthem/Valley Health contract allowed to lapse it would impact as many as 70% of Valley Health patients, including government retirees and employees. The Front Royal Town Council resolution estimates an impact on “about 40,000 people in the Valley Health regional health care monopoly region” including those utilizing Warren Memorial Hospital in town.

Perhaps unhappily now for local governments, Valley Health is currently building a new Warren Memorial Hospital (WMH) enabled by a Town and County-approved $60-million-dollar loan through the County-Town Economic Development Authority covering a significant portion of the new facility off Leach Run Parkway’s estimated cost. The new hospital was already controversial due to the planned elimination of some services, most prominently a maternity/birthing unit.

Perhaps ironically, Meza’s reversal of previous recusals on the matter due to his employment status with Valley Health, enabled June 11, 2018, 3-1 vote (John Connolly dissenting) adding the Town’s approval of the EDA hospital financing to the County’s. With two councilmen, Morrison and Gillespie absent had Meza continued his previous recusals council would not have had a necessary voting quorum to proceed on the matter, at least at that June 11, 2018 meeting (“Birth Local’s last stand nets one ‘no’ vote on finalizing hospital financing”).

On June 11, 2018, ‘Birth Local’ activist Melanie Salins makes her final plea against preferential financial treatment for a new Valley Health hospital facility without a maternity unit as three Valley Health officials listen behind her. She and other public pleas netted one ‘no’ vote to a locally enabled EDA $60-million loan. Wonder what the vote would be today as Valley Health and Anthem play hardball on new insurance coverage contract costs?

But back to the present, Monday’s resolution notes that many people carry Anthem as their medical insurance provider through their employers, locally including public school and local government employees.

The resolution also points to the ongoing threat from the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic which it observes, “continues to threaten the livelihood and well-being of the Front Royal and indeed, the greater Warren County community … and would only be exasperated by the dissolution of the currently-existing Valley Health and Anthem partnership to provide quality, affordable, and in-network healthcare services to the residents and citizens of the Front Royal and Warren County community of many thousands of people.”

The resolution makes several references to Valley Health’s “de facto monopoly on many vital life-saving and critical health care provisions” in the region and cites “a moral, if not legal, fiduciary responsibility” to continue to provide its services “to residents within this geographic region” and place those Anthem-covered service costs “above the profits and pecuniary interests of Valley Health”.

The County is also considering its options should the impasse not be resolved as reported in our story “County considers options as Valley Health and Anthem insurance split” – and the supervisors have expressed a distinct preference for a resolution of the Anthem-Valley Health dispute to changes to its employee insurance packages estimated to see costs at least double.

‘Birth Local’ demonstrators outside WMH on Feb. 28, 2018. Might we see new demonstrators with different signage at WMH as the Valley Health-Anthem stare down over new insurance contract costs continues toward the year’s end?

So, will public pressure and municipal resolutions have a positive impact on what may be a high-stakes poker game between the Northern Shenandoah Valley regional health care provider and the national health care insurance giant?

Stay tuned – it’s only our health and sometimes lives on the line versus corporate and executive compensation bottom lines.

See the motion, vote, and other business and public comments to council that will be summarized in a related story, in this Royal Examiner video of Monday’s 29-minute open meeting:

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Oct 30 @ 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Fire Pit Fridays @ Shenandoah Valley Golf Club
7:00 pm Love Revival – FREE Monthly Comm... @ Love Revival Ministry Center
Love Revival – FREE Monthly Comm... @ Love Revival Ministry Center
Oct 30 @ 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 Halloween on Main Street @ White Picket Fence
Halloween on Main Street @ White Picket Fence
Oct 31 @ 10:00 am – 8:00 pm
Halloween on Main Street @ White Picket Fence
10-11 am: Dog Costume Parade and judging 1-2 pm: Wedding on the Gazebo 4 pm: Children’s Costume Parade with judging and prizes 5 pm: Trick or Treat on Main Street. Merchants and County Businesses will[...]
5:00 pm Halloween Glow Throw @ Shenandoah Valley Axe Throwing Co
Halloween Glow Throw @ Shenandoah Valley Axe Throwing Co
Oct 31 @ 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Halloween Glow Throw @ Shenandoah Valley Axe Throwing Co
Bring your best costumes and GLOW throw with us! Trick or treat, throw axes and have an amazing Halloween with SVAXETHROWINGCO! KID friendly! Make your reservation today, spots will fill up fast: Fill out[...]
6:00 pm Annual Meeting of St. Luke Commu... @ Online Event
Annual Meeting of St. Luke Commu... @ Online Event
Nov 4 @ 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Annual Meeting of St. Luke Community Clinic @ Online Event
St. Luke Community Clinic, Inc., of Front Royal, will hold its Annual Meeting at 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, November 4, by ZOOM. All members (those who donate $35 annually or volunteer at the clinic) are[...]
6:00 pm Fashion Show Fundraiser benefitt... @ West Oaks Farm Market Event Venue
Fashion Show Fundraiser benefitt... @ West Oaks Farm Market Event Venue
Nov 5 @ 6:00 pm – 8:30 pm
Fashion Show Fundraiser benefitting Boy Scouts @ West Oaks Farm Market Event Venue
Fashion Show Fundraiser benefitting Shenandoah Area Council Boy Scouts Fashion, food, cash bar, silent auction, raffle, door prizes, vendors on-site. Sponsored by Anna Quinn Jewelers, Grove’s Winchester Harley Davidson and Firenza Pizza. Showcasing clothing by[...]
all-day Small Business Saturday @ Front Royal, Virginia
Small Business Saturday @ Front Royal, Virginia
Nov 7 all-day
Small Business Saturday @ Front Royal, Virginia
Why should Small Business Saturday just be celebrated on the Saturday after Thanksgiving? Buy Local – Shop Local – Eat Local – Support Front Royal’s Small Business Community and stay local! Small Business Saturdays –[...]