Robotic field painter, senior center patio among School Board approvals
The Warren County School Board, during its Wednesday, February 1 meeting, unanimously approved several action items, including the purchase of a robotic athletic field painter, a senior center patio, an IT construction proposal, and another school bus purchase.
School Board Chair Kristen Pence, Vice Chair Ralph Rinaldi, and board members Antoinette Funk, Andrea Lo, and Melanie Salins voted 5-0 to approve the collaborative purchase of a robotic field painter. The total cost of $45,080 — which will be paid over a six-year period at $7,513 each year — will be divided equally between the Warren County Public Schools (WCPS) Facilities Department, Skyline High School, and Warren County High School. Each will pay $2,504 yearly to Tiny Mobile Robots USA, LLC.
An additional appropriation is not required as budgets for these departments can cover the annual expense, according to WCPS staff, who told the School Board that the purchase is considered the best option for efficiently using school district manpower and will produce an annual cost saving on paint.
The School Board also voted unanimously to approve a patio for the new Warren County Senior Center being built at its 15th Street school property, which is officially known as the Warren County Health and Human Services Complex. WCPS sublets roughly 59,010 square feet at the former 15th Street Middle School facility to the Warren County Department of Social Services, the County’s Health Department, and the Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging, among others.
Taryn Logan, Deputy County Administrator for Warren County, presented details on the proposed patio, noting that the lease agreement requires the School Board to approve any exterior renovations in advance in writing.
“We’re currently making improvements to the cafeteria space to move the senior center from its current location, which is by Chimney Fields, to this location,” Logan said.
There is a grassy area right outside the cafeteria doors where the patio, a stone sign that will say Warren County Senior Center, and a metal fence to enclose the area will be located, said Logan. “We think it’ll be a nice little area for the seniors to enjoy outside,” she said.
In another action, the School Board unanimously passed a request for another school bus purchase from Sonny Merryman Bus Co. costing $127,509. The bus will be manufactured and delivered along with the seven current buses on order. All vehicles are scheduled to be ready before the 2023-2024 school year, according to WCPS Assistant Superintendent of Administration George “Buck” Smith.
Smith said the board also authorized the superintendent to make the bus purchase request to the Warren County Board of Supervisors, which would have to modify the amount on the existing purchase order.
Additionally, a $160,929 network wiring project at Leslie Fox Keyser Elementary School was approved for Syntax Communications.
“As part of the LFK construction project, the network cabling needs to be updated to meet the current technology needs of the modern school system,” WCPS Technology Director Tim Grant told board members, adding that the cost will be paid out of the LFK construction funds and was bid through the Warren County government IT contract.
A.S. Rhodes Elementary School received an award for having a 95.38 percent attendance rate during the month of January, Ballenger said. Incentives to ramp up attendance at the school included extra gym time, cookie decorating, and class option choices such as dance parties and having lunch with a teacher in the classroom.
Warren County Middle School won for the second time in a row with a 92.21 percent attendance rate for January. Incentives included a snowball fight, watching a movie with their friends, and earning a trophy.
The most improved for January was Hilda J. Barbour Elementary School, which saw attendance rise 2.84 percent for an overall 93.1 percent attendance rate in January, according to Ballenger. Fun incentives included popsicles with the principal for the class having the best attendance on any given day.
Click her to watch the School Board meeting of February 1, 2023.
EDA in Focus
Town Mayor Cockrell and County Economic Development Director Petty react to the Shenandoah Rail Trail event and public feedback
Royal Examiner asked several local officials who participated in Thursday evening’s Shenandoah Rail Trail presentation what they thought of the project, the public turnout, and feedback about the project. Front Royal Mayor Lori Cockrell introduced the evening’s event and some Rail Trail Partnership and local officials present for it, including Warren County Director of Economic Development Joe Petty. We queried both the town mayor and county economic development director on their perspectives.
“I think the partnership prepared an excellent event. It provided information as well as opportunities to ask questions and share concerns and input. There was a large group of engaged people in attendance. I think I counted between 120-130 people,” Mayor Cockrell began, adding, “I was very encouraged by all the positive feedback I received. I even spoke with people who have previously lived in other communities with rail trails who have moved to our area. They were excited about having an opportunity like this locally.
“I also spoke with people who had concerns because they lived on property that borders the rail corridor. I think they had valid concerns. I connected them with members of the partnership who could gather their concerns and hopefully address them moving forward. That’s what last night was all about, getting the community’s input,” Cockrell concluded of the ongoing process of developing a citizen-friendly project.
County Economic Development Director Petty concurred with the mayor’s overall perception: “I thought the meeting went well and there was a good turnout. I was able to have open conversations with members of the community that are in support, have questions, or concerned with the project; and look forward to continuing those discussions with all of them in the future. I believe meetings similar to last night are important in order to engage with the public,” Petty said of the project’s developmental process.
“I also spoke with individuals regarding the economic impacts as defined in the Economic Impact Analysis, and how we can further highlight and explore the local benefits as well as expand on the regional benefits,” Petty concluded.
Mayor Cockrell concurred on the importance of the Economic Development Analysis:
“One area that was not focused on during the event was the specific numbers that came out of the Economic Impact Analysis. Benefits to our community were shared, but I think if citizens had the opportunity to see actual predicted numbers, actual dollars, they might be even more enthusiastic about the project!” she concluded with an exclamation point by email.
Shenandoah Rail Trail Partnership makes its case as a beneficial project, not only to Front Royal, but communities throughout the Valley
EDA in Focus
Shenandoah Rail Trail Partnership makes its case as a beneficial project, not only to Front Royal, but communities throughout the Valley
On Thursday evening, March 23rd, representatives of the Shenandoah Rail Trail Partnership gathered with local municipal officials from the Town of Front Royal and Warren County at the community meeting room of Front Royal Fire & Rescue Company 1 on Commerce Avenue for an informational presentation and community feedback opportunity.
The Shenandoah Rail Trail project would convert abandoned railroad lines to community and tourist-friendly “walking, hiking, jogging, cycling (non-motorized it appears) and more” non-intrusive recreational uses. The proposed project would connect, not only communities from Front Royal/Warren County on its northeast to Broadway in Rockingham County at the south end of the trail, but also sections of each community to each other.
“Up and down the route, the trail connects students to school, employees to work, customers to shops, diners to restaurants, and community members to parks, rivers and historic sites,” a pamphlet available to attendees notes in its summary of the project. Of the planned path, it adds: “The rail corridor, once a community and economic hub of towns from Broadway to Front Royal, has not seen trains as far back as 1989. The tracks are now overgrown and, in some areas, completely unusable.”
The project includes the communities of Front Royal, Strasburg, Woodstock, Tom’s Brook, Edinburg, Mount Jackson, New Market, Timberville, and Broadway. Of the benefit to the
average Shenandoah Valley citizen of these communities, the Shenandoah Rail Trail group observes that many of the existing trails in National Parks and elsewhere “are remote and, by the nature of the terrain, suited for advanced trail users.
“Our rail trail is flat, primarily rural and scenic, and easily accessed from many towns and neighborhoods. It will be a safe and easy way to get outside to walk, run or roll with family members of all ages and abilities.”
The rail trail group also points to potential economic benefit from realization of the project in improving easily accessible amenities for area citizens – a plus for companies looking to locate in areas that provide “a high quality of life to the folks they employ” — and those folks could include locals recruited by new businesses moving into the valley.
The friendly nature of a flat, scenic walking, hiking and biking trail can also attract regional tourists, expanding the customer base for local shops, restaurants, and other businesses accessible from the rail trail.
Learn more by visiting <shenandoahrailtrail.org>
Town Mayor Cockrell and County Economic Development Director Petty react to the Shenandoah Rail Trail event and public feedback
Randolph-Macon Academy participates in the NYC St Patrick’s Day Parade
For the first time since COVID, R-MA participated in the NYC St Patrick’s Day Parade. Cadets soaked in the big city as they marched the streets in perfect time. Approximately 30 blocks were covered during the parade as they passed huge skyscrapers all the way to Central Park.
Music Director, Michael DeMato remarks, “It’s an amazing feeling to be back at this parade after missing several due to COVID. We are looking forward to many more in the future.” DeMato helped organize the NYC adventure and brought wonderful excitement to the cadets as he shared stories of growing up in Queens.
In addition to the marching band, we had a parade unit under the direction of Col Mark Allen and CMSgt Ken Evans (both retired), led by C/LTC Henry Scott including a flag corps composed of all 50 state flags! Students did an amazing job holding the flags proudly throughout the whole parade route.
The band was led by Drum Major Cadet 2nd Lieutenant Sarina Winters. Winter’s leadership was a joy to watch as she led the band through the streets of New York City. At times she stopped forward marching to allow pedestrians to cross the street as seen in the following video.
Following the parade, students toured NYC seeing various museums, local restaurants, Times Square and other big-city sights, including the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum. St. Patrick’s Day weekend will be something these young cadets will remember forever. Go Jackets!
FRWRC celebrates local women and 2023 Dare to Dream grant recipients
The Front Royal Women’s Resource Center (FRWRC) announced its 2023 Dare to Dream grant recipients and Elaine Bromfield Memorial Scholarship recipients during a celebratory Dare to Dream Breakfast Award Ceremony. The FRWRC awarded a total of $12,000 in grant and scholarship money to 10 local women, all with goals and dreams to better their lives, the lives of their families and the lives of other women in the community.
“Awarding our annual Dare To Dream grants is our most rewarding event of the year and also has the most visible impact on our community,” said Susan Gillette, President of the FRWRC Board. “Over the past two decades, we have witnessed first-hand how these grants directly help women achieve their personal, professional and educational goals that in turn, help women improve their lives, the lives of their families and build a stronger community for all of us! With the support of our community and our dedicated donors, we are thrilled to be able to distribute 10 new grants to area women this year and we look forward to watching these women soar in 2023.”
The room was electric filled with 80 women and guests celebrating the dreams, achievements and perseverance of women in our community. Dr. Tamara Spriggs, of Front Royal Family Practice gave the key note address congratulating the 2023 grantees and reminding women to never give up on their dreams.
The 2023 Dare to Dream Grant Recipients:
DARE TO DREAM GRANTS
- Amy Tehovnik has always had a dream to own and operate a successful dance studio that promotes a fun and educational environment for the arts. After graduating from the University of Maryland with a Bachelor of Arts in Dance, Amy performed with several dance companies in Virginia and then in New York City for a worldwide performance with Team Vicious/Noble Steps. As a single mom, life events kept her dream of owning her own dance studio at bay. Amy moved to Warren County a few years ago with her 10-year-old daughter who she credits for rekindling her dream of sharing the art of dance. In addition to her full-time job in designing closet systems, she also volunteers as a dance teacher in a local after school program. She is now ready to grow her business and offer more to the community.
FRWRC awarded Amy Tehovnik a $1000 Dare to Dream grant to purchase a portable music/sound system to use for her expanding dance classes and to build her business.
- Alyssa Holmes is a single mom raising four children on her own, and working multiple minimum wage jobs to make ends meet. She is also a survivor of domestic abuse. A recent protection order granted through the courts has provided Alyssa and her family with more security, freedom, and empowerment than she has had in years. Alyssa is now ready for more than just surviving. She wants to follow her dream of working in the field of real estate and build a better future for her family. She will begin her journey by obtaining a home inspection certificate and connecting with real estate agents through her work inspecting homes.
FRWRC awarded Alyssa Holmes a $1000 Dare to Dream grant to support a 70-hour American Home Inspectors Training course.
- Edilia Beatris Osorio Carranza is a 28-year-old single mom with four children. After several abusive relationships, she has spent the last 10 years working through the judicial system to protect her children. She graduated high school while raising her children and has fought to continue her own education without financial help. She is currently enrolled at Laurel Ridge Community College pursuing a certificate in the Administration of Justice Program. She is also operating her own small, successful cleaning business and working a second cleaning job at night. Her dream is to have a brighter future for herself and family. Edilia wants to be the first one in the family to go to college. Her ultimate goal is to transfer to a four-year college to earn a degree in Criminal Justice and use her own experiences to help other women navigate the judicial system.
FRWRC awarded Edilia Beatris Osorio Carranza a $1000 Dare to Dream grant to help support tuition costs at Laurel Ridge Community College.
- Elizabeth Coffey, a Front Royal native, has been through a year of loss and blessings. She lost her mother, a cousin, and a job, while also welcoming two beautiful granddaughters and building her own business. Liz makes and sells dairy free fruit butters and a childhood nickname was the inspiration for her business name – Petty Betty Treats. Her small business like many others in our community, relies heavily on local farmers markets and festivals to sell her good. The local craft festival and farmers’ markets season runs only a couple months during the year. Elizabeth dreams to use her extensive background in event planning to lengthen the local Fall through Christmas Farmers Markets and Craft Show season to year-long opportunities for herself, and other small business owners.
FRWRC awarded Elizabeth Coffey a $1000 Dare to Dream grant to expand her small business in event planning for local community events.
- Huong Thu Bui “Mia” was born in Saigon, South Vietnam. She followed her husband to the United States in 2005 with her 3-year-old daughter, adapted quickly, learned English, and became a U.S. Citizen in 2009. With money she saved working for a service business in Maryland, she bought Elite Nail and Spa in Front Royal nearly eight years ago. In 2020, when COVID hit, she went through the pandemic with a mindset to ‘make it through’, as this was not the biggest challenge she had faced in her life. Open again, with a remodeled store and loyal and supportive customers, Mia dreams to strengthen her business with a new website and computer software that can help her manage her appointments more efficiently.
FRWRC awarded Huong Thu Bui “Mia” a $1000 Dare to Dream grant to purchase a laptop and software to support her successful nail spa.
- Jazmine White is full time biology student at Bridgewater College. In addition to her studies, she works as a student ambassador at her college, and serves as a student mentor and orientation leader. Jazmine makes multiple trips home to Front Royal each month to help care for her mother after a surgery. Jazmine’s dream is to become a veterinarian. Knowing the cost of her dream, she plans to work for a few years after completing her current degree to save money for Veterinary school.
FRWRC awarded Jazmine White a $1000 Dare to Dream Grant to support her tuition and book expenses at Bridgewater College.
- Jordan Booterbaugh is a young woman with many dreams. She lived overseas for several years during her childhood, and desires to explore the world again through art and culture with adult eyes. After attending PAVAN Governor’s School during her high school years, Jordan decided to combine her love of art and people. She began a face painting business focusing on events and parties. She says her full-face intricate designs often pull children out of their shells as they transform into their favorite superhero or animal. She is eager to expand her business with face painting templates and an online learning platform designed for art businesses.
FRWRC awarded Jordan Booterbaugh a $1000 Dare to Dream Grant to purchase an iPad Pro to support her art and face painting business.
- Sarah Veitenthal was born and raised in Front Royal/ Warren County. After graduating from college, Sarah started her career at the local Montessori school where her three children also attended. During her time working with children with parents and children together, she developed a deeper understanding of the individual struggles of local families. In 2022 Sarah started her own business supporting families with small children in our community, through various sessions and classes. She also became a certified doula and childbirth educator to connect with families right from the start and help guide their journey through parenthood. Sarah’s dream is to be able to support more families in our area so we can have a healthier community of parents and children.
FRWRC awarded Sarah Veitenthal a $1000 Dare to Dream Grant to create postpartum wellness boxes and professional educational materials to connect with new families in the community.
ELAINE BROMFIELD MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIPS
- Isabelle Grupac is a junior at Shenandoah University. She is majoring in biology on the pre-physical therapy track with a minor in physiology. Her goal is to earn her Doctorate of Physical Therapy, concentrating on women’s health. Isabelle’s dream is to lead women through specialized programs to restore and maintain their health, and to educate the community on these issues that can arise throughout a women’s lifespan. In addition to her rigorous course work, Isabelle serves as a member of Colleges Against Cancer and the Health and Life Sciences Club, and works as a tutor and lab assistant. Isabelle works part-time when she can fit it into her academic schedule to help pay for her tuition, and she lives off campus with her family to help save money on living expenses.
FRWRC awarded Isabelle Grupac a $2000 Elaine Broomfield Memorial Scholarship toward her undergraduate tuition at Shenandoah University.
- Prutha Patel is a Warren County High School Alumni and a first-generation college graduate with a degree in Biology from Virginia Commonwealth University. She is currently enrolled in medical school at Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine in Blacksburg. Prutha always knew she wanted to become a doctor. Her parents immigrated to the United States before she was born, impacting the resources that were available to her family. As a child, she remembers not being able to seek medical care because of being uninsured. Her dream is to address the medical disparities that she has personally experienced. Prutha wants to aid the underserved members of the local community, especially women, with treatments and knowledge that will allow them to live a healthy lifestyle.
FRWRC awarded Prutha Patel a $2000 Elaine Broomfield Memorial Scholarship to assist with her medical school tuition and expenses.
About Front Royal Women’s Resource Center
The Front Royal Women’s Resource Center (FRWRC) is a 25-year-old non-profit organization, dedicated to providing a support network for women in the Warren County area through programs, information and education. Over the last two decades, FRWRC has provided networking opportunities, spotlighted women leaders in our community and awarded more than $142,000 in grants and scholarships to 191 Warren County women and girls to support education, and professional and personal enrichment opportunities. We empower women to change their world. Visit our website frwrc.org and follow us on Facebook @FRWRC.
Support the Front Royal Women’s Resource Center frwrc.org/donate
WCFR 10-A-Day smoke alarm challenge
The Warren County Department of Fire and Rescue Services has renewed our partnership with the American Red Cross – West Virginia Region, Central Appalachia and will participate in their “Sound the Alarm, Save a Life” campaign. The department will conduct a “10-A-Day Campaign” to assist in their endeavor.
Our “10-A-Day Campaign” will challenge each of our staffed stations to complete the following activities for each day during the week of April 2 through April 8, 2023, with the focus on:
- Visiting a minimum of 10 homes each day.
- Providing lifesaving education on smoke alarms to a minimum of 10 people each day.
- Inspecting a minimum of 10 existing smoke alarms for their appropriate operating condition, placement, and adequate date.
- Replacing a minimum of 10 out-of-date alarms or installing new alarms where needed.
Warren County Fire and Rescue is proud to collaborate with the American Red Cross and to have been part of the success of the “Sound the Alarm, Save A Life” campaign. The American Red Cross and its partners have installed over 2.5 million free smoke alarms, making over 1 million homes safer. The department plans to continue to assist with their goal of 50,000 smoke alarm installs during April by challenging our staff to install 80 smoke alarms a day, every day, during the week campaign, for a total of 560 smoke alarm installs.
According to the American Red Cross, “Home fires claim seven lives every day, but having working smoke alarms can cut the risk of death by half.” Warren County Department of Fire and Rescue is committed to further reducing this number by partnering with the American Red Cross, educating the community, and providing free smoke alarm installs.
For a free fire and life safety home evaluation and to receive your free smoke alarms, please contact us at 540-636-3830 or visit www.warrencountyfire.com.
McDonald criminal cases change of venue motion denied – Front Royal, Warren County residents will be excluded from federal jury pool
On Monday, March 20th, United States District Judge Elizabeth K. Dillon entered an order denying Jennifer McDonald’s motion for a change of venue to Charlottesville for her criminal trial slated for Harrisonburg in a federal court in the 10th Western District of Virginia. That trial, on 34 criminal indictments related to the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority “financial scandal,” is scheduled for over a month from May 15 into June.
Federal court-appointed defense counsel for McDonald, Eric Trodden, filed the change of venue for trial in February. He asserted that his client is not likely to get an unbiased jury in Harrisonburg due to Shenandoah Valley regional media reporting about McDonald and other related civil cases in which she was a witness or topic of legal arguments pointing a finger at her alleged role as the central figure in the estimated $26-million financial embezzlement and misappropriation of FR-WC EDA and municipal funds scandal.
However, after a detailed review of applicable law and circumstances of the press coverage by local and regional media, specifically citing Royal Examiner coverage dating back to 2018, the judge ruled the coverage as essentially non-biased and factually based. The judge did rule that residents of the Town of Front Royal and Warren County would be excluded from the federal jury pool.
“It is HEREBY ORDERED that defendant’s motion to transfer venue (Dkt. No. 45) is DENIED, but the court will exclude residents of the Town of Front Royal and Warren County. Warren County has no cities, and only one recognized town, Front Royal, from the jury pool. The clerk of court is directed to transmit a copy of this order to all counsel of record,” Judge Dillon wrote in concluding her review of the issues surrounding the defense motion.
In examining the circumstance of media coverage, Judge Dillon wrote: “Press coverage of this matter has been primarily from the Royal Examiner and the Northern Virginia Daily. (Dkt. No. 47.) Both papers are local to the Strasburg/Front Royal Area. The majority of the press coverage is from 2019, two years before the indictment in this case, although the media covered this case and related civil lawsuits into 2021. Defendant herself initiated the press coverage in 2018 when she reached out to a local reporter (yours truly) with an allegedly false story about winning money at a casino.
EDA Director Jennifer McDonald parlays casino winnings into real estate investments
In her analysis of the McDonald defense motion, Judge Dillon observed: “Rule 18 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure governs the appropriate place for trial. ‘Unless a statute or these rules permit otherwise, the government must prosecute an offense in a district where the offense was committed. The court must set the place of trial within the district with due regard for the convenience of the defendant, any victim, and the witnesses, and the prompt administration of justice.”
And Judge Dillon ruled that with the exclusion of residents of Front Royal and Warren County, about an hour north of Harrisonburg, who have been most exposed to media coverage going on five years, McDonald can get that fair trial from jurors further south in the Federal 10th Western District of Virginia, in a City of Harrisonburg federal courtroom.
McDonald faces 16 counts of money laundering, 10 counts of bank fraud, 7 counts of wire fraud, and 1 count of aggravated identity theft, the latter related to the Truc “Curt” Tran/ITFederal case.
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