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Rule change turf war – supervisors scuffle over timing of rule changes

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A clear and present minority – Tom Sayre, right, and Archie Fox lost a series 3-2 votes on motions regarding when a vote on public concerns speaker rules would occur. Photos/Roger Bianchini

A distinct divide on the Warren County Board of Supervisors appeared Tuesday morning in a series of motions made regarding changes proposed to meeting rules regarding public comments on non-agenda items.

Following Happy Creek Supervisor Tony Carter’s initial motion to approve Option A of two alternatives presented to the board at the February 5 meeting, Vice-Chairman Tom Sayre issued a series of three counter motions. All of Sayre’s motions were defeated by 3-2 votes with only Fork District Supervisor Archie Fox siding with the vice chairman on each vote.

Carter’s original motion mirroring most suggestions he made following a January 22 public hearing on incorporating recent meeting rule changes into county codes was then approved by the same 3-2 margin.

The board divide centered on approval of meeting rule changes regarding public comment on non-agenda topics proposed by Carter following an overwhelming January 22 public showing of opposition to previously-approved rule changes being adopted into county codes. Of particular public concern was a limit on the number of times a citizen may address any given topic to the board within a 12-month time frame. That limit was three times.

The three-times in 12 months limit (apparently approved then forgotten in 2017), five minutes per speaker (a 2-minute increase) with a 20-minute limit on total non-agenda public comment time (a 5-minute increase) had been approved into meeting rules January 8 by a unanimous vote. The January 22 public hearing was for a vote to incorporate those changes into county codes for consistency.

Carter’s proposed Option A meeting rule change of February 5 did not include the 12-month speaking restriction. But as he proposed on January 22, while increasing the public comment time allotted to non-agenda topics from the previously-approved 20 minutes to an hour, it also moved that comment period to the end of board meetings. That change appears designed to get scheduled meeting business in prior to potentially lengthy comment periods on matters of general concern not slated for board action or discussion on a meeting agenda.

Option A also proposed keeping a 20-minute public comment period early in meetings following adoption of the agenda for items “on the agenda not the subject of a public hearing.” Speaking times would be “divided equally among the number of speakers who have signed up”
Option A stated.

Another change for the 60-minute, end-of-meeting comment period on non-agenda items was removal of a specified time limit on individual speakers. Carter’s Option A proposal simply stated that the 60 minutes allotted to non-agenda items at meetings’ end “shall be divided equally among the number of speakers who have signed up.”

It is an interesting choice of wording that appears to create the potential for a lone speaker to wax poetic on a chosen topic for 60 minutes if so desired.

However the potential of a meeting being extended an hour by one riled-up and verbose citizen at meeting’s end did not appear to be the driving force of Sayre and Fox’s opposition to Carter’s Option A response to what he heard from the public on January 22.

Sayre’s first two counter motions were to table; then postpone a vote on new rules to the February 19 meeting. That meeting was to include a work session discussion and potential additional public input on the rules and code change discussion. Sayre’s third motion was to strike a sentence on the “three times within 12 months” restriction, though Carter’s motion on the table had no such sentence.

“In Option A it is struck out,” Board Chairman Dan Murray pointed out.

“So the motion is to strike something that’s not there,” South River Supervisor Linda Glavis asked.

County Attorney Dan Whitten observed that while not in the motion on the table, the sentence was in the existing rules and could be the intended target of Sayre’s motion. Wherever the targeted sentence was located, the vice chairman’s third counter motion failed by the same 3-2 margin his attempts to delay a rules change vote had.

The 3-member ‘let’s get on with it’ majority, Murray-Glavis-Carter, cast a wary eye in anticipation of another counter motion from Board Vice-Chair Sayre.

“This is not brain science or rocket surgery,” Carter quipped following the third consecutive defeat of Sayre counter motions. “This gives them everything they want,” Carter added of his perception that his offered Option A was a direct response to the public hearing comments of January 22.

Despite the fact the January 8 rule change vote was a unanimous one Sayre responded dismissively, accusing Carter of “fighting me and Archie every step of the way” on the rule changes.

Carter countered that he was just responding to the public input, which particularly sought elimination of the three times within 12 months and 20-minute per meeting conditions.

“I’m agreeing – and now you are disagreeing with me,” Carter said with some exasperation.

That exchange led to a vote on Carter’s original motion to install Option A as the new board rule on public comments time. It passed by the same 3-2 margin, Sayre and Fox dissenting.

Round 2

If that wasn’t enough entertainment for one evening, a related agenda item followed. That item was a reconsideration of the January 22 motion to postpone the discussion that had essentially just occurred regarding meeting rules, as well as the vote on code changes regarding meeting rules to February 19. Carter’s motion, seconded by Glavis, was to reconsider the motion delaying further discussion and a code vote to February 19.

Sayre asked if he could amend the motion to simply leave the code regarding meeting rules as it currently is. County Attorney Whitten replied that was not an acceptable amendment to the motion on the table.

Alert the media – Carter’s original motion to reconsider then passed unanimously!!!

Sayre then made a motion to amend the January 22 motion to delay discussion and a vote on the 5 minutes per speakerl/20 minutes total/3 times in 12 months code changes to a motion to not approve those code changes.

Alert the media again – Carter then seconded Sayre’s motion, which then passed unanimously!!!

Noting like a little unity to end a meeting on.

The end result as best we can ascertain with Board Clerk Emily Mounce’s help, is that what we affectionately termed the “Mark Egger Rules” (5 minutes each/20 minutes total/3 times a year) are now dead as both meeting rules and proposed county code changes.

Board Chair Dan Murray, left, may be wondering if it would be any easier if Bianchini occupied the vice mayor’s chair.

Local Government

Warren County Budget Process: Commissioner of the Revenue, Director of Elections and Social Services

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Commissioner of the Revenue Sherry Sours discusses her budget with the Board of Supervisors. Photo and video by Mark Williams, Royal Examiner.

The Warren County Board of Supervisors held work session with County Departments and Constitutional Officers regarding the FY 2019-2020 budget on Tuesday, February 12, 2019.

Royal Examiner  is following the process and in this fourth session, the Commissioner of the Revenue Sherry Sours, Director of Elections Carol Tobin and Social Services Director DeAnna Cheatham was before the Board of Supervisors with their proposed budget items. Each had about 10 minutes to make their case. The final decision will be determined by the Board of Supervisors.

Watch the process:

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Local Government

Warren County Budget Process: Building Inspector, Airport, Shenandoah Farms, and Magistrate

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Warren County Building Inspections Department David Beahm shares his proposed budget to the Board of Supervisors. Photo and video by Mark Williams, Royal Examiner.

The Warren County Board of Supervisors held work session with County Departments and Constitutional Officers regarding the FY 2019-2020 budget on Tuesday, February 12, 2019.

Royal Examiner  is following the process and in this third session, Warren County Building Inspections Department David Beahm, Deputy Administrator Bob Childress and Chief Magistrate Monica Martin each had their ten minute block of time to discuss their proposed budget with the Board of Supervisors. Deputy Administrator Bob Childress discussed the Airport and Shenandoah Farms Sanitary District budget items. The final decision will be determined by the Board of Supervisors.

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Local Government

Warren County Budget Process: Sheriff, Administration and Finance

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Warren County Sheriff Danny McEathron makes his pitch to the Board of Supervisors. Photo and video by Mark Williams, Royal Examiner.

The Warren County Board of Supervisors held work session with County Departments and Constitutional Officers regarding the FY 2019-2020 budget on Tuesday, February 12, 2019.

Royal Examiner  is following the process and in this second session, Warren County Sheriff Danny McEathron, County Administrator Doug Stanley and County Finance Director Andre Fletcher each had their ten minutes in front of the Board of Supervisors to give the highlights of their proposed budget. The final decision will be determined by the Board of Supervisors.

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Local Government

Warren County Budget process underway

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County Administrator Doug Stanley leads the discussion on the FY 2020 Warren County Budget.Photo and video by Mark Williams, Royal Examiner.

The Warren County Board of Supervisors held work session with County Departments and Constitutional Officers regarding the FY 2019-2020 budget on Tuesday, February 12, 2019.

Royal Examiner  will follow the process over the next few weeks. In this first session, County Administrator Doug Stanley gives the committee an overview discussion before the County Departments and Constitutional Offices appear. It’s interesting to hear the discussion and see the detail of what it takes to put a budget together. It’s a slow and long process, but necessary.

 

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Local Government

County Fire & Rescue presents 5-year plan to augment staff, service

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You don’t need them till you need them – and when you do, you appreciate their importance to you and your community. Photos/Roger Bianchini. Video by Mark Williams, Royal Examiner.

Warren County Fire Chief Richard Mabie and Fire Marshal Gerry Maiatico presented a Five-Year Staffing and Implementation Plan to the Board of Supervisors at a February 5 work session. Maiatico utilized a power point presentation (see Royal Examiner video below) to explain the rationale and cost implications to the county’s elected officials who hold the purse strings to realize the plan.

Maiatico stressed that the plan was developed to be “realistic and attainable”, taking into consideration where the county has been, is, and is anticipated to be demographically in five years; as well as where emergency services across the country are. That latter aspect is important as a comparison point to other communities’ departments the County’s Fire & Emergency Services Department must compete against in seeking federal or state grants to help fund operations or departmental expansion.

So far the department has not fared well in such grant applications, Maiatico noted. However, movement toward implementation of the plan presented Tuesday morning will give the department, not only a needed staffing boost, but also improve its competitive position in future grant applications.

“If you don’t swing, you don’t get a hit,” Maiatico said in response to Supervisor Linda Glavis’s frown at the information that emergency services grants are competed for by a nationwide array of emergency services departments.

Gerry Maiatico explains the process and plan to expand county fire & rescue over next five years to meet county needs – Dan Murray, right, and Archie Fox are pictured.

Crucial to the plan titled “Evaluating the Past, Preparing for the Future” is bringing the department into compliance with standards for staffing and response times based on specific community demographics developed by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Those standards are called NFPA 1720.

“How do we meet NFPA 1720 standards to be eligible for grant funding,” Maiatico asked in prefacing the five-year plan he was about to present details of.

The short answer is over a five-year period add a total of 26 uniformed positions to the department’s current paid, uniformed career staffing total of 46 positions. Without significant grant assistance, Maiatico acknowledged such a goal “was not likely” within the recommended time frame.

But you have to start somewhere – and somewhere appears to be tied to a successful application for funding through the Safety for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant Program to add 15 additional staff positions; or failing that, a County commitment to add initial additional staff through County funding likely tied to a tax increase.

“If you don’t have adequate professional fire & rescue it is hard to attract better-paying jobs to the area – that is one thing companies look at when they are considering where to locate or expand,” Board Chairman Dan Murray commented.

A map of county fire & rescue service areas and station locations

The plan for the initial 15 positions, as with the eventual total of 26, would be to place them strategically, including floater positions that could move as countywide needs dictate.

“Some positions are slated to staff and serve additional units in underserved areas of the county, while others are planned to provide essential support services for field personnel,” page 4 of the report states.

The report includes a five-pronged “strategic objectives” plan of departmental priorities. Those objectives are: 24/7 staffing at Rivermont Company 2; increased staffing in high call volume stations; an increase in “floater” positions; adding some support service positions; and an increase in volunteer retention.

“We don’t have a recruiting problem, we have a retention problem – it is too easy to walk away these days,” Maiatico told the supervisors.

On the volunteer side of the department’s current makeup are 65 operational volunteer response personnel, with 45 associate personnel. Those volunteer responders help man eight combination fire and emergency medical staff stations serving more than 39,600 citizens over a 216 square mile county.

And as one person who is alive to write this story due to the timely, approximately two-minute response time, I am told, by Company One’s Advanced Life Support (ALS) unit upon the occasion of my cardiac arrest just over six years ago, I vote – if I had gotten that board vice chairmanship and had a vote – to see that County Emergency Services gets the funding and staffing necessary to adequately cover Warren County as we approach the third decade of the 21st Century.

Because as has been pointed out to me by a number of people since, had Company One’s ALS staff been covering, as they often do, an emergency outside town limits I would not be here now – lobbying for any necessary expansion of their budget to meet departmental needs.

As noted above, see Royal Examiner’s linked video of Gerry Maiatico’s power point presentation detailing a departmental staffing overview and Strategic Five-Year Staffing and Implementation Plan.

 

Oh, and thanks to Paula for keeping me going for those two minutes till Company One’s ALS boys arrived on scene.

A month after his heart abruptly stopped for no good reason this reporter thanks some of those who saved his life the afternoon of Dec. 31, 2012. Photo/Roger’s camera in hands of Co. 1 staff

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Holloway says too early to discuss Beer Museum legal challenge

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The Front Royal Town Council hurried through a brief open-meeting agenda – then there were those ongoing closed session EDA debt service issues. Photos by Roger Bianchini, Video by Mark Williams, Royal Examiner.

A perhaps record-setting for brevity 10-minute long regular meeting of the Front Royal Town Council on Monday, February 11, saw an approval, an appointment and adjournment to closed session – a closed session that went on over an hour.

The closed session discussion was of two items requiring private legal counsel regarding “legal mechanisms related to handling potential debt service related to prior and current budget years with respect to the Economic Development Authority”.

During the regular meeting, appointed unanimously to the Urban Forestry Advisory Committee was Jason Lamb; and approved unanimously was a requested revision of proffers by BMW Real Estate LLC for development of a vacant property across John Marshall Highway from Royal Lane at the southeastern entrance into town.

No announcement was forthcoming following the closed session, which included EDA Interim Executive Director John Anzivino and EDA Attorney Dan Whitten, as well as 2 East Main Street LLC architect Jim Burton. The second closed session agenda item involved the Afton Inn property which the 2 East Main Street group is redeveloping.

However, of particular interest was one item that did not make the agenda. Newly-installed Councilman Chris Holloway, a former councilman and vice mayor, cast a lone vote not to add a third closed session item – discussion with legal counsel of David Downes’ Friday filing of a court petition seeking a legal reversal of council’s 4-2 vote denying his request for an off-street parking exemption for his Virginia Beer Museum.

Eugene Tewalt made the motion to add the third closed session item, which as a last-minute addition required a unanimous vote of approval. Queried about his vote keeping the item from being added to the closed session agenda, which drew a surprised glance from Mayor Hollis Tharpe, Holloway said he didn’t believe the discussion was necessary at this point. He noted council had just received information on the filing and observed that as of Monday evening the Town had yet to be served with Downes’ court petition.

Chris Holloway was in no mood to discuss a legal challenge of one of his first majority votes back on council.

As previously reported by Royal Examiner, Downes filing claims the January 14, 4-2 negative vote reversing a December 10, 4-3 vote of approval of the parking exemption request singled Downes out unconstitutionally as “a class of one without any rational basis for treating similarly situated property owners differently that own (a) other art galleries and museums in Town; (b) other properties on the west side of Chester Street between East Main Street and Peyton Street, and (c) other properties on Main Street and Jackson Street that are in the same revitalization area of downtown Front Royal.”

Virginia Beer Museum owner petitions court to overturn parking exemption denial

On January 14 Holloway joined Eugene Tewalt, Gary Gillespie and Bill Sealock in forming that 4-2 majority vote denying Downes’ parking exemption request (Meza and Letasha Thompson voted for approval). That vote reversed a December 10, 4-3 vote approving the request – Sealock, Meza, Morrison, Tharpe for, Tewalt, Connolly, Gillespie opposed.

Asked by the media whether he would consider changing his negative vote as the meeting adjourned to closed session, Holloway said, “I can’t be bullied into changing my vote.”

See all 10 minutes of this believed-to-be historically short regular meeting in this Royal Examiner video:

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