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Salins again challenges EDA on Valley Health bond fee payment

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As a trio of Valley Health officials watch, Melanie Salins takes a final, unsuccessful June 11 stab at getting a municipal push in support of mandating full women’s health care at a new Warren Memorial Hospital. Despite her efforts that evening, by a 3-1 vote, Connolly dissenting, Gillespie and Morrison absent, the Front Royal Town Council became the third and final local board to approve a $60-million EDA bond issue for the WMH project. Royal Examiner File Photo

Near the outset of the October 9 Front Royal Town Council meeting, Melanie Salins revisited her criticism of what she believes is a “sweetheart” deal delivered to Valley Health on a $60-million construction loan for a new Warren Memorial Hospital by the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority.

Salins is a founding member of “Birth Local” a grassroots group that unsuccessfully lobbied town and county government and Valley Health to preserve full women’s health services, including a maternity unit, at a new county hospital.

EDA officials and bond consultants have insisted that forgiving annual fees stretching over the life of a bond issue in favor of a one-time fee paid up front is business as usual in a competitive municipal market.

But during the public concerns portions of this week’s town council meeting, Salins said the agreed-upon one-time payment of $240,000 equates to a little over two years of annual fees on the front end of the loan.  She estimated an annual loss in the range of $75,000 per year.

Paperwork on the Valley Health Industrial Revenue Bond issue through the EDA states that a “final maturity date” will occur “no later than January 1, 2050 – 32 years away.  However, EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald said such bond issues are “typically” paid off or refinanced, removing the EDA’s original loan from the equation, in from 5 to 10 years.  McDonald has also noted that the annual fee is based on 1/8 of 1% of the remaining annual balance of the loan.

Regardless of such explanations, Salins told town officials that municipal officials in other jurisdictions she had contacted around the commonwealth contested the up-front, one-time fee rationale as business as usual, one going so far as to laugh at the idea.

See Salins side of the argument in this video courtesy of Dewaye Coats, Warren County.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Brittany Martin

    October 14, 2018 at 6:14 am

    Melanie Salins is right. The fact that the town government as well as the EDA have been whining about the budget and never having funds to benefit the town and it’s citizens is laughable as well as blasphemous to have let this happen. How and why was this passed? And did you ever think that a fine upstanding citizen like Mrs. Salins, was going to do her research and call out the town for blatant stupidity behind there actions?-(my personal opinion, based on facts at hand)

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Local Government

County looks at $1.1 million cost to meet compensation study recommendations

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Paypoint HR principals Rick and Karin Campbell bring a summary of recommendations to the county board as Paypoint staff in front row and interested county department heads behind them listen. Photos/Roger Bianchini

The Warren County Board of Supervisors got an update on its contracted Compensation and Benefits Study at a December 18 work session: the good news: in general the County pays better than 6 out of 10 surrounding municipalities it was compared against; the bad news: the recommendation to improve that standing and employee retention will cost the County nearly $1.1 million; with a corresponding compensation study of the public school system still to come with a recommendation promised to be “a BIGGER number”.

How much bigger might be ascertained from staff numbers included in the June Request for Proposal (RFP) leading to the July 2018 contract with Paypoint HR provided by the County Human Resources Department. Those numbers for the county government were 337 total employees, 212 full-time, 85 part-time and 40 seasonal; and for the public school system 936 total employees, 791 full-time, 145 part-time.

Other bad news includes the fact that the richer Northern Virginia municipalities to the east in the D.C. Metro area that were not included in the wage comparison study (other than Fauquier to our immediate east) are still there and will continue to dangle higher salaries to qualified and experienced employees willing to deal with the 30 to 60-or-so-minute commute.

It was also noted that one regional community that was included in the comparison study, Frederick County does try to offer competitive salaries with some of those Northern Virginia communities like Loudoun County “which skewers the numbers a bit,” County Administrator Doug Stanley pointed out.

‘This gives us a lot to think about,’ Board Chairman Tony Carter said in response to the compensation study presentation.

“This gives us a lot to think about,” Board Chairman Tony Carter commented toward the end of discussion of the Paypoint HR power point presentation at the 10 a.m., one agenda item work session.

Carter’s earlier question to Paypoint HR representatives, “Can you guarantee that every employee will be happy if we implement this?” led to some laughter, as well as more serious responses from Paypoint HR President Dr. Rick Campbell and CEO Karin Campbell.

“What we do is establish what is fair pay in a given region,” Rick Campbell told the Warren supervisors who hold the County purse string decision-making authority.
Karin Campbell noted that the role of an independent, third-party consultant was to “bring an unbiased, objective opinion” to the county’s officials – “We are the messenger of these numbers,” she said.

The compensation study was contracted in July in an attempt to diminish the number of experienced employees the county regularly loses to higher-paying jobs elsewhere.
County Administrator Stanley elaborated that the comparative study area was comprised of 13 municipalities, including all adjacent counties and some of the towns in those counties.
After Paypoint HR CEO Karin Campbell reviewed the company’s methodology and scope which included an excellent 94% response rate from county employees, she cited one area where she noted “opportunity for improvement” by the county. That was in “the area of employee wellness, education and communication of benefits.”

She elaborated that some municipalities offer additional perks from cell service discounts to tuition reimbursements that employees look at as an extension of their benefits package.

‘We are the messenger of these numbers,’ Karin Campbell said of her company’s role in recommending changes to county compensation in order to improve employee retention.

Rick Campbell then reviewed the existing salary scale, what was determined as the minimum adequate living wage for this community – $12.18 per hour – and recommended alterations to the county’s wage structure to improve employee retention.

Those recommendations included: 1/ raising the salaries of positions below the $12.18 hourly rate – “nine 40-hour Part-Time General positions” requiring $25,787; 2/ raising the salaries of positions Substantially Below the competitive study area Market rate – 151 positions including 22 in the Department of Social Services and 30 in Fire and Rescue with the remainder General positions both full and part-time, requiring $929,784; and 3/ raise another 47 positions also considered below the Market rate – $142,990 to implement. Those numbers add up to a total cost of $1,098,561 impacting salaries for 207 county employees upward.

The recommendation concluded with advice to “continue providing raises to positions Near Market” rate, and discontinuation of “providing raises to positions Above Market or Substantially Above Market” rates.

The study summary concluded with a reference to more work on a Sheriff’s Office Career Development plan. – “Prior to implementing a career development program for any single department or employee group, career development plans for all non-supervisory personnel should be considered,” the report stated, adding that Sheriff’s Office deputies in patrol, animal control and school resource officer Grade 14 level – noted as the bulk of the department – was currently compensated at a 63% rate of the external study area market.

County staff estimated that board consideration of the final report would come in January or February 2019. A multi-year implementation plan has been requested by the County.

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Local Government

Ed Carter, VDOT report to Board of Supervisors: Route 55-High Knob gets more rumble strips

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At the December 11th Board of Supervisors Meeting, Ed Carter from VDOT made his monthly presentation to the Board. Mr. Carter gives updates to VDOT projects in the County.

Includes:

Maintenance

  • Addressed numerous potholes on various hard surface routes with cold mix and anticipate the Same in December.
  • Conducted grading and stone application on non-hard surface Routes 652, 610, 607,626, 613, 631 and 639. Several of these routes we covered several times as continued rainfall necessitated. They’ll continue this month as well.
  • Used contractor pipe flusher on Routes 603, 638, 636, 650, 631 and 639. Will be continuing for an additional week in December.
  • Completed all mowing operations and will cutting brush on Routes 652 and 656 in December.
  • Performed shoulder repairs on Route 340 and will continue on various primary routes in December.
  • Mobilized and responded to two weather events in November.

Projects

Lake Front Drive is awaiting finish pavement layer, which is scheduled for this week in December, weather permitting.

Ashby Station Road and Rocky Lane environmental permits were not cleared by November 30th. New date is December 10th. As soon as VDOT has the permits, staff will be meeting with the contractor to begin pipe replacements.

Other Issues

Existing rumble strips have been refreshed and a new set installed closer to the intersection at High Knob. Traffic Engineering is working to verify flasher sensor lights will work at this location. Residency Administrator met with High Knob Owner’s Association on November 12th to address their concerns.

Signal Group is evaluating timing at Country Club Road and Route 340/522 for extending green time from Country Club.

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Local Government

Town Council wrestles with new property maintenance authority

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FRONT ROYAL – It’s rough having the power – especially when you’ve pursued it for so long, then finally achieve it.

What now?

That is the situation the Front Royal Town Council wrestled with at a December 3 work session – how to approach enforcement of a property maintenance code that allows it the same powers as cities and counties to enforce building maintenance standards within its boundaries.

Mayor Tharpe worried over first steps in enforcement – ‘Where do we start? We don’t want to be accused of playing favorites,’ he has commented. Royal Examiner File Photo

As Royal Examiner readers may recall from tracking the issue over the course of the last year and a half, the dilemma is that while the town’s elected officials want the ability to enforce standards that will improve the overall look, livability and property values of Front Royal, how much is it going to cost the town government and its citizens to achieve these things?

The one dissenting vote to both readings of the new property maintenance code, Vice-Mayor Eugene Tewalt, has continued to predict unexpectedly high costs, even for what has been described as a lower-cost, middle ground option adopted by council nearly two months ago.  Tewalt has also been critical of his younger council colleagues for continuing to approve capital improvements, and now additional code enforcement, without creating revenue streams to pay for either long-term debt service or required staff additions.

However, undiscussed thus far has been the potential return on investment from more aggressive enforcement if a corresponding rise in property values leads to increased real estate tax-base revenue.

After months of debate dating to at least July of 2017 for this council, on October 22, 2018 council approved the second reading of a new property maintenance code that took the above-described middle ground approach of five options presented by staff. That option, formerly known as Option C, enforcement-wise “addresses all structures in the Town”; “addresses maintenance issues” and “can be enforced on a complaint basis or proactive enforcement”.

At the December 3 work session Chris Morrison pushed for immediate implementation of that option – “I think things can be implemented now – tell me if I’m wrong,” Morrison challenged his colleagues.

Is he trying to hypnotize me? – Jacob Meza appears uncomfortable with Chris Morrison’s use of his pen to make a point on more aggressive enforcement of the Town’s new property maintenance code. Photo/Roger Bianchini

He also suggested council give citizens some clarity on the parameters of what has been approved – that citizens can initiate action through complaints to the town government.

Morrison has been the chief council proponent of a new property maintenance code and a rental inspection program, the latter eliminated from consideration by a council majority as definitely too expensive to implement. And on the back end of his council tenure having failed to hold his seat in the November election, Morrison seemed driven to see a commitment to forward movement on what has been adopted by his colleagues before the end of his council tenure come January.

Morrison suggested outsourcing the role of a building inspector to make legal judgments on mandated repairs or demolition in the absence of council agreeing to fund creation of its own building inspection department. Morrison noted that council had set aside funds toward some kind of implementation of a building inspection operation. While he cited $40,000 available, staff appeared to put the amount as high as $75,000 in past work session discussion.

“So why can’t we outsource now … why can’t we do it immediately?” Morrison asked his colleagues.

“If we do it under those conditions I have no problem starting with blighted buildings,” Tewalt replied of a proactive approach with outsourcing as necessary when town mandates on corrective action are challenged by property owners.

Council’s biggest skeptic on a broad enforcement approach, Vice-Mayor Tewalt to left, voiced support of proactive movement on a smaller target base – dilapidated buildings, as Councilman Meza ponders council options. Photo/Roger Bianchini

Councilman William Sealock suggested bypassing use of Warren County’s Building Inspection Department and utilization of town staff for initial phases up to the point where a state-certified official whose opinion would have legal standing in court was needed. Morrison agreed.

Town Manager Joe Waltz suggested revisiting the option of partnering with the Town of Strasburg in enforcing a property maintenance code. Like Front Royal now, Strasburg has taken the first step of approval of a property maintenance code but has yet to begin enforcement due to cost parameters.

“We can put it out there and see what kind of prices are set,” Waltz suggested.

“We can start slow – there’s nothing wrong with doing it right,” Mayor Hollis Tharpe suggested of a measured, slow and inexpensive approach to implementation.

“We’ll let Joe get behind the wheel,” the mayor said of having the town manager explore enforcement and outsourcing options.

“We need time so the town manager can put a plan together,” Sealock observed.

“I will move as fast as I can,” Waltz replied.

Morrison said he felt some good had come out of the discussion that will allow the Town to move on complaints forwarded by citizens, as well as initiate proactive movement against derelict structures. However Morrison worried at the lack of “closure” on a process as council’s final meeting of 2018 approached on December 10.

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Local Government

Downtown parking: Mayor breaks tie vote on Virginia Beer Museum parking exemption request

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There were two issues on Downtown parking at the December 10th Town Council meeting. The first dealt with designating and authorizing the Town Manager regarding the installation and placement of traffic signs and parking regulations and to remove all references to the On-Street Parking Policy in the Town Code by rescinding the 1993 Resolution authorizing approval of the On-Street Parking Policy. Download the this agenda item and background information here.

The second was a public hearing on exempting off street parking for the Virginia Beer Museum. Mayor Tharpe broke the tie vote on the first reading. Download the this agenda item and background information here.

These issues will be back on the agenda for the second reading.

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Local Government

BOS: Public Hearing Jan 22nd to adopt new rules for public presentations

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At the December 11th Meeting of the Warren County Board of Supervisors, County Attorney Dan Whitten ask for authorization to advertise for a public hearing on January 22, 2019 to amend the Warren County Code Section 56-3 re: rules for Address to the Board of Supervisors by Nonmembers During Public Comment Period.

Watch the discussion.

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Local Government

Ordinance Amendment to Town Code Chapter 72 (Special Events)

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Rick Novack, owner of Royal Cinemas expresses his concern over changes to Downtown special events. Photo and video by Mike McCool, Royal Examiner.

During a recent Business Forum several business owners discussed concerns with parking during Special Events held in the Gazebo Area located at Main and Chester Streets in Downtown Front Royal.  Town Staff has proposed amendments to Chapter 72 to help alleviate this concerns and has also changed other areas of Chapter 72 to make the Chapter more user friendly.

Download agenda and proposed changes here.

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Upcoming Events

Dec
20
Thu
3:00 pm St. Luke Community Clinic Annual... @ St. Luke Community Clinic
St. Luke Community Clinic Annual... @ St. Luke Community Clinic
Dec 20 @ 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm
St. Luke Community Clinic Annual Holiday Open House @ St. Luke Community Clinic
STOP IN FOR A FOR HOLIDAY COOKIES AND TREATS, MEET THE STAFF, AND TOUR THE CLINIC!
6:30 pm Oil painting for the non painter @ Strokes of Creativity
Oil painting for the non painter @ Strokes of Creativity
Dec 20 @ 6:30 pm – 9:00 pm
Oil painting for the non painter @ Strokes of Creativity
Come join Gloria Howarton, self taught artist, and explore the rich medium of oil painting. This is a 4 week Thursday Evening Class from 6:30-9:00 pm. The dates are 12/06/2018, 12/13/2018 , 12/20/2018 and 1/3/2019[...]
Dec
24
Mon
10:00 am Paper Sculpture Party: Koi Fish @ Art in the Valley
Paper Sculpture Party: Koi Fish @ Art in the Valley
Dec 24 @ 10:00 am – 12:30 pm
Paper Sculpture Party: Koi Fish @ Art in the Valley
Create your own 5″ x 7″ koi fish paper sculpture with your friends! Schedule your own party for up to 8 people (3-person minimum). No drawing skills are necessary. Artist Tiffany Budzisz will walk you[...]
2:00 pm Annual Community Christmas Dinner @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptarment
Annual Community Christmas Dinner @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptarment
Dec 24 @ 2:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Annual Community Christmas Dinner @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptarment
This is the fourth year of the Annual Community Christmas Dinner being held! It is on Christmas Eve, December 24th from 2 to 7pm at Front Royal Volunteer Fire Dept. A hot meal is provided with turkey[...]
Dec
25
Tue
9:00 am 2019 Dare to Dream Grant Applica... @ Front Royal Women’s Resource Center
2019 Dare to Dream Grant Applica... @ Front Royal Women’s Resource Center
Dec 25 @ 9:00 am – 11:00 am
2019 Dare to Dream Grant Application @ Front Royal Women’s Resource Center
Front Royal Women’s Resource Center (FRWRC) Now Accepting Applications for 2019 DARE TO DREAM GRANTS (Take classes, start a business, purchase a computer, learn a new skill, train for a profession, start a non-profit, anything[...]