During what was supposed to be their last meeting of the year on Wednesday, the Warren County School Board voted to schedule a special meeting for Wednesday, December 9, to take action on whether to change insurance providers.
The vote was spurred by a new contract finalized earlier this week between Winchester, Va.-based Valley Health, the area’s major medical care provider, and Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, which currently provides health insurance coverage for Warren County Public Schools (WCPS) employees through the Local Choice program.
During the School Board’s Wednesday, December 2 meeting, WCPS Personnel Director George “Bucky” Smith and Ed White, senior vice president at McGriff Insurance Services Inc., followed up on insurance provider options after originally discussing the issue with them during an October meeting. At that time, Valley Health and Anthem remained locked in contract negotiations and WCPS worried that a resolution might not be reached before the contract expired on December 31.
In a proactive move, WCPS decided to issue a request for proposals (RFP) to search for alternative insurance providers because the school division thought it would lose its health network, said Smith, adding that several bids were received by the RFP’s November 30 deadline, providing WCPS with more options to consider.
“We’ve had Blue Cross and Blue Shield for a long time,” Smith told the board members. “I think what you’re seeing here is an example of competition. Sometimes there’s complacency that sets in on both parts, whether it be the person receiving the service or whether it be the person providing the service… The situation that occurred with Valley Health and Anthem, to some degree, sort of opened the door for other people to be aggressive on their competitiveness.”
Among the bidders were Aetna, UnitedHealthcare, and Cigna, with Aetna offering the most-attractive health insurance rates compared to Anthem, said White, the insurance consultant for the School Board who is working with WCPS staff to review the returned proposals.
“What we’ve seen over the last few weeks, and most recently with this RFP, is that the competition was pretty fierce when it came to companies going after Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield,” White said, adding that nearby school divisions have switched from Anthem. For instance, Shenandoah County Public Schools has opted for Aetna, while Winchester Public Schools signed on with UnitedHealthcare.
“They’ve found savings that can’t be ignored,” said White, noting that Warren County also may decide for a better deal.
Smith and White reviewed the submitted proposals with the School Board, taking up most of the Wednesday meeting.
School Board Chairman Arnold Williams, Jr., asked Smith if he saw any shortcomings in WCPS switching insurance companies. Smith responded, “On the surface no, [the Aetna plan] seems very comparable,” but offers more savings for both employees and employer, “which seems promising.”
Williams agreed, calling the Aetna proposal “an improvement.”
School Board member James Wells also agreed, noting that with a difficult 2021 budget year looming, being able to document some savings “would be a marvelous advantage.”
Following a motion made by Wells, and seconded by School Board Vice-Chair Catherine Bower, the board voted unanimously to schedule the December 9 special meeting. All members were present, including Williams, Wells, Bower, Kristen Pence, and Ralph Rinaldi.
More actions taken
The School Board on Wednesday also unanimously approved the proposed WCPS Athletic Handbook, which was collaboratively developed by Skyline High School Athletic Director Bill Cupp and Warren County High School Athletic Director Edward Dike.
One notable update is that all students must have a physical exam prior to beginning workouts. “This is something we thought was pretty important,” said Dike.
“It’s nice to see that the handbook is very easy to read, very easy to understand, and it fits all of our schools,” Board Chairman Williams said.
The School Board also voted to accept with gratitude $2,495 in donations to Skyline Middle School’s Future Farmers of America (FFA) program and Fall Harvest Festival. Skyline Middle School Principal Bobby Johnston said the donations will be used for jackets, dues, trips, and scholarship awards.
The board also unanimously accepted donations from Limeton United Methodist Church, which gave $500 to A. S. Rhodes Elementary School and another $550 to Leslie Fox Keyser Elementary School.
Additionally, the School Board approved the proposed school year 2021-2022 calendar:
- August 10, 2021 – First Day of School
- October 8, 2021 – End of 1st Advisory
- November 22–26, 2021 – Fall Break
- November 22–23, 2021 – 11- and 12-Month Employees report to work
- December 21, 2021 – End of 2nd Advisory/1st Semester (87 days in 1st semester)
- December 21, 2021 – January 4, 2022 – Winter Break for students
- December 21, 2021 – January 2, 2022 – Winter Break for staff
- March 14, 2022 – End of 3rd Advisory
- March 21–25, 2022 – Spring Break
- April 15–18, 2022 – Holiday
- June 9, 2022 – Last Day of School.
WCPS Assistant Superintendent Melody Sheppard told board members that there are six built-in weather make-up days. And because students will not be in school for more than 180 days, if the school division does not miss six days due to weather, the days will be taken from the end of the school year.
Watch the School Board’s special meeting in its entirety on this exclusive Royal Examiner video:
Virginia’s Attorney General Opposes Planned Dulles Greenway Toll Hike
A Hefty Price for Daily Commuters: Proposed $2.00 Increase During Peak Hours.
If you’re one of the many Virginians traveling the Dulles Greenway, be prepared: your commute may get a tad costlier. The Toll Road Investors Partnership II (TRIP II) has put forward a proposal to jack up the tolls on this vital 14-mile stretch northwest of Washington, D.C. But not everyone’s on board with this increase, especially Attorney General Jason Miyares.
In a move signaling support for daily commuters, Attorney General Miyares has lodged a formal notice with the State Corporation Commission (SCC), indicating his intention to participate in TRIP II’s application process for the toll increase. His engagement in this case illustrates the office’s commitment to standing shoulder to shoulder with Virginia ratepayers, Northern Virginia’s denizens, and regular commuters who would be directly impacted by such a hike. A complete objection will be presented at a fitting moment down the line.
To break down the numbers, right now, Virginians are shelling out $5.80 during those bustling peak traffic hours and $5.25 during the more tranquil off-peak hours for a standard 2-axle vehicle. With TRIP II’s proposal, these tolls would jump to $8.10 and $6.40, respectively. That’s a sizeable leap for folks using the toll road, especially considering the cumulative cost over weeks, months, and years.
Speaking out on the matter, Attorney General Miyares voiced the struggles of the everyday commuter: “Traffic in Northern Virginia is a daily challenge, and rising inflation only adds to the costs of commuting to work.” He emphasized his office’s position of standing beside Virginia’s commuters, understanding their daily grind, and promoting fairness by pushing back against toll hikes. For Miyares, every penny earned by Virginians holds immense value, and his goal is to shield them from unwarranted financial strains.
The Dulles Greenway toll increase, while seemingly a matter of a few dollars, has a broader implication for the countless individuals using the road daily. As inflation continues to press down on households, any additional financial burdens can be distressing. Thankfully, with Attorney General Miyares stepping into the ring, Virginia’s commuters have a vocal advocate in their corner. It remains to be seen how this toll tug-of-war unfolds, but one thing’s certain: the fight for fair tolls has indeed heated up.
Equus Seals a $38.2M Deal: Virginia Inland Port Logistics Center Finds a New Owner
Affiliate of Silverman Group Acquires Prime Industrial Property in Front Royal.
In what can be seen as a significant move in the realm of real estate development and investment, Equus Capital Partners, Ltd. (“Equus”), a national heavyweight, declared the culmination of the development and subsequent sale of the Virginia Inland Port Logistics Center. This grand warehouse/distribution asset, stretching across 339,450 square feet and located conveniently along Route 522, has been acquired by SL Industrial Partners, an affiliate of Silverman Group, for a whopping $38.2 million.
At the moment of sealing the deal, the facility was fully occupied, with Iron Mountain Incorporated, a paramount figure in data storage and information management, holding a 10-year lease since May 2022. This strategic location, in close vicinity to the Virginia Inland Port—linked directly by rail to The Port of Virginia in Hampton Roads/Norfolk, VA—and the Northern Virginia/Washington D.C. /Baltimore metro region played a pivotal role in Iron Mountain’s commitment to a long-term lease.
Brimming with state-of-the-art amenities, the building parades a modern rear load design equipped with advanced throughput features. The design has the flexibility to accommodate dual tenants. Among the many features, it stands tall with 32’ clear height, 34 loading dock doors armed with up-to-the-minute facilities, and the potential for expansion to 55 dock door locations. Energy efficiency hasn’t been compromised either, with features like LED high bay lighting with motion sensors and a heat-load-reducing roof.
Dan DiLella Jr., Senior Vice President of Equus Capital Partners, commented on this successful venture, “The disposition of the Virginia Inland Port Logistics Facility embodies the successful stride of the Equus industrial development program.” He further acknowledged the contributions of Colliers International and Jones Lang LaSalle in the leasing process and expressed gratitude towards the Warren County Planning Department for their unwavering support, deeming the project an economic triumph for the region.
The acquisition of the Virginia Inland Port Logistics Center by SL Industrial Partners is a testament to the evolving real estate landscape and the strategic importance of such developments in bolstering the economy. As businesses grow and the demand for advanced infrastructure rises, such deals are set to pave the way for future investments in the industry.
About Equus Capital Partners, Ltd. Hailing as one of the eminent real estate developers and investment managers in the country, Equus Capital Partners boasts an eclectic portfolio of office, multi-family, and industrial properties scattered across the U.S. Headquartered in Philadelphia, the firm has an expansive reach with regional offices in several states. Further details can be found on their official website www.equuspartners.com.
VDOT: Warren County Traffic Alert for October 2 – 5, 2023
The following is a list of highway work that may affect traffic in Warren County during the coming weeks. Scheduled work is subject to change due to inclement weather and material supplies. Motorists are advised to watch for slow-moving tractors during mowing operations. When traveling through a work zone, be alert to periodic changes in traffic patterns and lane closures.
*NEW* or *UPDATE* indicates a new or revised entry since last week’s report.
No lane closures were reported.
Mile marker 299 to 300, northbound and southbound – Overnight lane closures as needed for road and bridge work, 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. through the night of November 27. Shoulder closures 24/7. Work zone speed limit: 55 miles an hour. Work is related to southbound acceleration ramp extension and bridge widening, with estimated completion in fall 2024.
No lane closures were reported.
Route 702 (Baugh Drive) – Flagger traffic control between Baker Plaza and Route 661 (Fairground Road) for paving operations, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Friday.
Vegetation management may take place district-wide on various routes. Motorists are reminded to use extreme caution when traveling through work zones.
Traffic alerts and traveler information can be obtained by dialing 511. Traffic alerts and traveler information also are available at www.511Virginia.org.
Front Royal’s Town Council Race: Candidates Share Visions on Housing and Blight
Candidates Open Up About Their Plans and Backgrounds at Recent Forum.
On September 27, the Warren County Builders Association played host to a riveting forum featuring candidates eyeing a seat on the Front Royal Town Council.
Melissa DeDomenico-Payne: A familiar face in the Front Royal political scene, Melissa has been serving on the Town Council since her appointment in January 2023. A local resident since 1971, she vividly remembers the water pollution issues from Avtex during her younger days. Melissa’s approach to blighted properties leans heavily on beefing up the enforcement of rental rules and town codes. She’s vocal about the need for affordable housing. Melissa’s rich background in public service was a focal point during her closing, and she urged builders to establish better communication channels with the council.
Connie Marshner: Branding herself as the “uncandidate,” Connie brings a fresh perspective, free from the binds of political history. She moved to Front Royal in 1995 and recalls a childhood dictated by her Navy family’s frequent relocations. Her take on neglected properties echoes a common sentiment—more hands on deck. She envisions Front Royal as a “lifelong community” with houses everyone can afford. Ending her segment, Connie painted a picture of Front Royal at a crossroads, emphasizing the need to cherish its unique charm and walkable streets.
Glenn Wood: A true Front Royal son, Glenn’s roots trace back to his school days in the local institutions. After dedicating half a century to manufacturing and human resources, he hung up his professional boots, although his heart remains tethered to community service. Glenn expresses deep concern over blighted properties, advocating for prompt actions. On the housing frontier, he’s all for partnerships that benefit those earning under $50k annually. In wrapping up, Glenn put his planning commission experience on display, pledging to ensure the well-being of Front Royal’s residents.
Missing from the forum was the fourth candidate, Skip Rogers, who couldn’t make it to the event. The discussions from that evening painted a clear picture of each candidate’s vision for Front Royal, especially on burning topics like blight and housing affordability. As election day approaches, the residents of Front Royal are undoubtedly better equipped to cast their votes.
Warren County Builders Association Spotlights School Board Hopefuls: Pence & Mabie Talk Education
Candidates Pence and Mabie Weigh in on Bullying, Homeschooling, and Community Engagement.
With the Warren County Builders Association as the backdrop, a pivotal discussion surrounding the direction of local education was presented, showcasing school board candidates Kristen Pence of the South River District and Amber Mabie of the Shenandoah District. Their perspectives, experiences, and solutions took center stage, providing Warren County residents with an in-depth look into their educational aspirations for the region.
Kristen Pence: A Warren County High School alumna, Pence has roots deeply embedded in the community. With a dual role as a veterinarian and a parent, Pence leveraged her four-year tenure on the school board, emphasizing her unwavering commitment. She drew attention to her consistent efforts over the past term, treating the board seat as a full-time job, and her constant engagement with students, parents, and teachers.
Amber Mabie: Mabie’s narrative was equally compelling. A long-standing resident of Warren County and a mother to eight, Mabie exhibited her intimate familiarity with the local school system. With a rich tapestry of experiences ranging from classroom volunteering to substitute teaching, Mabie made a strong case for her grassroots approach to education. She was passionate in her stance against political interference in schools, underscoring the need for an untainted educational environment.
The Core Issues:
Bullying and Student Violence: Rick Novak, the evening’s moderator, didn’t hesitate to address one of the most pressing issues: the alarming increase in bullying and student violence. Mabie passionately voiced her perspective, emphasizing the paramount importance of teacher safety and advocating for reinforced in-school support. Pence, while echoing the sentiment of robust support, stressed the necessity of not just having discipline policies but also ensuring they are effectively enforced.
Homeschooling vs. Public Schooling: This debate took an interesting turn, with Pence acknowledging the growing homeschooling community in Warren County. She advocated for the respect of diverse educational choices while emphasizing her commitment to bolstering public education. Mabie, on the other hand, emphasized the crucial insights gained from having children within the public system and was candid in her skepticism about school board members without this connection.
As they wrapped up, both candidates exhibited a deep-seated commitment to the community. Pence focused on student behavioral challenges and underscored the importance of family engagement. Mabie, casting a wider societal net, championed inclusivity, safety, and the urgent need to address pressing social challenges affecting students.
As the election date of November 7 nears, voters will undoubtedly be reflecting upon the depth and breadth of perspectives presented during this seminal event.
Solo Spotlight: Candidates Stand Alone at Warren County Builders Association Forum
Warren County Builders Association Hosts Noteworthy Candidate Forum.
Warren County’s Builders Association took a significant stride in strengthening community ties and promoting transparency by hosting its first-ever candidate forum.
George Cline, President of the Warren County Builders Association, expressed gratitude for the overwhelming participation and emphasized the Association’s continuous commitment to the community. Since its establishment in 2006, the association has launched various philanthropic initiatives, from scholarships at the Blue Ridge Tech Center to supporting local veterans and families in need.
Not all the candidates were able to attend the forum. Some are running unopposed.
- Melanie Salins – North River School Board
Melanie, a re-election candidate, emphasized the importance of parents in the education process. Voicing concerns about elitism in education organizations, she advocated for increased parental involvement. Salins also acknowledged the positive strides Warren County Public Schools have made, including the accomplishments at Blue Ridge Tech. Nicole Wanzer, a write-in is also running for North River School Board.
- Angie Moore – Clerk of the Court
Angie provided an insight into the vast responsibilities of the Circuit Court. During her tenure, she has made significant strides in digitizing documents, securing grants, and maintaining operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Moore showcased her qualifications, emphasizing her commitment to the role. Unopposed.
- John Bell – Commonwealth Attorney
With a personal touch, John shared his family stories and the importance of justice in a small-town setting. He discussed the challenges brought forth by the pandemic and the need for a prosecutor who understands the community. Unopposed.
- Crystal Cline – Warren County Sheriff: Crystal underlined the importance of bolstering resources for the Sheriff’s Office. She commended the dedication of deputies, highlighting the need for specialized training and equipment. Crystal stressed the importance of dedicated school resource officers and effective community support. Mark Butler is also running for sheriff.
- Janice Butler-Shanks – Warren County Treasurer: Janice, the Republican nominee for Treasurer, emphasized the Treasurer’s role in managing and collecting taxes. Drawing upon her extensive background in local businesses and government, she committed to upholding the highest standards in office. Allison Ross is also running for treasurer.
- Sherry Sowers – Commissioner of Revenue: As a long-serving Commissioner, Sherry discussed her dedication to assisting Warren County residents. She addressed the improvements in liaising with contractors regarding business licenses and encouraged community members to seek help when needed. Unopposed.
The inaugural candidate forum by the Warren County Builders Association marked a significant step toward enhancing community engagement. Each candidate showed a deep commitment to their roles and a vision for a better Warren County.