Town looks to expand, revisit success of weekend downtown ‘walking mall’
Early in its May 26th, post-Memorial Day, Tuesday evening meeting, the Front Royal Town Council got a glowingly positive report on the Memorial Day weekend downtown business re-opening event marked by the closure of a portion of East Main and Chester Streets to vehicular traffic.
Interim Town Manager Matt Tederick began the discussion by lauding the involvement of C&C Frozen Treats proprietor and Family Funday sponsor William Huck for his proactive involvement, including pulling the festival permit to allow the street closings.
“I think it was a wild success, frankly,” Tederick told council, adding, “I’ve gotten numerous text messages and phone calls from folks, businesses, restaurants sold out of food on Monday. I think it was just a really good event – a lot of citizens seemed to appreciate it.”
Tederick then urged town businesses outside the Historic Downtown area to contact the town manager’s office if they had ideas for “creative outdoor planning” in their areas to help resurrect the local business community from two months of COVID-19 pandemic mandated public health safety shutdowns.
“We’re being as flexible as we legally can be and we’re following the code, we’re following the laws but we’re doing everything we can to assist our local businesses, restaurants, as well as brick and mortar businesses,” Tederick enthused in the wake of the Saturday through Memorial Day Monday downtown event.
See Royal Examiner’s two-pronged photographic report on Saturday’s opening and Monday’s stirring, if brief, Memorial Day event at the Courthouse grounds.
Tederick then acknowledged an expected new executive order from Governor Ralph Northam’s office requiring the wearing of masks inside the re-opened business and government buildings. Virginia is in the process of moving from the Democratic governor’s Phase One reopening that kicked in Friday to Phase Two expected to launch June 10.
“My opinion, that’s going to come with a whole lot of cost, as well as preparation; and there’s going to be a whole lot of questions as well,” Front Royal’s interim town manager and longtime County Republican Committee officer and operative said, without elaboration on how those “lot of” costs and preparations would be generated from an anticipated mask-wearing order.
Noting his time downtown at about four hours on both Saturday and Monday, Mayor Gene Tewalt said, “The biggest question that I’ve been asked from people that ran their businesses is, are we going to keep doing this on a weekly basis. And I told them I wasn’t sure – that I’d get back with you and the council to see which way you guys want to handle this … It went very well, at least that’s what everybody told me and it was a great event.”
Gary Gillespie, Lori Cockrell, Chris Holloway, and Letasha Thompson added their positive reviews, and/or the positive reviews of those they had spoken to about the event as council pondered the potential of a regular weekend closing of a portion of the downtown business district to vehicular traffic to facilitate additional customer foot traffic in a walking mall-style downtown.
Vice Mayor Bill Sealock asked about the hours at the Finance Department’s Town Hall drive-thru payment window on Fridays, which would be blocked by the traditional closing of East Main at Royal Avenue. Told by Finance Director B. J. Wilson the window closed at 4:30 p.m., council pondered the possibility of adding Friday evenings to the walking mall concept beginning around 5 p.m.
“If the consensus of the council is let’s do it again this weekend, I think the staff and I are prepared to launch if that’s something you’d like to see be done,” Tederick told the council.
Council’s comments appeared to indicate that the positive feedback wasn’t only from the restaurants the outdoor street seating the street closures were designed to help facilitate with social distancing regulations. So, if that feedback is, in fact, broad-based and ongoing, it appears the Town is poised to move forward with a continued weekend, late Friday afternoon to Sunday evening downtown closings. – Get ready to pull some more permits, Huck.
And that with a call out to businesses in other areas of town for some “creative outdoor planning” to jump on the marketing of Front Royal’s Phase One business reopening bandwagon. – But don’t forget your masks and social distancing safeguards as we are likely to have increased visitation from residents from more highly contaminated areas to our east and south.
Also, on Tuesday’s agenda were two items that drew some discussion on the first readings of the two required for final approval. One was an ordinance amendment lowering water and sewer tap-in fees to developers; the other on approval of financial appropriations for the Fiscal Year 2021 Town Budget.
See all these discussions and votes in the linked Royal Examiner virtual meeting recording; and more detail on the two ordinance amendment proposals in forthcoming Royal Examiner stories.
A Fond Farewell to Barbara Way: A Pillar of Front Royal Women’s Resource Center
Front Royal Women’s Resource Center announces the retirement of its cherished Executive Director, Barbara Way. After years of influential service, she’s leaving an indelible mark on the Center and the many lives it has transformed.
Barbara’s passionate and tireless service to the Front Royal Women’s Resource Center has been nothing short of transformative. Her leadership and dedication propelled the Center to new heights, enabling it to reach more local women and positively impact their lives.
One of Barbara’s key accomplishments includes the expansion of the Center’s scholarship endowments. These funds directly facilitate the annual ‘Dare To Dream’ grants, which achieved a record-breaking award of $12,000 this year. This notable increase in financial support for women pursuing their dreams is a testament to Barbara’s commitment and hard work.
Barbara’s departure is undoubtedly significant for the Front Royal Women’s Resource Center. Her relentless pursuit of the Center’s mission has left an enduring legacy that will continue to inspire and guide the organization’s future endeavors.
While Barbara steps down from her official role, her influence remains woven into the fabric of the Front Royal Women’s Resource Center. We express our deepest gratitude for her years of devoted service and wish her all the best in her next chapter.
We invite donations to the Front Royal Women’s Resource Center to honor Barbara’s impactful work. These can be designated ‘In Honor of Barbara Way’ and will contribute to the ongoing support and empowerment of local women.
Library defunding/book removal advocates, Samuels Library defenders clash on D-Day 2023
The Fiscal Year-2023/24 budget public hearing of Tuesday evening, June 6, may have inadvertently, yet appropriately, been scheduled for the 79th anniversary of D-Day, the pivotal Allied invasion of the Nazi Germany-led fascist Axis’s “Fortress Europe” that turned the tide of World War 2 on the western European front.
For what transpired inside and outside the Warren County Government Center as the FY-24 budget public hearing approached and was then launched at 7:30 p.m. led the Warren County Board of Supervisors to view a lengthy “beachhead” battle, albeit verbal, over the future shape the political, governmental, cultural, and societal standards this community may take.
At issue for the bulk of over 70 speakers at both the budget public hearing (our count was 65) and majority of Public Comments (counted 9 total) on non-agenda items was whether continued County funding of Samuels Public Library should occur while a total of 134 books requested for removal by the “CleanUpSamuels” website advocacy group remain on library shelves. The budget public hearing, at which board Chairman Vicky Cook explained the defund/fund issue should be the focus of comments, was convened at 7:30 p.m. in front of a packed to capacity WCGC meeting room. With most speakers going to or near their 3-minute speaking limit, the public hearing adjourned some 65 speakers later at 11:12 p.m. Our count was 34 to defund pending removal of cited books, 26 to fully fund the library and let its own review process control content, with a few who seemed on the fence favoring removal of certain books but not really favoring defunding of the library.
The board took no action, as they must wait a week following the public hearing to vote on approval of the budget. After the meeting went back to a few more Public Comments and other more routine business items, the meeting was adjourned at 11:57 p.m. But prior to that adjournment, County Administrator Ed Daley congratulated the board and staff on their FY-2024 budget preparation, noting that no negative public hearing comment had been directed their way on any other budgetary matter than library funding. County Finance Director Alisa Scott made a PowerPoint summary of budget highlights and proposed expenditures to kick off the public hearing, prior to public feedback.
But on that Samuels Library public feedback D-Day “beach front” it was on. To one side were CleanUpSamuels advocates who see continued use of county tax revenue in support of the library an unacceptable use of public funds while 134 books they seek removal of as “pornographic” remain on library shelves. And to make their point, many pro-defund library speakers read sexually-tinged passages from some books in question.
On the other side, an attempt to institute religious extremist-based censorship was cited by library defenders and opponents of a blanket banning of the books requested for removal by the CleanUpSamuels group and supporters. As noted in a July 5 article in the Harrisonburg Daily News-Record, the book removal website received initial social media exposure from a May Facebook post by the “Young Adults of St. John the Baptist (Catholic Church)”. A number of defund the library pending removal of the books in question speakers either cited ties to the church or are known congregation members.
However, one library funding supporter, Tom Howarth, described himself as a lifelong Catholic, but not of the type he had listened to speak prior to his rising to be the 50th public hearing speaker. Noting an abundance of what he termed “zeal” in comments of library critics, of much of that zeal he observed, “This strikes me as an incredibly gross character assassination of the director of the library and her staff. And it’s done, apparently in the name of religious zeal. I can’t believe that my Lord and Savior would have anything to do with destroying a person’s public reputation. And that is what’s happening here tonight,” Howarth said.
After referencing his Catholicism from the “cradle” though work on two parish councils through a decade of work with the poor and homeless, Howarth added, “I’m a Catholic but I don’t want a Catholic library. I don’t want a library that’s run by any religion. Jefferson would be spinning in his grave if he listened to this conversation tonight in Virginia in 2023. Unfortunately, what we have is another orchestrated political attack on a public institution: the press, your electoral system, public schools, and now the public library. Where does it end?” Howarth asked of religious zeal being applied to how a community’s entire population, perhaps a nation’s, must live.
The CleanUpSamuels website front page describes “The Issue” as the presence of “many pornographic books in the children’s section of Samuels Public Library. These books graphically detail sexual activity between minors and are written for young readers. Our tax dollars fund the purchase and circulation of these abhorrent books. We need to let the Board of Supervisors know that these books do not align with our values.” A number of library defunding speakers said they were parents whose families use the library and expressed concern about their children, and others, having access to material tackling LGBTQ and other issues of a sexual nature.
However, one library supporter who spoke later in the meeting noted that children under 12 were not allowed in the library without an accompanying adult or parent, though another person present suggested the library age cap for parental accompaniment was 10. A check with the library the following day revealed that library policies list the accompanied by parent or adult age at 11 and under. A number of County public library funding supporters wondered if parental involvement and oversight shouldn’t be the pivotal controlling factor for what the community’s children are reading, as opposed to political calls for governmental defunding of the community’s public library. For as a “public library” it is open to all of a community’s citizens regardless of religious affiliation or political perspective.
But as noted above, to make their point on the pornographic context of books in question, many defund the library speakers quoted graphic passages at length from several books on the requested removal list. Library funding supporters countered that graphic passages were being taken out of context so that the theme of the books referenced was not conveyed. The pro-funding and self-described anti-censorship contingent argued that rather than pornography, many, if not all, the books in question were written to provide emotional guidance or support to school age youth facing sexual identity crises of their own. Does a book describing teens falling into a life of prostitution do so to encourage such a life, or to warn against it as a tragic mistake, some wondered of one repeatedly referenced book.
A visit to the CleanUpSamuels website the day after the public hearing revealed that the group had advertised prepared comments and book transcripts for supporters to read at the June 6 meeting: “We will provide excerpts from the books and a script, so you don’t need to worry about what to say! Please arrive at 6:30 p.m. for handouts and instructions,” the CleanUpSamuels website front page stated.
The day following the public hearing debate Samuels Library staff verified that 597 requests for reconsideration forms (on library content) from 53 individuals seeking to have 134 books removed from the library had been received to date. That is in a county of some 40,000 people, one library supporter noted.
Stay tuned as the supervisors proceed to their vote on a final FY-2023/24 budget, with Samuels Public Library funding or not, at its special meeting of June 13.
The Royal Examiner will link the June 6, 2023, meeting when the County posts it.
However, we noticed that the first three budget public hearing speakers — following Finance Director Alisa Scott’s PowerPoint presentation on the FY-24 budget (31:00 to 36:11 mark where color bars appear to interrupt the video) — John Lundgren, Dale Carpenter, and Tom Hinnant, appear to be missing prior to Chris Estes taking the podium at the 36:35 video mark. There was some discussion with staff during the meeting concerning some technical problems.
Paving the Path: U.S. Army and Warren County unite under PaYS Program
June 7, 2023, ushered in a groundbreaking collaboration between the U.S. Army and Warren County, Virginia, under the auspices of the Partnership for Your Success (PaYS) program. This unique alliance was brought to life during an earnest signing ceremony that marked the commitment to provide our brave veterans with a secure future in civilian life.
The PaYS program, a strategic collaboration between the U.S. Army and a diverse range of partners, including private industry, academia, and government bodies, assures soldiers and ROTC Cadets five job interviews and potential employment post-service. This fruitful partnership saw Lieutenant Colonel Felicia Brooks, commander of the Baltimore Marine Battalion, and Sheriff Mark Butler of Warren County Sheriff’s Office signing the memorandum of agreement.
An Exciting Road Ahead
Throughout the signing ceremony, the underlying theme was clear – a dedication to bridging the gap between military and civilian life for our veterans. Lieutenant Colonel Brooks expressed the program’s intentions to connect America with its Army, making it the service of choice for future soldiers while ensuring employment opportunities.
Brooks also emphasized the mutual benefits for the PaYS partners – access to a pool of professional veterans with exceptional work habits who adhere to the highest standards of conduct. This paves the way for organizations like the Warren County Sheriff’s Office to recruit from a pool of potential employees who bring the discipline and work ethics inherent in their military background.
A Track Record of Success
For two decades, the PaYS program has partnered with more than 1,000 partners, including giants like Amazon, General Motors, and Comcast. With Warren County Sheriff’s Department now on board, the reach of this innovative initiative extends even further.
Sheriff Mark Butler spoke of the invaluable leadership skills, camaraderie, integrity, courage, and honor that veterans bring to the table – values that align with his motto of “leave no veteran behind.” This program reaffirms these values, bridging the gap between military service and civilian life.
The signing of the memorandum of agreement and the presentation of a certificate of participation to Warren County by Lieutenant Colonel Brooks capped off the ceremony. The event is a testament to all parties’ commitment to recognizing, honoring, and aiding our veterans as they transition into civilian life.
Unlocking the Power of Education and Professional Development
Sergeant Timothy Stowes, an army recruiter from Winchester, has a personal connection to the transformative power of the Army. 13 years into his service, he uses his experience to encourage young individuals to enlist, emphasizing the Army’s commitment to education and personal growth.
Currently, the Army offers comprehensive tuition assistance and access to the Montgomery GI Bill, facilitating free college education for its members. Stones himself has used these opportunities to earn one degree and is currently pursuing another, all while developing his career within the Army. These educational opportunities enrich the lives of Army members and prepare them for successful transitions into the civilian workforce.
Warren County commits to supporting veterans with U.S. Army PaYS partnership
Local scholars shine: James Madison University honors Front Royal graduates in Class of 2023 Commencement
James Madison University (JMU), one of the nation’s leading lights in higher education, takes great pride in announcing its students who graduated with honors during the May 2023 commencement exercises. These students have exemplified academic excellence across a broad range of disciplines, each making their unique mark in their chosen field of study.
Graduating Cum Laude, Meghan Dennis, Jordan Reyes, and Abigail Frey of Front Royal have been acknowledged for their exceptional academic performance. Dennis earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Hospitality Management, Reyes in Individualized Study, and Frey in Nursing. In an outstanding accomplishment, Tyler Chaparro-Compton, also of Front Royal, graduated Summa Cum Laude with a degree in Biology.
In addition to these laureates, JMU also honors other graduates who have successfully completed their degrees. Timothy Cochran of Bentonville earned his degree in Biology, while Kellsie Hollands, Michael Carter, Abegail Lee, Caitlin Thompson, Robert Look, and Olivia Hilton, all of Front Royal, graduated in fields such as Education, General Psychology, Individualized Study, Integrated Science and Technology, and Public Administration respectively.
JMU, established in 1908 and nestled in Virginia’s scenic Shenandoah Valley, is renowned for fostering engaging relationships between students and faculty, driving educational innovation, and supporting advanced research. The university prides itself on offering state-of-the-art amenities and facilities, including NCAA Division 1 athletics, and consistently boasts the highest post-graduation job levels among all Virginia colleges.
In a world that increasingly values knowledge and innovation, these students’ achievements underscore JMU’s commitment to nurturing academic excellence and developing future leaders. The university extends its heartfelt congratulations to all its graduates for their perseverance, resilience, and dedication. As they embark on their professional journeys, these alumni are set to continue their pursuit of excellence, reinforcing JMU’s esteemed legacy.
Front Royal Elk Lodge establishes scholarship fund for skilled trades
Front Royal Elk Lodge 2382 is making a significant investment in the future of the community by establishing a scholarship fund for the skilled trades. Recognizing the importance of providing opportunities for young men and women to gain assistance in learning a trade and entering the workforce, the lodge recently presented a check for $3,000.00 to Laurel Ridge Community College. This partnership marks the beginning of a long-term relationship aimed at benefiting the local community and its young workforce.
On May 30th, Jim Sheppard, the Exalted Ruler of Front Royal Elk Lodge, along with Michael Kominek (Loyal Knight) and Stan Williams (Lecturing Knight), presented the $3,000.00 check to Laurel Ridge Community College. The funds will be utilized to establish the first scholarship dedicated to supporting students pursuing skilled trades education.
The decision to focus on the skilled trades stems from a recognition within Front Royal Lodge 2382 that not all young individuals are destined for a traditional four-year college degree. The lodge understands the value and needs for skilled workers in the community and aims to provide assistance to those who choose to pursue a trade. By supporting students in gaining the necessary skills, the lodge hopes to help them enter the workforce and contribute to the local economy.
To foster a deeper understanding of the college and its programs, Elk Lodge representatives embarked on a tour of the Laurel Ridge Community College campus and facilities. Dr. Kim Blosser, President of Laurel Ridge Community College, Larry Baker, Corporate Training Manager, and Andrew Gyurisin, Foundation Development Manager, guided the representatives through the campus, showcasing the resources and opportunities available to students.
Front Royal Elk Lodge intends to establish a long-term relationship with Laurel Ridge Community College, working closely to identify and support students who show a passion for the skilled trades. Through this collaboration, the lodge aims to make a lasting impact on the community by empowering young individuals with the necessary skills and education to excel in their chosen trades.
Front Royal Rotary ending its year with major student awards
The Rotary Club of Front Royal’s president, Lori Glascock, is using the last weeks of her one-year term of office to distribute scholarship money and other awards to worthy local students. On June 23, Ken Evans will be sworn in as the 2023-24 club president.
In addition to previous student awards and recognition of local outstanding teachers, Glascock, last Friday (June 2), handed out further awards to four students from Skyline and Warren County High Schools who excelled in the arts and in the fields of sport.
Isabella Pittelli, WCHS, received the 2023 Betsy Blauvelt Student Art Award. The late Betsy Blauvelt, a past president of Front Royal Rotary, was a long-time executive director of the old Wayside Theatre in Middletown. Blauvelt’s husband, David, and their daughters attended the presentation.
Cody Henderson, Skyline, received the Kym Crump Student Art Award. Crump, also a former president of Front Royal Rotary and executive director of the Blue Ridge Arts Council, attended the presentation to Cody.
The John Marlow Male Athlete of the Year Award went to Daniel “DJ” Rizzo Jr., WCHS. The ceremony was watched by Marlow and his daughter, Emily Marlow Beck. Marlow was himself an outstanding high school and college athlete, also a past president of Front Royal Rotary and Mayor of the Town of Front Royal.
Sara Waller, WCHS, received one of two 2023 Heidi Moore Female Athletic Awards, along with Ava Bordner, Skyline, who will pick up her award later this month. She was away competing in athletics at the state level. Heidi Moore was an outstanding county athlete who tragically died from cancer shortly after completing her high school years.
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