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Warren County budget process continues with requests from outside agencies: Access Independence Inc, Warren County Habitat for Humanity, Lord Fairfax Soil & Water Conservation District

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Jessica Priest-Cahill, Interim Executive Director and Amanda Slate, President of Warren County Habitat for Humanity present their budge requests to the Board of Supervisors. Photo and video by Mark Williams, Royal Examiner.

The Warren County Board of Supervisors held work session with outside agencies regarding the FY 2020-2021 budget on Tuesday, January 28, 2020.

Royal Examiner will follow the process over the next few weeks. In this first session, 15 outside agencies presented their request to the Board of Supervisors. In this first meeting, Supervisor Tony Carter  was absent – sick as well as Archie Fox. No word on why he missed the meeting. Supervisors Walt Mabe, Cheryl Cullers and Delores Oates, along with Doug Stanley and Bob Childress attended.

In part 1, Blue Ridge Opportunities, The Warren Coalition and the Phoenix Project presented their requests to the Board of Supervisors.

In part 2, you heard from Blue Ridge Legal Services, Inc, Northern Virginia 4-H and Samuels Public Library.

In part 3, the House of Hope, Friends of the Shenandoah River, and the Concern Hotline presented their requests.

In part 4, the Browntown Community Center, Resolutions, Inc and the  Blue Ridge Arts Council, Inc present their requests to the Board of Supervisors. And in part 5 to finish out the first meeting is Access Independence Inc, Warren County Habitat for Humanity, and the Lord Fairfax Soil & Water Conservation District.

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.

Watch the process on this exclusive Royal Examiner video:

Access Independence Inc

Our mission is to promote independent living by providing services and resources that enhance the quality of life for people with disabilities living in Virginia’s Northern Shenandoah Valley.

Warren County Habitat for Humanity

At Warren County, VA Habitat for Humanity, we do more than build houses. We partner with home-buyers, volunteers, donors, businesses and community organizations to transform lives and rebuild communities. Houses are sold at an affordable, no-profit rate with no-interest mortgages to qualified home buyers who earn 30% to 60% of the area median income.

Lord Fairfax Soil & Water Conservation District

We were organized under the authority of the Soil Conservation District Law as passed by the Virginia General Assembly of 1938.  In 1941, the District was formed with only Frederick County.  In 1944, Clarke and Warren Counties joined the District; Shenandoah County became a part of the District in 1945.  In 1973, the City of Winchester joined to complete the present District.

All programs and services of the district are offered on a nondiscriminatory basis, without regard to race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age, marital status, handicap, or political affiliation.

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No middle ground apparent in Confederate statue debate

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An unexpected debate over the fate of the Confederate Soldier Monument on the Warren County Courthouse lawn erupted at Tuesday morning’s County Board of Supervisors meeting.
In fact, after an agenda addition was proposed by Tony Carter to add authorization for Interim County Attorney Jason Ham to submit a request that a public referendum on the 109-year-old statue’s fate be added to the November county ballot, nine of 14 speakers at the first public comments period addressed the issue. The split was a tight 5-4 in favor of keeping the statue at its public site, rather than remove it as a lingering sign of racism and the slavery issue at the root of the American Civil War.

Those five speaking for keeping the statue dedicated to the memory of Warren County’s 600 Confederate soldiers, both known and unknown, who fought in the war all argued that the statue was not a glorification of slavery and continued racism in America, but rather a tribute to non-slave-owning soldiers – other than five of those 600 – most likely drafted into service who may have viewed the war from a different perspective than many of those of us in the 21st century might assume.

Above, FR Unites’ Samuel Porter insisted he is not out to divide the community. Below, one of the county’s first integrated black students, Gene Kilby, said from his perspective the statue does remind people of color of slavery and racism. Royal Examiner Photos/Roger Bianchini – Royal Examiner Video/Mark Williams

The four speaking for removal included two principals from Front Royal Unites, Samuel Porter and Stevi Hubbard, as well as Gene Kilby, James Kilby Sr.’s youngest son and one of the county’s first integrated public school students of color, and Episcopal Reverend Valerie Hayes. From their varying perspectives, all four countered that for the county’s black citizens the statue does echo of slavery and racism.

Speaking for maintaining the statue under some compromise solution that does not glorify slavery or racism included several members of a family tied to Front Royal’s Chester Street Warren Rifles Confederate Museum, including Suzanne Wood Silek, her nephew and museum curator Gary Duane Vaughan, cousin and local attorney David Silek. Others speaking for keeping the statue where it is were Richard Bruce Colton and Richard Hoover.

Above, Suzanne Wood Silek; below her nephew Gary Duane Vaughan – both with family ties to the Warren Rifles Confederate Museum. They and others on the non-relocation side insisted the statue dedicated to the county’s common soldier does not stand in glorification of slavery or racism, but of service and sacrifice.

Several of the speakers on the removal side of the debate who had arrived late after being notified of the agenda item addition, complained of the unannounced late addition they said prevented more speakers from their side from coming to voice their opinions.

However, Carter who made the motion to add the item noted that the board’s hand was forced by the discovery that there was an August 14 deadline on submission to the court of a County petition to add a referendum on the statue issue to the November ballot. Carter noted the next scheduled board meeting was August 19.

An updated story with more detail on the debate will be forthcoming. But for now, watch those speakers listed above present their conflicting viewpoints in what, including other public comments on a proposed shooting ban in the Clearback subdivision off Rockland Road, ended up stretching the prescribed 40-minute public comments period to nearly 80 minutes Tuesday morning in this Royal Examiner video:

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Council seeks clarification on guns into town offices & meetings request

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The march of 2nd Amendment advocates recruiting local municipal governments to become “sanctuaries” against State laws passed by the Democratic majority in the Virginia General Assembly continues. At the Monday, August 3, Front Royal Town Council work session a new resolution seeking local immunity from a new state law allowing municipalities to join the Commonwealth in banning the carrying of weapons into government buildings, meeting rooms and other properties was brought to council by staff.

The request for passage of the newest 2nd Amendment sanctuary rebellion against the current Democratic-controlled state government’s gun-control legislation was brought to council by Paul Aldridge, who was not present Monday, in mid-July. Both the Town and County approved “2nd Amendment Sanctuary” resolutions brought before them late last year, joining a number of conservative municipalities resolving not to enforce proposed gun control laws before the General Assembly.

Over a thousand people packed the WCHS auditorium in December 2019 in support of an earlier 2nd Amendment Sanctuary initiative. That one before the county supervisors was passed by a 5-0 vote. Royal Examiner Photos/Roger Bianchini – Royal Examiner Video/Mark Williams

As to the newest proposed resolution, it references VA Code Section 15.2-915(E). That newly passed state code states “…a locality may adopt an ordinance that prohibits the possession, carrying, or transportation of any firearms, ammunition, or components or combination thereof…” in government buildings and open spaces or spaces utilized for permitted community events or other municipal or recreational activities.

The code, as with others approved this year regarding background checks and red flag laws, appears to be a Democratic initiative to head off the type of mass shooting violence that has become uncomfortably common in the U.S. in recent decades. However, certain 2nd Amendment “purists”, for lack of a better term, in Virginia and other politically conservative states and regions have taken such gun control legislation as an assault on their 2nd Amendment right to, not only own a firearm but “bear it” in any public context in which they see fit.

Monday night’s discussion indicated some confusion as to what was being asked as it applied, not only to existing town codes regarding citizens being given carte blanche to come armed into Town Hall and any town council or other board or commission meeting or visit to any town official or departmental office. In the end, council asked for more detail on the impacts of approval of the resolution to continue the discussion at a coming work session. But what a discussion it was to get to that “stay tuned for our next exciting episode” on this crucial request pitting some people’s perception of their 2nd Amendment right “to bear Arms” versus other people’s perception of their “inalienable right” of “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” without being randomly gunned down by an armed citizen having a bad day.

Town Attorney Doug Napier explained that the above-referenced state code allowed municipalities “including the town” to set their own guidelines on firearms in public places, a power they did not previously have in this Dillon Rule state where no jurisdiction can pass laws that goes beyond what state law has set forth.

Town Attorney Doug Napier, far left, outlined security issues for town staff were council to approve a new 2nd Amendment resolution before it and responded to questions on potential impacts on the Town Employee Handbook.

“Now localities, including the town, are allowed to allow firearms, they are allowed not to allow firearms. Obviously, this is something that is political and a policy issue, as opposed to a legal issue,” Napier told council, pointing to matters of concern on a decision on the requested resolution.

As the town attorney pointed out in the subsequent discussion, by passing the resolution the town’s elected officials would commit themselves legally to “not exercise any authority granted to it by § 15.2-915(E) of the Code of Virginia to regulate or prohibit the otherwise legal purchase, possession, or transfer of firearms or ammunition.

“If this is passed in its entirety, would you feel comfortable to allow the public to bring firearms into Town Hall? We have ladies in the finance department downstairs dealing with members of the public who have had their utilities cut off. Sometimes people feel a little agitated with that,” Napier observed.

He also noted that while council at meetings and work sessions has a security presence of town police, as illustrated Monday night by an armed FRPD Chief Kahle Magalis – whom later acknowledged he had not yet been consulted on the requested resolution – but that other boards and commissions do not normally have that same armed Town security presence in meetings the town attorney described as occasionally volatile with zoning, building-permitting, and business operations at issue.

“Would you feel comfortable in that situation,” Napier asked council of allowing armed involved citizens making their cases toward a sometimes unhappy town appointed, or elected, board resolution of their request?

FRPD Chief Kahle Magalis at the head of a row of town staff listening to Monday’s council discussion on the approval of a requested resolution allowing the unlimited bearing of arms in Town buildings and properties. The chief, present as security, said he had not yet been consulted on the requested resolution.

As to the potential of barring firearms from public park areas where alcohol consumption might be prohibited, other than special festival events and which it could on occasion have been consumed illegally, the town attorney also pointed to the potentially volatile mix of alcohol and firearms.

Napier then noted that the Town Employee Handbook prohibits employees from being armed on the job, other of course than police officers. How would the requested resolution impact that employee prohibition, Napier asked.

“And then the issue is, do you want employees to carry firearms?” Napier told council, wondering if council would try to allow it for some, but not others – “So, these are some of the issues to consider.”

OK – Everyone but employees?

“Does this resolution affect our employee handbook directly?” Councilman Jacob Meza asked. Napier’s response was “not directly” to which Meza observed, “But we wouldn’t have to address that unless we wanted to consider letting our employees having handguns to defend themselves against crazy people coming in and try to shoot up the place. That doesn’t have a bearing on the resolution,” Meza reasoned.

“Not directly,” the town attorney replied, stumbling to find the proper wording to describe the indirect bearing it might have, which essentially was approving the resolution would contradict the employee handbook’s prohibition on employees, who are also citizens, carrying firearms to work, potentially now as a means of self-defense against armed citizens unhappy with some town action or issue.

“So, everybody but employees could carry firearms,” Napier said of the impact of approving the resolution under current town employee handbook guidelines.

The town attorney, above, and Councilman Meza, below, discussed potential impacts on the Town Employee Handbook’s prohibition on non-police town staff carrying firearms on the job.

As discussion progressed into the different treatment employees faced from all other citizens and visitors to the town due to the handbook prohibition, Meza said, “I have no desire to change our handbook employee policy for this …” He added he would defer to the interim town manager, if he wanted to do a poll to establish whether the employee handbook needed to be altered as a consequence of approval of the requested resolution.

Councilwoman Lori Cockrell observed that council’s meeting were at the County-owned government center, so council likely did not have the authority to authorize the carrying of weapons, at least into Town meetings at the Warren County Government Center. A similar resolution request is also apparently before the County at this time.

No guns in Town Hall, no tourists?

The resolution presented to the Front Royal Town Council Monday evening actually referenced passage of any local firearms prohibitions into government facilities and properties as having a potential negative affect on tourism.

“… and WHEREAS, certain legislation has been passed in the Virginia General Assembly that allows localities to, by ordinance, ban otherwise lawfully possessed and transported firearms from certain public spaces, causing law-abiding citizens to be exposed to a patchwork of local ordinances as they travel throughout the Commonwealth,
“and WHEREAS, the Front Royal Town Council acknowledges the significant economic contribution made to our community by tourists and visitors and does not wish to discourage travel to Front Royal,

But should ‘Super Heroes’ be allowed to carry firearms on town shopping sprees? Spiderman’s wouldn’t be concealed it appears, so no permitting necessary.

“and WHEREAS, Front Royal wishes to welcome all law-abiding citizens who wish to live in, visit, or otherwise participate in the economy of our community, including those citizens and visitors who choose to legally carry a firearm for personal protection, and …” the resolution continues toward the requested Town “resolution/reservation of its right” to make all citizens and employees at its facilities and recreational properties less exposed to the potential of random or directed gun violence.

See this nearly 15-minute discussion about 15 minutes into the work session, as well as other council business, including updates on the town building mural art project; applications for the CARES Act Coronavirus Relief funding – 25 of 50 business applications for relief approved and $225,000 of $1.2 million in relief funding approved to those 25 qualifying applicants; South Street Capital Improvement plans; and a potential change to town vending-peddling regulations allowing for competition in the ice cream truck sale of frozen treats town-wide in this Royal Examiner video. Currently only former Mayor Hollis Tharpe is “grandfathered” in to sell frozen treats town-wide. C&C Frozen Treats owner William Huck would like to change that existing one-truck monopoly, staff indicated.

Back from a slight ‘vacation’ fall off the wall, Hollis Tharpe, second from right bottom, was back on Town Hall’s mayor’s row Monday night. But could his town-wide ice cream truck monopoly be about to end?

Oh, and Mr. Tharpe’s mayoral portrait was back in its place on the 2nd floor Town Hall meeting room wall Monday night.

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Town of Front Royal is providing financial assistance to small businesses

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The Town of Front Royal, administered by the Front Royal-Warren County Chamber of Commerce, will begin taking grant applications from Town businesses for financial assistance. The intent of the forgivable grant program is to provide immediate relief to Town small businesses that can demonstrate economic hardship from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The grant funds shall be used to pay outstanding Town of Front Royal utility bills in order to continue to receive essential services, the remaining grant funds may be used to pay for other expenses associated with a business interruption.

Businesses may receive grant funding between $2,500 and $20,000 depending on their 2019 gross receipts. The Front Royal-Warren County Chamber of Commerce will work in conjunction with the Town of Front Royal Finance Department and the Front Royal CARES Committee to administer the grant.

“The Town Council has been anxious to help local businesses and was prepared in April to use Town reserve funds. Fortunately, the Town has received over one million dollars in CARES Act funds to help our local small businesses and boost our economy. I would personally like to thank the Town Council, the Front Royal-Warren County Chamber of Commerce, and the Front Royal CARES Committee for all their hard work getting us to this point. I am looking forward to checks being cut in a few weeks.” said Matthew Tederick, Interim Town Manager.

Niki Foster, President of the Front Royal-Warren County Chamber of Commerce said, “The Chamber’s Vision statement is, ‘To be recognized as the leading resource for business in Front Royal-Warren County.’ That is why we are so honored to be able to not only help the Town of Front Royal administer the financial assistance grant program, but as importantly, help our local small businesses who are the backbone of our community.”

Town of Front Royal businesses interested in applying for the business recovery grants can do so now at www.FrontRoyalVA.com/CARES

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Mayor, council erupt over politicized interim town manager’s report

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After being taken to the “brink” a week earlier during the County Supervisors’ 4-1/2 hour exploration of the intricacies and ethics of municipal government, things looked promising on Monday, July 27th.

A very light two-action item Front Royal Town Council agenda revolving around people GIVING the Town money or LOVE letters for display. How hard could it be, right – even with some critical citizen “Public Comments” from a riled-up Paul Gabbert and a more measured council candidate Bruce Rappaport?

That was before Matt Tederick decided to turn his Interim Town Manager’s report into a political attack on Royal Examiner Publisher and mayoral candidate Mike McCool, not present Monday, over meeting comments made two weeks earlier about the prevalence of unattended-to potholes around town.

Monday night the interim town manager found himself in a quandary, but over what – defending public works staff that had not been attacked or turning his manager’s report into a political campaign attack? Royal Examiner Photos/Roger Bianchini – Royal Examiner videos/Mark Williams

Not that there aren’t any, Tederick admitted – “It’s on me and me alone,” he commented on their presence before attempting at length to portray McCool’s July 13th comments on a lapse of timely Town attention to road infrastructure issues, into an attack on the Town’s Public Works staff.

Tederick’s report started normally as he noted posting on the Town website and various other social media and distribution sources of the application process for the Town’s $1.2 million share of the CARES Act COVID-19 Coronavirus relief funding. But after one-minute-and-43 seconds, Tederick hesitated to say he found himself in a “quandary”.

“I really struggled with what to say tonight, whether I should or should not make these comments,” the interim town manager began, continuing to say he lived by “several personal mottos” including “always speak truth to power.”

So, who was the long-time County Republican Committee chairman, officer, and power broker described favorably by fellow local Republican Committee official Amber Poe Morris earlier this year as “Front Royal’s (Donald) Trump” getting ready to speak to? I found myself wondering.

“The quandary I find myself in, is on one hand I feel strong cause to protect town citizens who have been unfairly attacked. But on the other hand, calling out a current mayor candidate and owner of a local business and newspaper is the quandary I find myself in,” Tederick said in prefacing his coming remarks.

Uh oh.
Saying he would “walk the line” Tederick began his defense of the public works department’s street maintenance crews – crews I do not recall being the target of McCool’s comments two weeks earlier a day after he said he had run through a massive pothole he feared might have damaged the undercarriage of his tiny “smart” car. It was apparently the same pothole the mayor had also hit recently, Tewalt later indicated. In fact, this reporter’s video review of McCool’s July 13 public comments indicated a critical focus on “department heads” and town administrative staff oversight of town crews and contractors for follow-up work, rather than of town staff in the field.

As Mayor Tewalt tries to stop a politically volatile staff report, he found himself at odds with a majority of council, including Letasha Thompson, Jacob Meza and Chris Holloway to the mayor’s left.

After two minutes of recitation of interdepartmental processes aimed at discrediting McCool’s road infrastructure comments, Mayor Gene Tewalt interrupted the interim town manager to say that if the public was going to be limited in the amount of time they could berate town officials, perhaps town staff should also be limited in the amount of time devoted to the personal berating of the political opponent of a sitting councilman, mayoral candidate, and fellow Tederick Warren County Republican Committee member. Chris Holloway is also on the November mayoral ballot.

Responding that he was unaware of time limitations on staff reports, Tederick continued for another 2-1/2 minutes before the mayor again tried to end what had turned into a politically-tinged report. But this time when Tewalt attempted to halt Tederick, he was set upon by several councilmen, including Letasha Thompson, Gary Gillespie, Jacob Meza and briefly Holloway, who concurred with Meza that it was the mayor, rather than Tederick who had turned the meeting into a politicized sideshow – “I’m not surprised,” Holloway said of a negative perception of Mayor Tewalt’s attempts to cut Tederick’s report short.

Above, Jacob Meza was pointedly critical of the mayor as politicizing the meeting by trying to halt the interim town manager’s explanation of why town crews were not at fault on road maintenance issues, not that anyone said they were. Below, mayoral candidate Chris Holloway concurred with Meza’s assessment Mayor Tewalt was politicizing the meeting, not the interim town manager.

The following morning after asking McCool to watch our video of Tederick, the mayor and council’s interaction over the attack on his July 13th “pothole of the day” comments, I asked our publisher for a response to what he saw, reminding him I had told him a month earlier his candidacy would make Royal Examiner, its staff and election coverage a target throughout the campaign season.

McCool replied that I was correct in recalling that his remarks had not been directed at Town work crews, but rather at administrative oversight and communications between contractors and department heads on follow-up work. – “I know, Mike, I re-watched the video this morning,” I told him, adding, “I still hold you responsible for the hellish situation I find myself in as a reporter. – You know, it’ll be my reporting next meeting that is somebody’s ‘quandary’ for comment.

Who’s next – Mike McCool approaches the podium to discuss road maintenance issues on July 13, as reporter scribbles away old school at improvised press table about whatever the previous speaker was talking about.

As for his reply to Monday’s political developments, McCool said, “It seems Mr. Tederick is up to his political tricks and negativity. When I made the comments at the Town Council meeting two weeks ago, Mr. Tederick called my comments ‘absolutely false’. Are they? Mr. Tederick emailed me the next morning asking for the addresses of the potholes and the site of the curb and gutter issues. He said he wanted to address the problem and get them taken care of ASAP.

“And Mr. Tederick told me after the meeting that the Town had seven contractors doing this work, and they were inspecting the jobs, but one contractor had been doing such a poor job, most of which had to be redone, that the inspector was spending all his time with this one contractor. I noticed he didn’t mention any of this in the Town Manager’s report on the 27th.”

McCool added that people could judge for themselves what happened last night from watching the meeting video of the political turn in Tederick’s report and the contrasting reactions to it. In the first video we’ve edited his actual comments to council on July 13 and Tederick’s report which pivots toward McCool, as well as the mayor-manager and mayor-council sparring over the political turn the meeting had taken.


The second video is the entire Town Council meeting of July 27th.

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Murray asks for ‘LOVE’ correction, and gives some LOVE to the departing county administrator

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Former Warren County Board of Supervisors Chairman Dan Murray, who did not run for re-election to his North River District seat last year, paid a visit to his old Warren County Government Center stomping grounds on Tuesday night, July 21st – but it wasn’t just a polite social call to see how things were going.

In fact, in two visits to the podium, Murray had some pointed words for his three first-term successors, Walt Mabe, Cheryl Cullers, and his old district’s Delores Oates. First, Murray chastised the chair and his colleagues for not correcting past board meeting misstatements indicating that the previous board which Murray chaired had authorized the LOVE sign under consideration for placement at the Route 340/522 intersection with Guard Hill Road.

“I’d like a retraction on that because this goes out to the public, and they don’t know what the real truth is. – So, let’s give them the real truth, thank you,” Murray concluded in a brief visit to the public speakers’ podium during consideration of the LOVE sign.

Contacted later, Murray explained that while he was chairman in his last term the LOVE sign had been before the County Planning Commission, never being forwarded to the supervisors for a final vote up or down.

Vice-Chair Cheryl Cullers responded to Murray by noting that at a subsequent meeting she had apologized for the incorrect allusion to previous board approval of the LOVE sign project.

“Because I was under the impression that no projects went through without board approval and I knew it hadn’t come before us. So, that was a wrong assumption on my part and I do apologize, and I will apologize to you personally,” Cullers said, drawing a “Thank you” from the former chairman.

“I was wrong and if I’m wrong I will admit it,” Cullers added to conclude the matter.

About an hour-and-a-half later with its nearly 4-1/2 hour open meeting headed to a conclusion, Murray revisited the podium to say goodbye to County Administrator Doug Stanley, who as previously reported, has reached an “Involuntary Separation Agreement” with the current board to leave the county administrator’s positions he has held for the entire 20 years of this century, out of his quarter-century of service to the county government.

Following Rick Novak to the podium after the Royal Cinemas owner also acknowledged Stanley’s decades of service to the County and community – “What we’ve accomplished in this county in that time period, through some of your efforts and a lot of other people’s efforts, is amazing,” Novak began, adding, “Warren County, even the EDA believe it or not,” Novak said referencing pre-financial scandal years and efforts under executive directors prior to Jennifer McDonald, “was the envy of the state for many years for all the things we got accomplished here. And Doug, you were a huge part of that. There are things this board will never know, the places in this community he has touched as a Rotarian, and you will be missed,” Novak concluded drawing applause from some of the hearty remaining crowd at 11:15 p.m.

Though not signed up to speak, Murray, Stanley’s former boss as board chairman, asked permission to return to the podium, which Chairman Mabe granted.

“Mr. Chairman, I come before you, your board and staff with a heavy heart. We are losing so much institutional knowledge and you don’t realize what we’re losing,” Murray began asking if he could approach the county administrator at his position on the dais, also granted by the chair, as Murray continued with rising emotion.

“I want to thank you for everything you’ve done for this community. You are a cornerstone that’s not appreciated. Doug, I found you to be amongst the best of the best,” Murray continued with a phrase from his military service.

See Murray’s heartfelt farewell to the only administrator this county has known through the first 20 years of the third millennium of the Gregorian Calendar in the Royal Examiner meeting video, as well as Murray and his former colleague Richard Traczyk’s stinging appraisal of the new board majority’s motivation in seeking Stanley’s “involuntary” separation from the Warren County government.

“And he (Traczyk) said please mention my name, that I agree with this: That it’s a shame to pay back election promises this way having not even worked with you (Stanley) for a full year,” Murray said before continuing to describe what he found to be a perhaps over-dedicated public employee during his tenure as a supervisor.

In the wake of the EDA financial scandal erupting through 2019, the newly-elected board majority generally campaigned on an “end of business as usual” platform seen by many as a major contributing factor in the evolution of that alleged in dueling civil litigations $20-million-plus financial misappropriation of EDA and municipal resources during the EDA executive directorship of Jennifer McDonald.

Stanley’s lengthy tenure as county administrator was perceived by some as a key element of “business as usual” here.

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UPDATE: Back from the brink – supervisors save most interesting discussion for last

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Just when suicide seems like a viable option to extricate yourself from a time/space loop of consideration of municipal government minutiae that you see no way out of, the unexpected pulls you back – to life, to the makings of a good story.

That was the case Tuesday evening, just over three-and-a-half hours into a meeting characterized by the “Nothing is Easy” perspective that seems to have overtaken the Warren County Board of Supervisors recently. Delayed for action Tuesday were, not only a vote on allocation of the $2.1 million County share of federal CARES Act Coronavirus relief funding due to the absence of Deputy Emergency Management Coordinator Rick Farrall (correction: Farrall was absent due to the item being pulled from agenda by chairman due to the need for additional information on allocation process being developed), but also the rather routine approval of the minutes of previous meetings. Well, there were a lot of them – three regular meetings dating back to mid-May, three special meetings, and a May work session – “a lot of reading” as Chairman Walt Mabe pointed out.

But 3-1/2 hours later, long gone were general topics of public interest on recognitions of service to the Warren County Sheriff’s Office and updates on Samuels Library operations during the COVID-19 pandemic emergency response.

Also gone were potential lead stories:

  • on the fate of a long-planned promotional LOVE sign designed to piggy-back Virginia communities on the half-century-plus success of the “Virginia is for Lovers” tourism promotional slogan acknowledged as one of the Top 10 marketing campaigns of any kind (keep it alive but explore alternate designs, locations and funding options);
  • of a possible border war with Clarke County over a centuries-old surveying anomaly leading to a needed boundary adjustment (approve the changed boundaries as did Clarke County earlier in the day to correct the situation);
  • or proper lighting, shrubbery, parking and positive movement on development of a Department of Game and Inland Fisheries overseen Morgan’s Ford Shenandoah River-side boat landing property (keep the project moving forward so as not to lose DuPont environmental settlement funding, but at reduced costs with less lighting and less shrubbery – “shrubbery”, is there a Monty Python script developing here?).

By 8:43 p.m., one-hour-and-43 minutes in, the meeting had settled into a mind-numbing series of Conditional Use Permit requests for private-use campground property additions; for short-term tourist rentals; and ordinance amendments controlling how many dead, unusable, untagged vehicles or recreational vehicles may be kept on residential properties; and how flags and signs can or cannot be regulated in the wake of a 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on publicly displayed content.

After an hour of this drier side of municipal business, first, the LOVE sign issue came before the board seeing a 6 for, 2 against, 2 in the middle public split. Following a revisiting of early agenda board and staff, reports pushed back by other business and the 7:30 p.m. start of the eight public hearings, an agenda item added at the meeting’s outset by Happy Creek Supervisor Tony Carter, one of two still-sitting incumbents (with Archie Fox) whose seats have not yet come up for election, post-EDA financial scandal.

Reservation of whose rights?

That item was board consideration and a vote of “formal approval” of a renegotiated “Reservation of Rights Agreement” with the Front Royal Town Council. As Royal Examiner has reported, that agreement negotiated informally between Supervisors Cullers and Oates and Council members Lori Cockrell and Chris Holloway was an attempt to have the Front Royal Town Council agree to assume payment responsibility for its Economic Development Authority-financed new Town Police Station headquarters in the new fiscal year.

That the negotiated and renegotiated agreement not quite achieving that goal – the Town has agreed to a one-time, recoverable, half-interest payment of $10,528.95 – had been accomplished by Cullers and Oates without his, and perhaps other supervisors’ knowledge, led Happy Creek Supervisor Tony Carter to inquire as to the nature and advisability of his involved colleagues’ negotiating process, without the formal endorsement of the entire board.

That 35-minute, sometimes confrontational, discussion involving, not only board members, but County Attorney Jason Ham, EDA Board Chairman and soon-to-be Interim County Administrator Ed Daley, will be explored in a related story “Two supervisors questioned about ‘back channel’ dealings with Town on EDA issues” and attached video segment.

See the Morgan’s Ford Boat Landing, the public comment section, boundary adjustment,  and the LOVE sign discussion and tabling vote in these Royal Examiner videos:


Warren County Board of Supervisors Meeting – Morgan Fords Public Hearing – July 21, 2020


Warren County Board of Supervisors Meeting – Public Comments – July 21, 2020  – (The Public Comment video has been updated to include both sections of public comments presented at the BOS meeting.)


Warren County Board of Supervisors Meeting – July 21, 2020 – LOVEworks Sign Project


Warren County Board of Supervisors Meeting – July 21, 2020 – Boundary Line Adjustment between Warren and Clarke Counties

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min 63°F
84/64°F
79/66°F