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Combining the Front Royal, Warren County governments at issus
By Ben Orcutt -- firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- A local attorney behind a movement for exploring consolidation of the town and county governments says the process is moving forward.
David W. Silek, the plaintiffs' attorney in a $30 million defamation lawsuit pending against the town and three council members over a solar farm project, filed notice with the Warren County Circuit Court on Oct. 22 to circulate a petition calling for a referendum on consolidation of the two governments.
Silek said Thursday that the group has collected about 100 of the 3,600 signatures of registered county voters required to have the question put on a ballot for a referendum, and he is pleased with the effort thus far.
"All in all, yes, considering the fact that we aren't actively out soliciting signatures right now," Silek said. "It's just people coming up to us and saying, 'We want to sign.' I've been really busy with work and [fellow attorney David A.] Downes is out of the country, so we've been a little stymied in actively going out and getting signatures."
"I do have to have 10 percent of the registered voters of the town and that works out to like I think a thousand people or something like that," Silek added.
Silek said only a few people whom he's approached have refused to sign the petition. He said he has to have the required signatures within eight months from the time he filed notice of the petition, and has a goal of obtaining the signatures by early spring.
"The average Joe Schmo, the average Joe Six-Pack taxpayer that's a town resident is in favor of it, and the one thing I've heard repeatedly, they are tired of the embarrassment caused by the town council," Silek said.
Silek said the petition drive puts the town and county on notice they need to come up with a consolidation plan.
"If they do not form a consolidation plan, then it means it goes to the court and the court will appoint a committee to form a consolidation plan," Silek said. "And that just places it on the ballot. It doesn't say we're consolidating. It says to the court, if the town and county don't form a consolidation plan or put forth a consolidation plan and put it on the ballot, then the court will order it done. If the town and the county don't do so, they lose say over the consolidation plan. Now they have the authority to appoint their own people to form a plan."
Silek has sent letters to the town and the county requesting that the bodies come up with a consolidation plan and call for a referendum.
County and town government leaders also weighed in on the consolidation effort on Thursday.
"I've don't know that I've heard one way more than the other," Warren County Board of Supervisors Chairman Archie A. Fox said regarding sentiment for or against consolidation among the public. "We have discussed it in a work session, and it was the opinion of our board that the initiative to move it forward would have to come from the public sector."
Mayor Timothy W. Darr and Vice Mayor Chris W. Holloway said the majority of people they've spoken with are against consolidation.
"We've had staff look at it and they've come back with some pros and cons," Darr said. "We're trying to direct our focus on the new projects that are going on. We're kind of in the same boat as the county right now. I've kind of heard the same consensus. I talk to more town people than county, and the few people I've talked to, they're basically against it and it's all about the services they receive and the benefits they have by living in town."
Holloway spoke in a similar vein.
"Most of the people who have spoken to me about it they're not in favor of it because of town services and what would happen to town services," Holloway said. "They would have to have some kind of fees for people receiving those services or the county taxes would have to go up. Then people in the county would want to receive the same service."
Those interested in more information about consolidation can visit the concerned residents' Facebook page.