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Warren County to pick firm to study corridor deal

By Alex Bridges

A popular consulting firm seems the likely choice to study a deal between Warren County and Front Royal over the U.S. 522-340 North Corridor.

County Administrator Douglas Stanley plans to recommend on Tuesday that the Board of Supervisors award a contract to Springsted to look at numerous facets of the corridor agreement. Stanley said Thursday the county received two proposals for the work.

The proposal includes a cost of $18,880 for the work, Stanley said. The administrator estimated the project would take three to four months.

Stanley noted that the work goes beyond a simple analysis of the agreement itself. The consultant would look at the impact of the development of the corridor since the creation of the agreement in 1998. Stanley noted that the study would incorporate historical data.

Some supervisors have claimed that Front Royal reaps benefits from the corridor even though the land does not lie within the town limits.

Some members of Town Council claim the county is stalling and Vice Mayor N. Shae Parker has requested supervisors come back to the table to discuss the corridor. Council plans to discuss Parker's request in a formal motion during a work session Tuesday. Council typically does not take action during work sessions.

The county recently sent the town a letter indicating that the board plans to wait until the consultants complete their work on the corridor agreement and submits a report before supervisors resume talks on the subject.

"I don't think waiting three or four months is going to make that much of a difference," Stanley said.

But the idea of hiring a consultant to study the corridor, its benefits and costs to both jurisdictions is not new. Stanley recalled that county leaders brought up the notion in 2010 and asked Front Royal Town Council if it would join Warren in hiring a consultant. Stanley said that council turned down the offer.

The Board of Supervisors directed staff to pursue the route of hiring a consultant in an effort to collect more information related to the corridor agreement. At the same time, Town Council sought the legal assistance of a Richmond law firm after Parker suggested the agreement allows Front Royal to annex the corridor after a certain period has lapsed.

The county went forward and, on July 1, advertised a request for proposals from qualified firms to review the corridor agreement. The review would serve to analyze the fiscal and operational impact of the agreement on the town and county, the revenue generated by growth and development in the corridor and cost of services dictated by the accord, the current fiscal condition of each jurisdiction and tax rates and ability to fund operations.

The request for proposals outlined a detailed list of tasks for the contracted company to perform, from reviewing historic data on tax levies and utility rates to housing and commercial development in the corridor. Once the first task is completed the consultants will meet with the county to review the preliminary findings. After a discussion and review of the system the consultant will present recommendations at a board work session on how to modify the agreement if warranted.

The county advertised the request for proposals and solicited about a dozen firms to gauge interest. The low number of responses received by the Aug. 1 deadline was not surprising.

"That's not unusual because it takes time to respond to the proposals," Stanley said.

In the selection process, a panel consisting of Stanley, County Attorney Blair Mitchell, Planning Director Taryn Logan and Supervisors Richard Traczyk and Daniel Murray Jr. reviewed the proposals and interviewed both firms.

Springsted remains a popular choice among local governments in the Northern Shenandoah Valley region as a consulting firm for different tasks. Springsted most recently conducted a search for a new chief administrator to lead Shenandoah County. Leaders ultimately chose longtime Assistant County Administrator Mary Beth Price to take on that role.

But Springsted also performs other work for municipal governments. Springsted conducted studies for Warren County of its Social Services and Fire and Rescue Services departments as well as reviewed the funding formula for the Economic Development Authority. Springsted also conducted the search for a town manager for Front Royal.

"So they have a lot of knowledge and experience working with both Warren County and the town of Front Royal," Stanley said.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com

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