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Warren County OKs 340-522 corridor study

By Alex Bridges

FRONT ROYAL -- Warren County leaders moved ahead this week on hiring a firm to study the Route 340-522 North Corridor Agreement.

The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to allow the county to enter into a contract with Springsted to conduct a broad study of a deal made in 1998 with Front Royal over the corridor.

Meanwhile, Town Council met Tuesday night to consider a resolution asking that county leaders meet with them to discuss the matter. Town Manager Steven Burke said Wednesday that council requested some changes be made to the language of the resolution and that staff bring the matter back to another work session for further discussion

Supervisors have said they would rather wait and see what the study shows in terms of how the county and town benefit from the corridor and the agreement.

Supervisor Richard Traczyk made a statement before the board voted on the contract. Traczyk and Supervisor Daniel Murray Jr. represented the board on the panel of officials who interviewed the two firms that submitted proposals for the corridor study.

"We did ask the town to join us for this whole study of the corridor in order to analyze what exactly did the town and county gain or lose in this developed area," Traczyk said. "This has never really been clearly defined."

Traczyk noted that the town declined the county's invitation.

"The study would be an educated discussion with the town, having the facts and accurate numbers, and not a lot of discussion about what could be or should be," Traczyk said.

The supervisor refuted a claim by Vice Mayor N. Shae Parker that the county is "stonewalling" the town's agenda.

"We have a plan and we will work together when our study on the corridor is complete," Traczyk said. "Listening to some of the council members I get the sense they feel a hostile annexation attempt is the only answer regardless of the findings."

Springsted will 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, according to information from the county.

The county advertised for proposals from qualified firms and solicited about a dozen to gauge interest. The county received two proposals and the committee recommended Springsted.

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 will pay up to $18,880 for Springsted to perform the work, which includes gathering background information related to the agreement and the study area. The firm and the county may negotiate payment for any costs outside the agreed upon amount.

Stanley told the board it may take 30-45 days to pull the information Springsted would need before the firm can begin the study. Stanley said he estimated it would take about three to four months to conduct the study.

Board Chairman Archie Fox told supervisors he talked about the corridor issue with Front Royal Mayor Timothy Darr. The board voted to delay action on the contract until after they met in closed session to talk about the corridor matter and so Fox could convey to supervisors his discussion with Darr.

The mayor said by phone Tuesday evening that he felt pleased Fox passed along to the board what they discussed. Darr noted that he and Fox had been meeting monthly but did not come up with any solutions agreeable to either the board or council.

"I'm hoping that we can all sit down and come up with a resolution that serves the citizens in the best way possible," Darr said.

Springsted, which has an office in Richmond and is headquartered in St. Paul, Minn., has performed work for governments in the region, having recently conducted the search for a new chief administrator for Shenandoah County. Springsted also has 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.

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

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