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Town Council fills seat, hears interest in school

By Alex Bridges

Stephens City Town Council picked a Planning Commission member to fill a vacancy through the rest of the year.

Council voted at its regular meeting Tuesday to appoint Jason Nauman to fill the seat occupied by James Harter, who resigned effected Dec. 31 because he had moved out of the town limits. Town Manager Mike Kehoe said Wednesday that Nauman will serve out the remainder of Harter's term that was set to expire Dec. 31 of this year.

Should Nauman want to stay on council, he would need to run for election to the position. General elections will be held in November for three council seats and for mayor, Kehoe said.

"That's where most of our council members seem to have gotten their start, in one way or the other, has been through the Planning Commission," Kehoe said. "Then a lot of times they're appointed if there's a vacancy or they go for the election."

Also at the meeting, council heard from people interested in using auxiliary buildings at the old Stephens City School site. Council held a public hearing on the possibility of the town leasing the smaller buildings to private users. One of the buildings is the former cafeteria for the school.

Council heard from representatives of the Winchester Independent School, a local church and an individual interested in running a consignment shop in the buildings. No one spoke against the town leasing the properties, Kehoe said.

"We're just starting the process," Kehoe said. "There's no sense letting the buildings stay empty."

The town currently covers the maintenance and utilities for the buildings.

Frederick County had used the auxiliary buildings until recently. Kehoe said one of the buildings needs some repairs to the roof and other rehabilitative work. Depending on the proposed uses for the buildings, the town may need to retrofit the structures to meet handicapped accessibility regulations.

Council referred the matter back to the Public Works Committee, which will draft the advertisement that will open the bidding process. Parties interested in leasing the school buildings will have a chance to bid for the opportunity.

The main school building remains vacant and the town continues to look at options on how to pay for renovations to the structure. The fate of the main building remains uncertain. But the town is looking for grants that could help cover the cost of renovating it.

Town Council also adopted an ordinance that would allow Stephens City to work with the Department of Motor Vehicles to collect unpaid, personal property taxes. The town already receives some benefit through Frederick County's use of the program. People notified of unpaid taxes to the county have also paid owed amounts to the town, Kehoe said.

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

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