By Alex Bridges
Counties and many towns in the region marked 2013 as a year of progress by completing major projects or taking steps to improve communities.
Shenandoah County saw renovations to the Edinburg School completed and the facility reopened for educational and recreational use. Charter House Schools began using the facility in the fall to educate certain, special-needs students.
Renovations to the historic courthouse in Woodstock also continued through 2013 and into the new year, though that project appears nearly complete. County Administrator Mary T. Price advised the Board of Supervisors at a recent meeting that the contractor, Caldwell Santmyers, received final inspections for electrical, plumbing and climate-control systems.
The Board of Supervisors in 2013 hired Price to take the lead position in the local government. Price took over for Douglas Walker, who left last spring for an assistant administrator position in Albemarle County. Staff members are searching for a person to fill Price's old position.
Shenandoah County also hired Matthew Green in late 2013 to serve as the accountant for the government administrative office, filling a position created to allow the administration to segregate duties as recommended by an auditing firm.
Also in 2013, the county worked with a private firm to update the government website. The updated website came online in January and, aside from a new look, includes features designed to make it easier for users to find information. Additionally, the Internet service allows county staff to control the individual pages for departments. The year also proved beneficial for the county's Geographical Information Systems as the department upgraded its interactive mapping website for the first time in about 10 years.
Shenandoah County also is working on upgrading its emergency 911 telephone system. Supervisors heard last month from a representative with LR Kimball, the consultant hired to provide services for the upgrade about the third and final phase of the project. The last phase includes oversight of the installation of equipment and training, support for the interface with the Computer Aided Dispatch map and other parts of the system.
The past year also marked the first year for the county's Economic Development Strategic Plan. Approved in February, the plan is seen as a way to help the county not only bring in more business and industry, but also to strengthen the local relationship with existing entities. The board toured the Valley Milk plant in Strasburg in mid January and the county plans more visits to businesses and industries in the future.
In the areas of parks and recreation and conservation, the county accepted a land donation of almost 300 acres on North Mountain Road near Timberville from the estate of Zula Wagner for future use a regional park.
Towns in Shenandoah County also showed progress in 2013 and continue to move forward on major projects this year.
Town Council hired Ken Fauber to lead the municipal government. Fauber served as town manager of Strasburg for many years and then worked in other nearby jurisdictions before coming back to Shenandoah County.
New Market completed the second and final phase of its streetscape beautification project along Congress Street, seen by Town Manager Evan Vass and others as big step toward revitalizing the historic downtown corridor.
New Market also created a part-time position dedicated to the marketing of the town. Town officials are reviewing the applications.
Vass noted recently that the town reached a voluntary settlement agreement with Shenandoah County in 2012 that provides a plan for future growth in New Market in the next 20 years. The agreement allows New Market to incorporate county land into town limits when the property is identified for commercial or residential development. Any development would need to conform to the agreed upon plan, Vass explained.
Strasburg closed out the year by officially annexing the Northern Shenandoah Industrial and Business Park. Strasburg plans to market vacant properties in the hopes of attracting businesses or industrial users that would bring additional revenue to the town. Officials continue to draft plans on the development of the park.
Strasburg leaders also spent 2013 reviewing a proposal to upgrade the town's wastewater treatment plant seen as a lower-cost alternative to a high-priced design unveiled in 2012. The town is looking at an overall proposal that includes plant upgrades and land for a new Department of Public Works building.
The town also stands poised to adopt a new Unified Development Ordinance that contains local rules for construction, zoning standards and other regulations. The new document is seen as a way to better streamline the process for developers.
Toms Brook spent much of 2013 working with the Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission on a strategic plan for the future. The work came on the heels of the creation of a Comprehensive Plan.
Woodstock Town Council hired Reid Wodicka last May to lead the municipal government. Wodicka succeeded longtime Town Manager Larry Bradford, who retired from the position after 26 years. Wodicka and staff soon after began work to update the town's codes and regulations -- a project that has continued into this year. Town Council is in the process of reviewing updated ordinances for possible approval.
Warren County officials were busy in 2013 as work continued on projects that have been years in the making. Crews completed the construction of Eastham Park Trail Phase II that extends the path from the railroad trestle to Skyline High School.
Warren County officials expect to move forward on the next phase of the Eastham Park Trail project. The county may likely approve the design for the third phase to extend the trail from Skyline High School to Criser Road. County Administrator Douglas Stanley said the county should complete the design and advertise the project for bids by the end of the year.
Also in the next year, Stanley said the county should make progress on its efforts to build a new Health and Human Services complex for two local departments. The Department of Health operates in a small office on Peyton Street and the Department of Social Services on Warren Avenue. Both agencies are in cramped conditions, Stanley said. Plans call for the departments to relocate in the new building.
The county is working with a contracted firm to design the inside of the former school building in town. Stanley said he expects the design to be completed this spring and the county should put the project out to bid. The county is renovating only a small portion of the 20,000-square-foot building.
In 2013 the county finished replacing the roof at a cost of about $2 million. Asbestos has since been removed and the inside gutted. The county also is working with an engineer to design the new parking lot, Stanley said.
The county completed the renovations to the government center at 220 N. Commerce Ave. The Department of Fire and Rescue Services left the center once the county built the new Public Safety Building. The agency's departure left the county with space in the government center. The county renovated the center to better organize the remaining offices and departments.
The county has filed a site plan for the Soccerplex that includes more amenities such as a maintenance building and additional practice fields. The plan awaits approval by Front Royal officials.
Boating access to the Shenandoah River should improve with the construction of two landings. The county received grants to help cover the cost to design and build the boating facilities known as Simpson's Landing and one at Farms Riverview Road.
The county expects to move forward on the development of Rockland Park. Related projects include the construction of a shelter and a parking lot, as well as Phase III of Carson Trail and a playground. The Virginia Department of Transportation is working with the county to construct a $600,000 state road that would provide recreational access to the park. The road will run parallel to the existing route.
Front Royal spent most of 2013 celebrating the 225th anniversary of the town's incorporation, which culminated in a Nov. 15 ceremony that included the opening of the cornerstone at Town Hall.
In conjunction with Warren County, Town Council moved forward on an agreement that allows a developer to annex more than 600 acres into Front Royal by way of a boundary adjustment. The Front Royal Limited Partnership plans to bring the property into the town with the eventual goal of developing the land. The Voluntary Settlement Agreement between the county and town also limits how many homes the developer can build on the property as
Front Royal also spent most of 2013 working on the update to the Comprehensive Plan by first collecting input from area residents via an Internet site. "Envision Front Royal: A Vision for the Town of Front Royal," came out of the effort and will be used by officials in the crafting of the Comprehensive Plan this year.
The town and county have worked together with the Economic Development Authority on the long-awaited Leach Run Parkway project. The road will connect John Marshall Highway and Happy Creek Road. Officials expect the design of the four-lane, limited-access road to be completed this year.
The Front Royal Police Department moved to the former Warren County Sheriff's Office at 23 Jackson St. Environmental issues in their former headquarters accelerated plans to move to a new location. A consultant hired to review potential sites for a new headquarters building recommended the town build on the former Avtex parking lot on Kendrick Lane between Adams and Monroe avenues.
Also in 2013, Front Royal worked with a consultant to design upgrades to the Wastewater Treatment Plant needed to comply with the Chesapeake Bay Act. The town received some good news from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality that the project qualifies for a zero-interest loan expected to save Front Royal approximately $10 million in interest payments. The purchase of a sludge press from Round Hill is expected to save another $100,000 in construction costs.
Other projects the town moved forward on includes construction of the next phase of the Royal Shenandoah Greenway through Happy Creek Trail from Prospect Street to Criser Road. The trail includes street lighting. The town also plans to install lighting the existing trail from South Street to Main Street early this year.
The town completed upgrades to the water distribution and sewer collection system in 2013. New waterlines were installed on Proctor Lane, West 16th Street, Hillcrest Avenue, and Jefferson Avenue. In addition, the town upgraded pump equipment at the Guard Hill Pump Station and Crooked Run Lift Station. In addition, generator backup power was installed at the Guard Hill Pump Station.
During 2013, the town completed several drainage projects that will reduce flooding and other stormwater problems. Projects were located along Old Belmont Road, Orchard Street, East 6th Street, West 4th Street, South Shenandoah Avenue, and the alley between Virginia Avenue and North Royal Avenue.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org