Town, county consolidation talks on hold

By Alex Bridges

FRONT ROYAL — Consolidation talks between Front Royal and Warren County leaders may need to wait.

Town Council wants to let an attorney hired to look into Front Royal’s stake in the U.S. 340-522 North Corridor to finish his work before officials start discussing consolidation of the two jurisdictions.

Mayor Timothy Darr explained council’s position at the town-county Liaison Committee meeting Thursday. Members of council and the county Board of Supervisors met to discuss issues of mutual interest and, for the first time, to formally talk about consolidation.

The discussion didn’t last long.

Darr said council wants to wait until the attorney retained by the town to look into Front Royal’s stake into the corridor completes his work. Once the happens then council would be willing to talk to county leaders, Darr said.

“We’re open to the discussion,” Darr said. “I think we’re open to sit down and talk to you all about anything.”

The county hired a consulting firm to study the corridor and a 1999 agreement that lays out responsibilities of both jurisdictions related to the area.

Supervisors Chairman Daniel Murray Jr. brought up the idea of consolidation at the committee’s meeting March 20. His board continued the discussion at an April 1 work session. As Murray recalled Thursday, the board at the time did not know if consolidation would benefit all residents. The board suggested the town and county take a preliminary look at the idea to see if it warranted further exploration. The board would agree to put all ideas on the table. Murray alluded to the committee’s discussion earlier in the meeting about the U.S. 340-522 Corridor and said that this issue also would be on the table.

County Administrator Douglas Stanley said the idea has come up before.

“Obviously the community has been grappling with it for 40-plus years,” Stanley said.

Supervisors suggested the two bodies create a committee to study consolidation. The panel would consist of a councilman and a supervisor, a member from the Planning Commissions of both the town and county and residents from both jurisdictions. Staff would serve as a resource. Officials would set a definite period of time for the committee to perform its task and come up with a recommendation.

“Or we may find out that what we have right now is the best of both worlds,” Murray said. “But we don’t know if we have the best situation ’til we research it. Doing the research and doing this is being fair to everybody.”

Shenandoah District Supervisor Richard Traczyk tried to dispel the thought that consolidation would mark the end of Front Royal. Traczyk said the board doesn’t see that happening. He noted that other counties and towns have made consolidation work. Consolidation presents some benefits to both jurisdictions.

“The bickering back and forth as to whose money is spent on water, who’s doing this, would go away,” Traczyk said. “So there are a lot of benefits to it. I’m not sure, I think when I looked at it years ago, that there’s really a huge financial benefit.”

Supervisors also talked about putting the idea of consolidation on an election ballot as a referendum to let voters decide.

“That’s the important part — do the people want to do something like this or is everybody happy with what we’ve got and I’m hearing just discussions out there that there’s a lot of interest in this consolidation theory,” Traczyk said.

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