Council grants break for radio station

By Alex Bridges

FRONT ROYAL – A radio station in Front Royal can get a break from the town when it connects to the sewer system.

Town Council approved a request Monday from “The River” WFTR/WZRV to waive 50 percent of the $9,750 fee that in-town users pay to connect to the municipal sewer service. Council voted 5-1 to grant the waiver. Councilman Eugene Tewalt voted against the request.

Station President Andrew Shearer made the request as the broadcaster continues major renovations to its building at 1106 Elm St. Representatives told council last week that the renovations prohibit the station from continuing to use the existing septic system on the property.

Council had received a few similar requests in recent weeks from different groups seeking relief from paying the entire amounts charged for utility connections or user rates. The station had asked the town to waive the fee entirely. Several councilmen voiced reluctance at a work session last week to grant the full waiver. However, some councilmen agreed that the station deserved some relief given that the broadcaster provides a unique service to the community. Tewalt said at the work session that he may consider supporting a waiver of no more than 50 percent.

Councilman Bret Hrbek made a motion Monday night that included unique circumstances as a reason the town would grant the waiver. Hrbek also sought with the motion to avoid opening the door to more requests or to give the appearance that the station was benefiting from favoritism.

The radio station has provided news in Front Royal for 66 years and acts as an emergency communication tool for the town, broadcasting information about storm damage, road closings and other significant events. Councilmen and town officials have said that without the station Front Royal would need to find another way to pass this information to the community.

Connecting to the town sewer lines also eliminates a septic system within Front Royal limits. Septic systems can cause environmental harm to surface- and groundwater, town officials have said. Eliminating septic systems in town reduces the potential impact to the Shenandoah River.

“So if we can kill two birds with one stone in this case I think that’s a great move at not a whole lot of cost to the town,” Hrbek said.

The station is already connected to the town water system.

Also at the meeting, council approved a motion to endorse a strategic plan as recommended by the Economic Committee last week that includes the funding and support for the Virginia Small Business Development Center, located at Lord Fairfax Community College. Council voted 4-1 to approve the motion. Councilman Daryl Funk opposed the motion, saying he did not feel it appropriate at this time for council to endorse the committee’s suggestions. Vice Mayor N. Shae Parker abstained from the vote.

The committee, formed by Mayor Timothy Darr of local business leaders, also recommended that council create a non-taxing development authority and to set up a building inspection department for the town.

The Warren County Economic Development Authority continues to work toward bringing new businesses to the town and county and to help existing businesses. Warren County’s building official also handles inspections in town. However, the Economic Committee members said last week that the town needs to work toward creating its own identity.

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