Town council OKs Town Hall swap

By Alex Bridges

FRONT ROYAL — Front Royal leaders voted Monday to give the old Town Hall to the Warren County Economic Development Authority as part of a swap for the Afton Inn.

Specifically, Town Council voted 5-1 to adopt a resolution to approve the execution and recordation of a deed of bargain and sale of the former Town Hall, 16 N. Royal Ave.

As part of the resolution they adopted, Town Council agreed to give 45 days notice to any party possibly connected or interested in the property transfer. Mayor Timothy Darr, in explaining the motion, said the Front Royal Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department could be an interested party. If any issues with the title or deed arise then parties have 45 days to come forward to state their claim. This would allow “full disclosure” of the property swap at the closing, Darr said.

It came to light last week that the Relief Hook & Ladder Company owned a section of the Town Hall once used as the agency’s fire station. The question remained whether or not the current Front Royal Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department were beneficiaries should the town cease to use the municipal building and give the property to another party. Individual council members are identified as the trustees of the Relief Fire Department.

No representatives from the Front Royal Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department attended the special meeting that was announced Monday.

The action Monday comes as part of a deal in which Front Royal trades the old Town Hall property for the former Afton Inn on East Main Street. The swap drew both fire and support from the community this past winter. Town Council voted 5-1 in February to approve a memorandum of agreement with the EDA.

The owners of the former Afton Inn will take ownership of the Town Hall building. The EDA has agreed to market the vacant Afton Inn building for the town.

Councilman Daryl Funk, the lone opposing vote in both actions, reiterated his reasons for not supporting the trade. He accused fellow councilmen of pushing the deal through “with as little public scrutiny as possible.” Funk said he appreciated the fact the town would give parties 45 days to come forward.

Funk pointed out that council owns most of Town Hall with the exception of the area once used as a fire station. Funk argued that council holds the part of Town Hall as trustees not only for the Relief Fire Department but also the current Front Royal Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department.

“I thought this was a bad deal for the citizens of Front Royal when we were only giving away their town hall,” Funk said. “I think the only reason we’re out here doing this much is because I wasn’t willing to sign off as a trustee of the trust that we should go ahead and swap it. The duty of us as trustees is to protect the entity or person we hold the trust for — in this case, I think it’s the fire department.”

Councilman Bret Hrbek argued that it doesn’t appear the current fire and rescue agency has a clear connection to the Relief Fire Department.

“This is not something we’ve done underhandedly,” Hrbek said. “This just came to our knowledge last week and I would dispute the fact that we’re giving away anything.”

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