Council OKs county request to share tech cost

FRONT ROYAL – Town Council is split over whether or not to help Warren County buy monitors for a shared meeting room.

Councilmen Hollis Tharpe made the motion on Monday to have council approve a change in the current budget to cover the town’s share of the cost of the monitors. Councilmen Thomas H. Sayre, Daryl Funk and Tharpe voted to approve the motion. Councilmen Bret Hrbek and Eugene Tewalt and Vice Mayor N. Shae Parker voted against the motion.

Mayor Timothy Darr cast the tie-breaking vote to approve the motion for the request.

Warren County officials asked Front Royal to share in the cost to purchase monitors for the meeting room used by the Board of Supervisors and Town Council. County officials made the request a couple of months ago. Audience members sitting in the overflow area of the boardroom in the county government center can’t see presentations displayed on the screen on the wall at the front of the room. Plans call for the county to install the large monitors on pillars near the middle of the room.

The town and the county will split the $4,811.45 cost for the monitors. The town must amend its current budget by $2,000 and take the remaining part of its share from the information technology budget.

Finance Director Kim Gilkey-Breeden said the town would need to take the $2,000 from reserves.

Tewalt reiterated his concerns with the timing of the county’s request as it falls near the middle of the fiscal year.

“You all know my feelings in regards to taking money out of our general fund unless it’s for emergency issues,” Tewalt said. “This issue, if they had wanted monitors to be placed in this room, well they should have placed them in their budget at the time that they passed their budget.”

Tewalt said the county should wait until council and town officials begin their work on the next budget.

Sayre said he shared Tewalt’s concerns that the request “kind of got hit on us at the last second and we really didn’t have much of a chance to absorb [it].” Sayre, who leaves council Dec. 31, asked if they could put off the request until they begin to discuss the next fiscal budget. Darr said they could.

Funk gave his reasons for supporting the request.

“I do feel this is an important step of working with our county partners,” Funk said. “I do feel this is an important accessibility issue.”

Parker said his concerns go beyond Tewalt’s.

“This should be put in during the budget process but the town and the county have a fair-funding formula that was not used in the equation of fair-funding formula splits in this room,” Parker said. “Whereas we are all county citizens I don’t agree with the town paying half the cost for these monitors that seem to be more of a county concern.”

Parker said he could remember in his six years on council that they have had to open the overflow room once or twice.

Tharpe echoed some of Funk’s sentiment, noting that “we are partners with Warren County” and that council uses the meeting room. Sayre, who earlier commented that he understood Tewalt’s concerns, later said “for the purposes of transparency I’m gonna side with Mr. Funk and Mr. Tharpe on that.”

Before casting the tie-breaking vote, Darr said he believed the fair-funding formula Parker mentioned did not exist when the administration building was built and the county began to share it with council. Darr said he also had hoped the original motion would have included the caveat that the town would pay itself back the amount spent for its share. The mayor added that, while he shares Tewalt’s concerns about taking money out of savings for some unbudgeted items, the town in this case will only need to spend $2,000.

In other business, council:

• Approved a request to buy back 40 hours of vacation time from Town Manager Steve Burke, per his contract, with funds to come from the town manager budget. Half of the money is being donated to town employees as bonuses, the mayor noted.

• Authorized the administration to advertise a public hearing to receive input for a town building official position as requested by Hrbek.

• Donate the town’s old Christmas wreaths to the Front Royal Independent Business Alliance.

• Adopted a resolution endorsing the expansion of Front Royal’s tourism program through the sponsorship of resident-related activities.

• Adopted a resolution to establish the 2014 Holiday Home Decorating Contest, sponsored by the town on the Front Royal Facebook page, with awards going to the top three winners.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or