Towns plan for utility, park upgrades

Construction continues on the Holtzman Oil Corporation's new office building on Main Street in Mount Jackson. The building is scheduled to be completed mid-spring. Rich Cooley/Daily

Although the Chinese Zodiac proclaims 2015 as the Year of the Sheep, it might as well be called, “The Year of the Water and Sewer Line.”

Quite a few towns in Shenandoah and Frederick counties are planning to repair or extend their water and sewer lines this year. Middletown and Stephens City have begun a process of studying how feasible it would be for them to partner their water and sewer utilities, with the latter hoping to extend the same services to houses and businesses west of town. In New Market, plans call for adding new water main valves, after the town just finished constructing two loops in its water system.

Whether it’s attracting a new Family Dollar to Mount Jackson or Dollar General to Toms Brook, applying for a block planning grant in Stephens City and Edinburg or improving town parks in Middletown and Mount Jackson, the year ahead shows promising progress.

Mount Jackson
Fresh off repainting the iconic basket of apples on its water tower, Mount Jackson is installing new sidewalks along the north and downtown sections of town, renovating the facilities at its town park and finishing up the new digs for the Holtzman Corporation and the Rescue and Fire Department.

Mayor Bucky Miller said Holtzman’s new office building, at the site of the old Nelson House, is expected to be completed in mid-spring. Miller said the new fire station should open this summer, and the proposed Family Dollar store likely will move into town sometime this year.

Two of the most visible changes in Middletown are a new McDonald's Restaurant and the renovation of the former Super 8 motel that will reopen as an Econo Lodge by the end of the year. Rich Cooley/Daily

Miller said a few existing businesses will be expanding as well.

“Andros is just going to be growing by leaps and bounds over the next few years,” he said.

Several improvements are coming to the town park on Wunder Street, including a new basketball court, parking lot and expanded kiddie pool. Miller said if the pool isn’t ready by this summer, it will be completed by next year.

After the town’s police chief resigned in January in the wake of a protective order and criminal complaint, Mount Jackson is searching for a new chief.

Miller said the town will begin accepting applications to find someone who’s the “best fit for the town.”

Mount Jackson just finished repainting the town's water tank, which is visible from Interstate 81. Rich Cooley/Daily

“As something as intricate as a police chief goes, you want to make sure you get it right,” he said, “but you also don’t want to sit back and take too much time.”

Miller, who became mayor in July, said 2015 looks to be a productive year.

“We’re definitely moving forward,” he said. “It’s been a long time coming and we’re not going to lose the small-town charm, but we’ll definitely have a bit more of a pulse going forward.”

An upgrade to the town park’s baseball diamonds, a new McDonald’s and a renovation to the motel off Interstate 81 are just a few of the big changes coming to Middletown in the year ahead.

Mayor Charles Harbaugh said work on the park baseball fields is anticipated to begin this spring and finish up this year. He said the Econo Lodge, which was previously a Super 8 motel, should see its first rooms open before the end of the year. And, he said, a new consignment shop is expected to move into the space between Middletown Firearms and the Italian Touch.

Harbaugh said this year’s budget will include funding for sidewalk and water line repairs in town.

Middletown also saw a new member join Town Council. Scott Fink joined the council in January, replacing longtime councilman John Copeland.

“Scott’s been great,” Harbaugh said. “He volunteered for the Planning and Zoning Commission, which is one of the toughest committees. I can’t be more happy and excited for Scott.”

Stephens City
With the arrival of a new town clerk, mayor, councilwoman and assistant town manager, Stephens City has plenty of new blood this year.

Since September, Town Manager Mike Kehoe has been grooming 23-year-old Mike Majher to serve as successor when Kehoe retires from the town in June.

“He’s picking up, he’s starting to see more and more and more,” Kehoe said about his young protege. “I still think I’m kind of overshadowing him a little bit, not intentionally, but he’s a smart guy.”

Kehoe named the North Main Street enhancement project and extended water and sewer lines as the two biggest projects on the town’s horizon.

The enhancement project will install new curb and guttering along North Main Street as well as drainage, sidewalks, bicycle paths and landscaping.

Kehoe said the town is working on getting a block grant or other funding to extend the town’s water and sewer lines to the west part of Stephens City. “We’ve brought water and sewer services to three different areas in town,” he said. “This is the last area.”

Kehoe said the new Sheetz being constructed behind the current Sheetz station could open this summer. He said a new restaurant, Granny’s, is opening in the old Stephens City Diner, and Steele Boys Automotive has just recently opened on Main Street.

Toms Brook
While Toms Brook tackled long-awaited needs such as replacing its flags and 12-year-old Christmas lights, the town also moved forward on attracting a major new business.

Over the past year, the Planning Commission and Town Council have been reviewing plans for a proposed Dollar General store at 3224 S. Main St.

Mayor Phil Fauber said the new business would bring in more tax revenue for the town and fit with its comprehensive plan.

New Market
Having just completed the construction of two loops in its water system, New Market plans to continue improving its infrastructure by adding new water main valves.

Town Manager Mike Ritchie said the town is also planning to make some enhancements to the town park, such as placing outdoor fitness equipment at various locations along its walking path for all ages and ability levels.

Ritchie said Brittany Clem, New Market’s events and marketing director, is working on creating a music series, which would include four Friday evening shows.

Progress for Edinburg looks to be “a little quiet” in 2015, Mayor Dan Harshman said, though the small town has a few projects in its pipeline.

Harshman said he hopes work on the Edinburg Square II duplex project will be “up and running” this year.

He said another project, organized through the Mount Jackson-Edinburg Rotary Club, is working on creating a dog park adjacent to the Edinburg town park.

Harshman said the town is also applying for a community development planning grant, administered through the Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission.

“This is the first time Edinburg has ever gone for something like this,” he said. “It would go toward investigating things we need to do in town; a needs assessment.”

Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or