Initial Front Royal town budget reading passes

The town of Front Royal voted to approve an appropriation ordinance for its fiscal year 2015-2016 budget. It was the budget’s first public reading, and one of two votes for it.

The town also voted on several other possible ordinance changes with first readings at Tuesday’s meeting.

The vote on the budget’s first reading passed unanimously, following three proposed amendments from council members, two of which were not passed.

Councilwoman Bébhinn Egger proposed a motion that would have eliminated $12,000 in asset forfeiture funding from the town’s budget.

Egger stated that her reasoning for the motion was due to her problem “with asset forfeiture and the seizure of asset forfeiture money” and not with the town spending it.

The motion failed in a 4-2 vote.

Town Manager Steven Burke explained, “The $12,00 is a place holder. We usually anticipate receiving about $12,00 in asset forfeiture.”

Burke added that, if the council removed it from the budget or chose not to accept forfeiture funding, the money would then “revert back to the state or federal proffers.”

Councilman John Connolly, who voted against the motion, stated that removing the money would not “change anything” as far the as the seizure of assets by the police department.

The other motion, made by Connolly, would have cut funding for a new town website, community development and a possible part-time marketing staffer between the town and the Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission.

The commission line item is a shared expense of $40,000 that was implemented for a part-time “shared staff member for economic development,” Connolly explained.

Regarding the $40,000 for the part-time employee, Connolly noted, “Neither the council nor the commission have agreed to move forward on that project.”

Connolly expressed that he motioned for the cuts because he felt “these funds deserved to be returned to the public.”

Depending approval in June, the town’s budget would be $44.24 million, a 12.1 percent increase from last year’s budget.

The budget would include a 6.5 percent decrease in the town’s sewer service rates for “commercial and industrial laundries.” Council voted unanimously to approve the amended code section.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the town voted 4-2 to table a decision of whether or not to pursue the creation of a building inspection program until its first October meeting.

Councilman Eugene Tewalt said, “I’m pretty sure I’m positive that there won’t be enough votes to pass this here this evening.”

Tewalt added that voting the ordinance down Tuesday night would have delayed further action by one year.

“I’d like see us postpone it … and maybe review certain parts of it again in order to make sure that either … we’re interested in passing it or voting it down and forget about it,” Tewalt said.

Connolly expressed some concerns over the delay, stating, “October is a very long way away, and I would rather vote on this now and actually decide on it one way or another.”

Three Front Royal residents spoke at the meeting in favor of the possibility for a town building inspector.

Stan Brooks Jr., owner of the Front Royal Park Side Inn, said that he believes a building inspector would “make it easier” for small businesses and anyone looking to open a business.

“It’s part of what most towns this size do. It’s not something unique,” Brooks noted. “They do it because it makes [the process] streamlined for the business.”

The town also voted to change its ordinance regarding new building construction and street grade location.

After going back and forth on several different option combinations, the town approved a motion to make no changes to road width and to remove the street grade requirement with a 4-2 vote.

Burke noted shortly before council went into closed session that all of the public hearing items — including the budget — will have second vote.

“They were all code changes and all changes have to have two readings,” Burke said.

Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kgreen@nvdaily.com