Strasburg OKs budget, donation reallocation

The town of Strasburg approved its proposed budget of $11.27 million for the 2016 fiscal year Tuesday night with a unanimous 8-0 vote.

At Tuesday night’s meeting, however, numerous area residents as well as current and former chamber members voiced their opinions regarding the council’s decision to reallocate $8,000 in funding.

The final 2016 budget contains a line item of $8,000 that reads “Mayfest.” This funding was originally written as a donation to the Strasburg Chamber of Commerce.

At the April 14 meeting, Councilman Seth Newman called the donation into question due to Councilman Rich Orndorff’s relationships with Chamber Executive Director Angie Herman.

Councilman Donald “Don” Le Vine made a motion for the donation reallocation, which passed in a 6-2 vote on May 12.

With this reallocation, any organization that is capable of organizing the event can apply for the funding by Oct. 31 and enter a memorandum of understanding (MOU) agreement with the town.

Of the 15 people who signed up to speak, 13 chimed in on the chamber donation reallocation, largely showing support for the chamber of commerce.

Strasburg native Cindy Racey spoke about her experiences in other towns. Racey noted that she moved back to town in order to raise her children.

“When I moved back here, I had pride in coming back into town, but I don’t feel that right now, with what’s going on with our council,” Racey said.

Racey added, “[Mayfest] is a cohesive family event, and to put that in jeopardy either by taking away a donation or by putting in the hands of someone else … that scares me.”

Carla Wallen, a former chamber member, challenged the chamber to view the situation regarding the donation as an opportunity to “show what it can do.”

Wallen stated, “Who knows better how to write the grant, or whatever it will be called, for the $8,000, than the chamber?”

Tom Parker, a 13-year resident of Strasburg, also expressed his support for the chamber Tuesday night.

“The one consistent thing that I hear, from both long-time residents and those of us that are blow-ins like my wife and I, is the need for a vibrant business community,” Parker said. “I think the chamber is a critical component of that.”

Prior to the vote on the budget, Orndorff said, “I will vote in favor of the budget tonight, however, I am not in favor that the voices here tonight … fell on deaf ears.”

Following the meeting, Herman expressed her disappointment regarding the council’s decision. “I’m more disappointed for the businesses that are trying to make it in this town,” she said.

Kate Sowers, a Toms Brook resident a former chamber board member, also showed support for the chamber and even urged the council to meet with the chamber to discuss the situation.

After the meeting, Strasburg Mayor Tim Taylor said, “I think communication is key anytime there’s a situation like this.”

Taylor added, “I think the more conversations and communication we can have, the better. I know that it sounds like we’re coming from two different perspectives, but I still think that people want what is best for the community.”

He noted that he has spoken to a few chamber members and that he hopes the town council members do have conversations with the chamber as well as business owners moving forward.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the council also voted unanimously to approve the appointment of a new town manager. Public Works Director Jay McKinley had been the town’s acting manager since December, when former manager Judson Rex left the position.

Valley native Ryan Spitzer will take over the position on July 6, which a two-year contract ending July of 2017.

On Spitzer’s hiring, Taylor said, “We just felt he was very personable and just really felt that he could come into our community and fit right in.”

After council’s unanimous vote, Spitzer said, “I’m glad to be up here, and I hope to be able to work with each and every one of you while I’m up here.”

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