Council tables inspection program discussion

FRONT ROYAL – Front Royal town council voted unanimously Tuesday night to table discussions of the  creation of a building inspection program for the town.

Councilman Eugene Tewalt was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.

Councilman John Connolly said following that meeting that that he is not in favor of the idea of an inspection program for the town, since the county already operates one.

“From my perspective, this was a duplication of services,” Connolly said. “To my mind, it would take more than six or eight or 10 people in a town of 14,000 to justify making that big a change.”

The town held a public hearing prior to the vote where two residents voiced their support for the measure, largely on the basis of potential benefits toward economic development.

Councilman Brett Hrbek, who has been in favor of the program since it has been brought before three public hearings, voted in favor of tabling it Tuesday night.

Hrbek said that without the votes needed to pass the measure, fighting for the program was not worth it right now.

“We can address (the program) during the budget time, when we start looking at the budget again,” Hrbek said. “To have that fight right now would be a Pickett’s charge, so to speak. It would be a lost cause.”

Hrbek also said he thinks the town should focus on other positive developments. He mentioned the community development position that the town is looking to fill.

On the new position, Mayor Timothy Darr said the town has received a few applications and is looking to move forward to hiring someone at the beginning of next year.

Also on Tuesday, Hrbek and Darr offered rebuttals to recent comments made by the Warren County Board of Supervisors concerning the U.S. Route 340-522 corridor memorandum of understanding.

Hrbek noted that he does not think it is a good deal for either side, partly because the county would have to raise taxes in order to pay for funds that have been promised to the town in the agreement.

“All of the monies that come to the town will come from the general funds of Warren County,” Hrbek said. “They don’t have the extra money right now, which means they’re going to raise the funding some place else.”

Darr read a lengthy response to comments that Board Chairman Richard Traczyk made about services the county and the town provide to its citizens.

Darr pointed to numerous services, including the visitors’ center, maintenance of town roads, landscaping of various and the town’s attorney office.

Also on Tuesday, council unanimously approved the first reading of an ordinance change for how the town regulates the removal of debris and foreign growth – plants other than grass or weeds – that landowners must abide by.

The ordinance change would call for a $50 fine for first-time violators and a $100 fine after that, with civil penalties not exceeding $3,000 in a given year – this would apply to grass and trash removal.

Prior to the vote, councilwoman Bébhinn Egger motioned to amend the charges against residents in violation of the town’s trash removal ordinance from a misdemeanor to a civil penalty.

Council will discuss the amended ordinance change at a yet-to-determined future work session.

Additional meeting notes:

• Leach Run Parkway

Council voted unanimously to amend its 2015-16 fiscal year budget to account for the $12.5 million contract for the Leach Run Parkway project, which was awarded to Manassas-based Branch Highways Inc. last month.

The project’s awarded price tag will raise the budget from the $44 million that was adopted in June to more than $57 million.

Construction on the road, which will connect Happy Creek Road with John Marshall Highway (Va. 55 East), is slated to begin this month.

• The road salt bid was awarded. The town voted unanimously to approve a bid to Pennsylvania-based Mid-Atlantic Salt for an estimated 2,500 tons of salt at $77.89 per ton for ice snow removal.

The bid for salt comes in at $194,725 for 2015-16, which is 30 percent higher than the $149,458 the town spent for salt last year.

Town Manager Steve Burke said the town estimated the amount of salt for what would amount to an average winter conditions.

“In our budget, we include additional funding for when it goes over, but historically, it’s a fair average for an average winter seasons,” Burke said.

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