Front Royal leaders fill council vacancy

FRONT ROYAL – A divided Town Council filled a vacancy Monday left by Daryl L. Funk, Warren County’s new circuit court clerk.

Town Council voted 3-2 to appoint Planning Commission member Jacob Meza to replace Funk. The term ends Dec. 31. Funk won election in November to the clerk’s position, succeeding Jennifer Simms.

Councilwoman Bébhinn Egger made the motion to appoint Meza to the office, seconded by Councilman John Connolly. Councilman Bret Hrbek along with Connolly and Egger voted in favor of the motion. Vice Mayor Hollis Tharpe and Councilman Eugene Tewalt voted against the motion.

Council interviewed Meza and 11 other applicants seeking the appointment.

“I cannot support Mr. Meza,” Tewalt said before the vote. “I think we have better candidates who put their applications in.

“I think we have men and women who have put their applications in that are more qualified,” Tewalt continued. “They’re people that’s lived in Front Royal for a long time and we should give them the opportunity and not someone who’s moved here in the last several years.

Tewalt went on to say, “I know I’ve heard some rumors saying that they’ve got new ideas. Well, you know I think people who’ve lived in Front Royal got good ideas. I think we got to consider those people before we even consider someone that’s just moved into the area.”

Egger thanked the applicants.

“Everybody brought something different to the table,” Egger said. “We had applicants from all walks of life and it was very encouraging to see so many people interested in this spot.

“I hope that we have 12 people running in November for the election and, hopefully even more than that two years later,” Egger added. “So I think we have a bright future here in Front Royal and I’m looking forward to that future.”

Meza works for Valley Health, Connolly said after the meeting. Meza was not available after the meeting.

Funk was elected to council in May 2014. The town changed the local elections from May to November.

The court clerk must swear in Meza for him to take office. Council will then need to find a replacement for Meza as well as Rob Ballentine, who resigned from the commission earlier this month due to a scheduling conflict with his job as finance director for Warren County Public Schools.

Also at the meeting, council:

• Voted 4-1 to approve the purchase by Funk for the iPad the town had issued to him while a member of council. Funk, who stepped down from council Dec. 31 before taking office as the clerk, asked to buy the iPad for $320. Local businessman Mike McCool asked during the public comment period why council would sell the iPad to a former councilman when it will need to buy a new device for the newly appointed council member. Council discussed the subject separately from the consent agenda. Councilman John Connolly noted that the devices depreciate in value over a short time. Vice Mayor Hollis Tharpe voted against the motion to sell the iPad to Funk.

• Approved a bid from Syntax Communications for $20,000 for labor, equipment and materials costs related to technical service for information technology networking and infrastructure, and to establish a one-year contract to support the town’s information technology department for design and installation of cables for new buildings. The contract can be extended for an additional two years.

• Approved a request by the Water and Sewer Maintenance Department to buy a 2016 Chevrolet Silverado pickup with options, through a Virginia state contract vendor, for $41,697 to replace a 2001 Chevrolet pickup that the town will sell at public auction. The department’s fiscal 2016 budget included $45,000 for the purchase.

• Approved a resolution authorizing the execution of the 2021-2024 Fixed Volume Energy Supply Schedule with American Municipal Power Inc. The resolution allows the town to move forward with purchasing power utility service blocks through American Municipal Power.

• Approved an amendment to the fiscal 2016 budget for $4,000 and to accept the amount from Moretz Consulting for equipment repairs past the one-year warranty for the electric vehicle DC fast charger.

• Approved a donation of $100 from Ramsey Hardware for the 2015 New Year’s Eve Front Royal Event and a budget amendment reflecting the amount.

• Appointed council members Bébhinn Egger and John Connolly to serve on the Town Scholarship Committee. Council set up the scholarship program last year and Front Royal accepted applications from graduating high school seniors who live in the town limits. The program offers two, $500 scholarships to pursue continued undergraduate or trade education at an accredited university, community college or trade school. The town has received several applications.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com