Council appoints new town position

FRONT ROYAL – Town Council picked a community development director Monday to help boost Front Royal’s economy after a three-year effort.

Council voted 4-0 to award a contract to Felicia Hart in the amount of $45,000 for the position. The contract runs from April 1 through March 31, 2017. Vice Mayor Hollis Tharpe, Councilwoman Bébhinn Egger and councilmen John Connolly and Jacob Meza voted in favor of the motion. Councilmen Bret Hrbek and Eugene Tewalt did not attend the meeting.

The action comes about three years after council first embarked on finding someone to help promote the town. The first attempt fell through. Council, along with the Front Royal Independent Business Alliance, the Chamber of Commerce and others, revised the effort and began the search about five months ago. Town Manager Steve Burke said officials receive “quite a few” responses to the advertised position.

Hart worked for about a year as the downtown coordinator for Strasburg and left that position in December. Hart said after the meeting that she’s excited for the opportunity to help Front Royal.

Hart worked as a marketing and communications manager for American Woodmark Corporation, a marketing assistant for First Bank, executive director of First Night Winchester and as marketing development director for the Community Foundation of the Northern Shenandoah Valley.

Mayor Timothy Darr said Front Royal is looking forward to Hart working with town staff, local merchants and community organizations to advance the business climate. Hart’s hiring is a positive toward making Front Royal a better community, Darr said.

Egger served on the committee that reviewed applications and interviewed candidates.

“I think that we have a bright road ahead and that she’s going to help us get there and that she’ll definitely be part of that bright future for us,” Egger said.

Also at the meeting, council:
• Heard from William Sealock, town resident and member of the Front Royal Warren County Economic Development Authority, who urged leaders to consider increasing the real estate tax rate to 14 cents per $100 of assessed value that would allow the town to see more revenue that could cover future spending needs
• Adopted on a second and final reading an amendment to the town’s floodplain ordinance as requested by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation as part of their review of the regulations.
• Adopted on a second and final reading an ordinance to amend the town code to allow business offices, professional offices, technology businesses and schools in the I-2 District by right without the need for a special-use permit. Connolly said the action is forward thinking and a way to help the town compete for certain industries. Councilwoman Bébhinn Egger said the change is business-friendly.
• Adopted on a second and final reading an ordinance to amend the town code by replacing the deer management plan with urban archery hunting.
• Approved an extension of a contract with Mattern & Craig for the final design of the Criser Road Bridge project in the amount of $153,720. Egger said she is looking forward to seeing the project move forward though she had hoped construction would have started this summer.
• Decided to postpone action on the reorganization of the town’s finance department. Changes include the elimination of the finance director position, delegation of oversight of the daily operations of the department to the finance manager and establishment of a full-time budget manager. Other changes include eliminating the financial analyst position, renaming the accounting technician positions to customer service specialists and establishing a senior customer service technician position as well as adding two account technician positions. Vice Mayor Hollis Tharpe asked council to put the item on a future meeting for discussion in closed session.
• Adopted a resolution asking Gov. Terry McAuliffe to veto part of the state appropriations budget that pertains to the state’s seizure of a portion of local fines and forfeitures.

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