Neighborhood asks county for help with roads

FRONT ROYAL – Warren County plans to consider a neighborhood’s request to take over its roads – a move some supervisors say could grow government.

The Board of Supervisors discussed at its work session Tuesday a proposed road maintenance agreement between Warren County and the Blue Mountain Property Owners Association for the Blue Mountain Sanitary District. The association made the request via a Dec. 21 letter from its secretary Carl Herz to Deputy County Administrator Robert Childress. The association wants such an agreement to take effect July 1.

The association, like many others governing county sanitary districts, can no longer maintain the day-to-day operations that could include managing a road system or common areas, Childress explained. The association’s private contractor who maintains the roads plans to retire soon, leaving the district without anyone to perform that task, Childress added.

Childress said he and County Administrator Doug Stanley have discussed the situation with association representatives for the past year to 18 months. The county collects sanitary district fees from property owners as a courtesy to the association. The county keeps what it charges for administrative costs and returns the rest to the association, which the organization uses to cover road maintenance.

By comparison, the county maintains the roads in the Shenandoah Farms Sanitary District through an agreement with its property owners association. The county has been without a sanitary district manager for Shenandoah Farms since 2012. Childress serves in that capacity though the county has since hired a foreman and two other employees to help oversee maintenance in the district. Shenandoah Farms contains approximately 42 miles of roads while about 15 miles runs through nearby Blue Mountain.

An agreement between the county and Blue Mountain would set up an arrangement similar to those in place for Shenandoah Farms and Lake Front Royal sanitary districts. Childress noted that work to get Lake Front Royal up and running as a sanitary district is taking up a considerable amount of his time. County officials have been talking about a fourth sanitary district seeking a similar arrangement, Childress said.

Chairwoman Linda Glavis asked if Shenandoah Farms generates enough revenue to pay for a person who could provide maintenance to Blue Mountain. The county only uses funds collected from a sanitary district on road maintenance services in that neighborhood, Childress said.

Stanley broached the idea of the county budget including a line item for a general manager who oversees all sanitary districts. The county uses funds collected from Shenandoah Farms residents to cover Childress’s time spent overseeing the district. Stanley said the county received $30,000-$40,000 from the district for Childress’s time.

North River District Supervisor Daniel J. Murray Jr. warned of what could happen should the county expand its oversight of the sanitary districts.

“You’re almost going to get to the point taking over all these subdivisions you’ll need a public works department,” Murray said. “Everybody is dumping their (homeowners’ associations) and the county’s taking over. Eventually we’re going to have to grow to where we have the nucleus to support all. We’re going to box ourselves into a corner.”

“You’re suggesting our government grow?” Glavis asked, to which Murray said he was not.

Aside from a manager, the county likely would need more employees to perform the maintenance, Childress noted. Property owners in Blue Mountain and Lake Front Royal pay sanitary district taxes but Childress said he doubts each generates enough money to support their own maintenance staff. Given this situation, the county could create a budget line item for sanitary district management and employees could spread their work out among districts, Childress said. The county could charge the workers’ time to the districts, he added.

The county recently sent employees from its Department of Parks and Recreation to fill potholes and perform other road work in Lake Front Royal, Stanley said. The county took over maintenance of Lake Front Royal on Jan. 1 and is billing the district property owners association for the work.

Glavis suggested that the county pull employees from other departments as needed to cover district road maintenance. She pointed out that the county has unsuccessfully tried to fill the district manager post. Childress said he’s not trying to grow government.

“It’s up to you all whether or not we accept this agreement,” Childress said.

The Property Owners Association of Shenandoah Farms doesn’t oppose the idea of the county taking over road maintenance for Blue Mountain, Childress said. However, representatives do worry about potentially losing what they receive from the county, Childress added.

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