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Council splits on hotel request, town manager search contract

FRONT ROYAL – A divided Town Council agreed Monday to give part of a public road to a hotel owner looking to expand the business.

Council voted 3-2 to approve a motion to vacate and convey a section of West 15th Street to the Cool Harbor Motel. Councilmen John Connolly and Jacob Meza and Councilwoman Bébhinn Egger voted in favor of the motion. Vice Mayor Eugene Tewalt and Councilman William Sealock Jr. voted against it. Councilman Christopher Morrison abstained from the vote but did not provide a reason. The motion calls for the town to sell the section to the hotel owner for $100.

The new owner applied for a loan through the Small Business Administration but discovered that part of the building lies on a 675-square-foot section of right-of-way owned by the town. Connolly and Meza pointed out that conveying the property would help the business. Tewalt argued that the town shouldn’t give up its rights-of-way.

Also Monday, council voted 4-3 against a motion to hire an outside firm to conduct a search for the next town manager. Morrison, Sealock and Tewalt voted against the motion. Connolly, Egger and Meza voted in favor . Mayor Hollis Tharpe voted against the motion to break the tie.

Meza made the motion to approve the option of the executive search consulting services contract with Springsted Inc. for $21,000. In response to concerns about the cost, Meza contended that the town is saving money – approximately $80,000 a year – while the town manager position remains vacant. Meza lauded the town’s human resources workers but voiced concern about putting the responsibility of leading a search on two employees.

Sealock said he wouldn’t support the motion to hire Springsted and added that he’s talked to the human resources workers about the search. Sealock said he’s been assured that the human resources department can perform the search and the town wouldn’t need to spend $21,000.

Connolly argued that council has the ultimate say in who it hires as the next town manager. Council isn’t hiring a firm to pick a town manager on its behalf, Connolly said. While Meza and Sealock have experience with vetting and hiring people, other council members don’t, Connolly said. The councilman reminded members that Steve Burke, the previous town manager, was hired from within.

Earlier in the meeting, business owner Mike McCool urged council to not engage Springsted and, instead, let town staff conduct the search. Town managers recommended by Springsted and hired by council did not stay long or work out, McCool said. By contrast, town managers selected by staff stayed longer, he added.

Also at the meeting, Richmond Road residents complained about noise coming from the nearby United Parcel Service facility. The residents used the public comment period to let council know their concerns. At least two residents say the vibrations and noise created as trucks drag along pavement nearby continue to cause stress fractures and cracks in their homes. Other noises keep residents up at night. One resident asked council to restore language to the town’s noise ordinance that would make the rules apply to the UPS facility. Tharpe told interim Town Manager Joseph Waltz they would discuss the matter soon.

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