Town grants Warren Heritage Society utility break

FRONT ROYAL – The Warren Heritage Society will not have to worry about paying some of its bills after the Town Council unanimously agreed Tuesday to cover all of the organization’s utility expenses up to $15,000.

Councilman William Sealock, who was previously wary of the town funding a nonprofit, said he has come to the conclusion that the society should be assisted because of the beneficial services it provides. He added that the society is struggling financially and suggested that citizens volunteer for the organization. While Sealock is OK covering utility bills this year, he suggested that grant opportunities be explored to reduce the town’s burden.

Councilman Jacob Meza seconded Sealock’s thoughts and added that the town should implement an application process or criteria that would determine what organizations could get utility breaks. As of now, he said the decision is “just at the whim of the council.”

Deborah Corey, the society’s acting director, said that the cost of utilities last year at their three buildings – Ivy Lodge, Belle Boyd Cottage and the Balthis House – was $13,424. Based on that, she estimated expenses for this year would be $15,000. She added that the society will attempt to cut down on its bills by using LED light bulbs and “continue looking for ways to lower our utility usage.”

The town has granted utility breaks to the society the last two years in the amounts of $10,000 and $15,000. The society also sought help from Warren County but was denied the request. County Administrator Doug Stanley stated in a letter that while “the county recognizes the valuable services the society provides for the community” the Board of Supervisors opted this year to not add additional funding for any outside organizations.

According to minutes from an August 2017 work session, Patrick Farris, former society director, previously said that the assistance freed up funds to establish the Battle of Front Royal re-enactment and allowed more resources for the Festival of Leaves and other events that attract tourists.