I was troubled by a speaker's statement during the public hearing on the proposed swap of the Town Hall for the Afton Inn that there would be "no cost" to the taxpayer and decided to look at the big picture of what was being proposed in Front Royal.
The council proposes to purchase land from the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority and construct a new police station (cost: $4 million). They are proposing to swap the Town Hall for the Afton Inn (cost: $100,000 in lost value). Let's assume they then sell it to a developer for its value (revenue: $500,000)
As a part of this proposal, when Afton Inn owner Frank Barros decides to sell the Town Hall, the town has the right of first refusal to purchase it, which ultimately allows the building to return to the town. Since Barros is asking $1.2 million for the Afton Inn, we can assume he would ask no less for the Town Hall (cost: $1.2 million). Total cost to the town's residents and businesses for this proposal: $4.8 million.
Alternative: renovate the Town Hall at a cost of $2 million for use as the police station. While this is not the police chief's preference, it is doable.
Purchase the Afton Inn for the owner's asking price (cost: $1.2 million). Sell the Afton Inn to a developer for its value (revenue: $500,000). Total cost of the residents and businesses for the alternative proposal -- $2.7 million. Added bonus: The EDA's land remains available for private development, which would ultimately put it on the tax rolls.
Either way, the goal of making the Afton Inn available for redevelopment is achieved. I would prefer the town not spend $4.8 million for something it could accomplish for $2.7 million.
If other town citizens and businesses agree, I would encourage them to contact members of the council individually, leave a message for them at the Town Hall or attend the Feb. 10 council meeting to speak against the proposed swap during public comments.
Rhonda S. North, Front Royal