FRONT ROYAL – After a regular Monday meeting that lasted about 20 minutes, the Town Council adjourned to a roughly 40-minute closed session to discuss debt service related to the Afton Inn’s renovation.
The closed session included John Anzivino, Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority interim executive director, and EDA Attorney Dan Whitten.
The Freedom of Information Act exemption cited as the reason for going into closed session was consultation with legal counsel regarding “legal mechanisms related to handling potential future debt service related to current and future budget years with respect to the former Afton Inn building.”
The EDA acquired the Afton Inn in a 2014 property swap for the former Town Hall. Mayor Hollis Tharpe explained that the EDA was granted ownership due to legal reasons stipulating that the town cannot own certain types of properties.
Construction plans call for renovation of the original structure and two additions. It will house a cafe, apartments and office space. The EDA will maintain ownership of the building until construction is completed. All construction costs are being funded by the developer, 2 East Main Street LLC.
Tharpe said the closed session allowed the council to consult with Town Attorney Doug Napier “to make sure we are staying within our bounds...to make sure everything is staying legal and everything is OK.”
“We’re kind of finding out where everything is at...so everything keeps moving forward,” he said.
Tharpe said that while the town advocates transparency, he could not say more because “it’s kind of hard to talk about something that was in closed (session).”
He added that the public can “rest assured” that the town was not discussing using any public dollars for the project, which will continue to be funded by private investors.
“But we still have to make sure everything is contractually positive and everybody’s protected,” he said.
Tharpe added that the Afton Inn project “is moving forward” and may be completed between 18 months and 2 1/2 years.
Also at the meeting:
• A $42,230 purchase of electric cable to be installed off Leach Run Parkway was approved.
• A $41,500 rehabilitation of the fairground water tank was approved.
• A $5,000 contribution to the Warren Heritage Society to help with operational expenses was approved. This will be the last of a series of such contributions by the town.
• A request by the United Parcel Services’ to use a parking lot was sent back to the Planning Commission to reconsider a revised plan.
• Town Manager Joe Waltz noted that brush collection will be held today and March 6 to help clear debris from the recent wind storm.