As members of the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority stare down a dwindling budget, the town may soon have the power to create their own authority.
Del. Chris Collins, R-Winchester, introduced a bill in Richmond that was referred to a committee on Thursday that would give the town the authority to create an Industrial Development Authority of its own, in addition to having the joint EDA that is embroiled in a multi-million dollar embezzlement scandal.
Town Council members tossed around the idea of creating their own authority at a council meeting last month, but Town Attorney Doug Napier told them there were sticky legal issues at hand. For one, he said the town could put its investments in the EDA at risk if it created an authority of its own. Collins’ bill would clear up any confusion about whether the town is allowed to strike out on its own and not risk losing previous investments.
“Front Royal has had to rely on Warren County’s EDA to do a lot of things,” Collins said. “By Front Royal having their own EDA, that allows them to attract business and growth within the town limits.”
While the unveiling of years of alleged financial impropriety involving the EDA funneling town and county money has reached the status of making national news, Collins said Warren County isn’t the only locality in Virginia to have issues with development authorities. Collins said a number of Democratic districts have struggled with similar issues and will welcome new legislation that creates stricter rules to govern them.
In addition to Collins’ bill, he said there are several drafts of legislation that will put new ethics guidelines for development authorities in place.
Collins’ bill only grants Front Royal the authority to create an Industrial Development Authority that operates alongside a current, joint authority but other towns and cities would have the opportunity to come to Richmond and put a similar bill in place, he said.
“If another town wishes to do the exact same thing, they would go through the same process or add their name to it,” he said. “We would take up each town and locality.”
Collins’ bill is still in the early stages of making its way into law, but he said he anticipates the committee referring it to the House floor for a vote by the end of the month.
Napier said council members have not discussed creating an IDA of their own since the first conversation. He said he hasn’t spoken with any of the council members about the issue, but said he assumed the desire was still there to move forward with discussion assuming the legislation passes.