FRONT ROYAL – The Board of Supervisors will have a new type of work session during which citizens are free to make comments at 7 p.m. today at the Warren County Government Center.
While citizens have been welcomed to attend past work sessions, discussions were generally limited to being between the board members. Supervisors Chairman Walter Mabe said over the phone that during today’s work session, citizens are welcome to participate.
Mabe said the newly instituted formula resulted from citizens having lamented over not being allowed to talk enough.
“We’re trying to get both interactions between the board and the people that want to come to visit,” Mabe said.
He said the format is a "work in progress" but the supervisors are expected to be gathered around a table, opposed to their usual elevated seats on the dais, so “instead of looking up to us...we’re just gonna be people.”
“The idea is to get the people involved,” he said.
The Board of Supervisors - which has three new members - is wasting no time before sinking teeth into issues related to the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority.
The supervisors will discuss whether to use $36,827 of county money to refund the legal fees current and former EDA board members for dismissed misdemeanor charges of nonfeasance and misfeasance. Those charges related to the board’s alleged lacking oversight of former EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald, who has been charged on 32 felony counts stemming from alleged financial improprieties during her employment.
Mabe declined to comment on how he thinks the board will vote on the legal fees, saying that “is going to be a hard issue for us and we’ve got to talk about it.” He added that another purpose of the work session, during which no votes will be taken, is to allow the supervisors time to consider issues.
The work session’s agenda states the supervisors will also receive a presentation from EDA Chairman Ed Daley and Vice Chairman Jeff Browne regarding an “overview of Economic Development Authority activities.”
This comes as the authority is set to run out of money in March.
According to previous reports, the EDA had $481,995 at December’s end and its current monthly expenditures are about $45,000.
Meanwhile, the Town of Front Royal is not paying the $8 million-plus it owes the EDA for construction of the Front Royal Police Department’s new headquarters. While the Town Council and EDA board agree on how much was spent for actual construction, the two bodies continue disputing what interest rate is owed for the project.
While the EDA has been unsuccessful in getting paid by the town, the authority may have a windfall as Circuit Court Judge Bruce D. Albertson is set to make an April decision how much in penalties McDonald and two of her real estate companies must provide the authority.
Whenever the EDA does run out of money, it will be up to the supervisors whether the county will begin funding the salaries of the EDA’s two employees, Executive Director Douglas Parsons and Administrative Assistant Gretchen Henderson.