At a Valentine’s Day meeting Town Council expressed unanimous praise for the work of the Middleburg Police Department in the wake of a string of burglaries in western Loudoun and northern Fauquier counties.
By early January of this year law enforcement authorities in Loudoun and Fauquier counties had established what they believed to be clear connections between a string of no less than six burglaries in the area.
The perpetrators appeared to strike unoccupied homes and businesses, focusing their efforts on jewelry and electronic devices. To date no violence has reported in any of the cases.
On January 25 at a home just over the Fauquier County line on Halfway road, police reported that yet another burglary attempt had been interrupted while still in progress.
At least two suspects fled the scene, one in a vehicle which was later found abandoned near town by Middleburg PD Senior Officer Mike Prince.
Officers from the Loudoun and Fauquier County Sheriffs’ Departments, and the Middleburg’s Police Chief and two officers soon converged on Federal Street in Middleburg, where a suspect, identified as Damian Scott Francis Falero, 29, of Farmville, Virginia, had been spotted.
By 9:00 PM on the 25th it was clear that Falero had managed to escape.
That night a white, 2011, Chrysler van was stolen from a winery in nearby Fauquier.
The van was found and Falero was later arrested at a motel near Richmond.
The investigation and search for the other suspects in the crime spree continues.
Chief Panebianco’s Middleburg force, he reports, has been on high alert.
Both the Chief and his officers have been seen counseling concerned residents, doing extra checks of doors and windows after hours, and generally maintaining a high state of vigilance in a community in which unlocked doors had long been the norm.
A security briefing organized by the Chief for concerned citizens at Middleburg’s Community center on January 31, featured presentations on security preparedness and question-and-answer sessions with officers familiar with the ongoing investigation.
At that session at least one Clarke County resident noted similar incidents reported there as early as October of last year.
In response to Council’s praise Chief Panebianco was quick to credit officers the work of officers Prince and Fadely.
Panebianco had special praise for Senior Police Officer Mike Prince for his work in the investigation and apprehension of the perpetrator of an unrelated breaking and entering incident at a popular Middleburg flower shop. According to Panebianco, the person arrested by Prince in that case has confessed and, at press time, charges were pending.
Water and Sewer Rates
Council reacted positively to the presentation of a new comprehensive study by Edward Donahue and Eric Callocchia of the Municpal and Financial Services Group designed to help the Town insure that its rates for water and sewer services are “stable” and managed in a way that “fully recovers the costs of providing services” and “appropriately allocates costs to customers.”
The fiscal year 2013 budget calls for the Town to spend nearly $305,000 to provide water and some $366,000 to provide sewer services.
Major capital investments are recommended for the water system between 2014 and 2018, the bulk of it for replacing 2 and 4 inch water lines in Ridgeview, replacing old cast iron lines in Washington Street. Capital improvements for the sewer system are projected at between $40,000 and $45,000 per year.
Large increases in demand for both water and sewer services are anticipated for fiscal year 2014, when the new Salamander Inn and Spa is “projected to come on-line.”
The report recommended little or no changes in the average water rates, but a shift in cost to heavier users. The recommended minimum charge for consumers using 3,000 gallons or less per quarter is $46.76. Nearly two-thirds of use and some 80% of water bill revenue is projected to come from customers who use between 3,000 and 30,000 gallons per quarter, at a rate of $11.91. A third of water use and almost 5% of revenue is projected to come from heavy users, in excess of 30,000 gallons of purified water per quarter.
Sewer rates, the report suggest, should rise steadily over the next four years, from a $38.13 minimum charge per quarter in FY 2013 to $48,55 in FY 2017.
Rates for heavier users inside Middleburg, over 2,000 gallons per quarter, should rise from $12.45 to $15.85 over the same period. The rates for sewer usage “outside of town” is projected to rise from a minimum of $50.45 to $64.24 by FY2017. Rates for heavier users, from $18,48 to $23.53 over the same period.
Under this structure the average in-town customers’ total water/sewer bills should rise roughly 3% in FY 2014 for users of 3,000 gallons of water per quarter or less; decrease nearly 6% for users of 12,000 gallons; and increase nearly 28% for users of more than 240,000 gallons per quarter.
Town Council will take the report under advisement and set rates at a later date.
At its January 24 work session, Council member Kathy Jo Shea moved, and Vice Mayor Darlene Kirk seconded a unanimously approved motion to authorize the release of$925 in donations that have been collected for the development of the Middleburg Museum to the new, 501.c.3, Middleburg Museum Foundation.
At the same session Council authorized “the issuance and sale of a General Obligation Refunding Bond . . . not to exceed $1,300,000. Town Administrator Martha Semmes has been working for some time to save money by taking advantage of lower interest rates to refinance Middleburg’s long-term debt.
Christmas in Middleburg
Council Member Kevin Hazard reported that the Christmas in Middleburg team was “not waiting until September to begin meeting, but rather were planning this year’s event now.” The group is already discussing how to handle the problems encountered by last year’s record crowds, including bathroom availability, parking, meals, and post -event clean-up.
Town Administrator Semmes reported that staff work continues on developing the Town’s FY 2014 Budget. A draft of the General Fund budget is scheduled for presentation to Council in February, and a draft Utility Fund budget in March.
Mayor Davis summarized that Council has identified five key goals upon which to focus in the year ahead: (1) contacting and maintaining communications with Town businesses and residents; (2) improving communications with Town committees; (3) ground water preservation; (4) developing and support new events and (5) developing a list of anticipated opening of the Salamander Inn and Spa on the Town, its citizens and services.
Traffic Calming and Congressman Wolf
Mayor Davis noted that in response to rumors that the Virginia Secretary of Transportation was considering dissolution of the Route 50 Traffic Calming Committee several people wrote letters and Congressman Wolf got involved.
Davis received a call, she said, from Garrett Moore, of VDOT, who reported that VDOT would not dissolve the task force, which was followed by a letter of confirmation.
The task force would remain in existence, she noted, until the Middleburg portion of the project was finished.
Brick crosswalks should be installed in Middleburg during the summer of 2014, according to the Mayor, noting that the schedule is designed to accommodate Middleburg’s need to first replace its underground utilities. The crosswalk project should take two to three months to complete.
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