From Health Center to Brewery

At its regular monthly meeting on August 23, 2018, Town Council passed, without dissent, a resolution authorizing “the sale or disposition of Town-owned property located at 14-16 South Madison Street, known as the Health Center Building, to Hip Hop Real Estate, LLC on behalf of Old Ox Brewery.

The Town is requesting $750,000 for the building and associated property.

The “Health Center” building once held the offices of Dr. Robert E. McConnell, MD, hence its nickname.  Dr. McConnell willed the property to the town at his death in 1987 with the proviso that all “profits” from rental income be distributed by the Town to worthy charitable organizations.

Over more than a quarter century the building has provided office and residential space for a constantly changing parade of tenants, and for many years served as Middleburg’s Police Headquarters.

Current plans call for Old Ox Brewery to install a “small brewing system” on the site and open both a tasting room and an ”outdoor beer garden.”  Current tenants, according to Old Ox, will be invited to “remain in the building.”

In addition to retaining control over some uses of the building, the Town insisted on “the right of first refusal” should the property be again put up for sale, and for the town to receive “a portion”, some 95%,  “of any profit realized from the resale of the property within eighteen months of the brewery opening . . . .”

In keeping with the spirit and intent of Dr. McConnell’s original gift, the proceeds from the sale of the property will be “invested in a separate Town account” and with the income derived from it “to be used by the Town Council for charitable purposes.”

Precisely how the Town intends to invest or otherwise manage the funds derived from the sale has yet to be determined.  The appointment of a special Town Council advisory committee with appropriate financial expertise has been discussed as one solution.

Street Paving Mixed Reviews

The Commonwealth of Virginia, technically, “owns” Middleburg’s streets, and VDOT, the Virginia Department of Transportation is responsible for their care and maintenance.

Current repaving efforts have met with mixed reviews.

Town Planner Will Moore reports that in general, the work has gone well and most if not all residents have been pleased with VDOT’s efforts to make an unpleasant and disconcerting experience bearable.

On the other hand, both Vivian Warner of Emmanuel Episcopal Church’s Cemetery Committee and Council member Kevin Daly noted with dismay problems caused by newly installed drainage under East Federal Street.

A “large pool” of standing water now appears in Emmanuel Memorial Cemetery after a rain.  It reportedly threatens the integrity of at least four graves, provides a breeding ground for mosquitoes, displaces and scatters gravel, and is generally “unsightly.”

VDOT, it was reported, takes “no responsibility” for the problem, insisting that it is up to the church or others to deal with the standing water.

Residents of Chinn Lane and Chinn Court also received help from Council.

On the Town’s official maps the two roadways are separate entities, with Chinn Lane but not Chinn Court falling under VDOT jurisdiction.  Hence residents of Chinn Court do their own snow removal and are not scheduled to have their part of the contiguous “street” repaved.

Council moved to correct that problem, to at last transfer “ownership” of Chinn Lane to VDOT, and because it is too late to include the Court in VDOT’s current paving project, appropriate up to $35,00 in contingency funds to pave the Court.

Meet the Candidates

Middleburg Eccentric Editor-in-Chief Dee Dee Hubbard announced that the paper was working with Town Council to moderate another “Meet the Candidates forum, featuring the two candidates currently vying for the Town Council seat vacated by Bridge Littleton upon his election as Mayor.

Chris W. Bernard and Kurt. T. Abendschein will respond to questions at a made-for-broadcast session, open to the public, and set for 7:00 PM, October 15, 2018, at the Town Offices.

Protecting the Town’s Water Supply

Middleburg’s Wellhead Protection Advisory Committee Chair Morris “Bud” Jacobs, Chair, and Committee Member Jilann Brunett appeared before Council on July 26 to present the group’s annual report.

High on the list of recommendations was the need to take steps to “properly close abandoned wells so they would not be a conduit for contamination . . . identify the cost of items, such as the connection of properties that were currently on septic systems to the public sewer system, and whether that work could be done at once or needed to be phased in over time.

Interim Councilmember Bundles Murdock “suggested the need to go beyond the distribution of a brochure with regard to leaking oil tanks.”

Current thinking on Town Council indicates that the Wellhead Committee, originally established as part of the steps required to apply for a grant, may well be integrated into a more comprehensive advisory committee focusing on all water and sewer related issues.

Salary Study

Shawn Patton, “a contractor who performed a compensation study on behalf of the Town,” continues to appear before Council in an effort to establish fair and market-competitive salaries for Town Employees and to set guideline for changes in compensation over time.

Key issues in Patton’s “compensation philosophy, policy and strategy” are: how to set objective, mathematically quantifiable goals for employees engaged in work whose goals are, all-too-often, subjective in nature; how to link raises or bonuses (if earned) to expected  “cost-of-living” adjustments; and how to do so under fixed-budget conditions.

Small Town Concerns and Envision Loudoun

Mayor Bridge Littleton continues to be heavily involved in efforts to make sure Loudoun County’s small towns are adequately represented in the county’s planning efforts.

He and six other Mayors from the Coalition Of Loudoun Towns (COLT, along with Supervisor Tony Buffington, recently met “to discuss the Envision Loudoun plan process. “

Mayor Littleton reported the Loudoun County Planning Commission had already been provided a draft Envision Loudoun plan and were scheduled to submit its own final input by August 16th.

According to Littleton County staff will allow the towns ”to provide input both as individual towns and as COLT collectively” and that “they had until the end of August to do so.”

Goal Setting

Mayor Littleton continues to lead an initiative he has championed since his early days as a Council Member, setting specific strategic and tactical goals for Council and the Town, setting priorities, and systematically monitoring progress.

Kathleen Lightage, a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners, had “volunteered to assist with the facilitation of two nights of goal setting sessions, according to Town Administrator Martha Semmes, Lightage is currently going through the International City/County Management Institute’s Senior Certification Program.

One major new goal is to “ develop a Middleburg brand,” which, under the leadership of Business & Economic Development Director Jamie Gaucher will “be refined to include a formalized brand package with a strategy, to include guidelines on how it would be implemented and used.”

Council is also focusing on how to “capitalize” Salamander Inn’s growth and how “ attract new residents to Middleburg.”

Code of Conduct

Council discussed adoption of its first formal Code of Conduct, Standards, and Ethics.

Built around general principles readily recognized by most Federal, State, and local authorities, the draft code calls on Town employees and officials to “place loyalty to the highest moral principles and to the people of the Town of Middleburg as a whole, above loyalty to individuals, districts, or particular groups.”

They are also called upon to “expose through appropriate means and channels corruption, misconduct or neglect of duty.”

Mayor Littleton, a strong advocate for the code, immediately raised a “conflict of interest” issue when Council was notified that it would soon receive its usual batch of free tickets to the Virginia Fall Races, a program funded in part by a grant from Town Council.

Littleton’s view was that all such “gifts” should be treated as if they belong to the taxpayers since taxpayer funds were used to support events in the interests of economic and cultural development.  Tickets to the Fall Races, for example, should be given to charity or offered to the public on some fair basis.

Council members also suggested setting monetary maximums on gifts such as tickets to the races, or Film Festival, or lunches and dinners, as is the case for both Federal and State officials.

Discussion continues.