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Downtown property set to become vacant

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Local detox center to move its programs out of Division of Court Services building

By Alex Bridges -- abridges@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- A downtown building owned by the city and Frederick County, and currently home to the local detox center, appears headed for reuse.

The Division of Court Services building at 317 S. Cameron St. will become vacant once the agency moves its remaining programs to the former Northwestern Regional Education Program facility on Smithfield Avenue.

Members of City Council and the Board of Supervisors convened a joint finance committee meeting Wednesday to discuss the fate of the building. The panel directed County Administrator John Riley Jr. and City Manager Jim O'Connor to determine how the local governing bodies should handle the property.

The Division of Court Services operated the Starting Point/Public Inebriate Center and other programs out of the downtown property. The building still houses the "detox" center for people charged with public intoxication. The City Council in recent years cut local funding for Starting Point as some members sought to move detox and rehabilitative services out of the downtown area.

The Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center has since taken over some of the programs offered by the Division of Court Services, but officials in recent weeks have said Starting Point may not last much longer as funds dry up.

The county could transfer its share of the ownership in the property to the city, which may then give the building to the Economic Development Authority, according to Jay Tibbs, deputy county administrator. The EDA then would ultimately try to find a developer who could reuse the property, Tibbs explained.

Riley and O'Connor would report back to their respective governing bodies with the recommended action.

Also at the joint meeting, there was discussion of updating memorandums of understanding between the two localities. Several of the existing agreements had either become outdated or rendered moot. County officials had said previously some of the memorandums also did not include a termination clause, which essentially made the agreements unenforceable.

New agreements have been drafted regarding the local responsibilities over agencies such as the John Handley Regional Library system, the Joint Judicial Center, the Economic Development Commission, Winchester Regional Airport, the Winchester-Frederick County Convention and Visitors' Bureau as well as local museums.

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