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Posted March 28, 2012 | comments 4 Comments

Shenandoah County supervisors defend regional jail against critics

By Sally Voth -- svoth@nvdaily.com

WOODSTOCK -- The decision to go forward with the regional jail project was the best one of her term, District 4 Supervisor Sharon Baroncelli said Tuesday night.

She and several other board members passionately defended the RSW Regional Jail against the harsh criticism they've gotten in recent weeks. The estimated $72 million project will house prisoners from Shenandoah, Warren and Rappahannock counties. The state has pledged to pay about half of the construction costs.

Former District 2 Supervisor Beverley Fleming came to the current panel's defense during its meeting Tuesday.

"It seems to me once a decision's made, that should end the debate," he said. "It occurs to me that many of our folks are misinformed, or they don't understand the procedure of representative government.

"I cannot see the continued harassment of a public body after a decision's been made."
Supervisors Chairman Conrad Helsley agreed there is inaccurate information in the public. For instance, he denied claims that the regional jail population has decreased in recent years, saying the average number of inmates increased about 20 percent between 2009 and 2011.

"Another one of these things that we've been receiving is that the space is adequate, that we don't need any more space," Helsley said. "Of course, back in 2004, when we had the assessment on the jail ... our space wasn't adequate back then. And, it's definitely not adequate now."

The RSW Regional Jail Authority met last week, Helsley said, and he asked the body's attorney what would happen if Shenandoah County pulled out of the agreement.

"The attorney basically said once we've spent the money, and at this point in time you've spent about $4.2 million ... then you're locked in," he said. "You would have to go back to the authority itself and ask to withdraw."

Baroncelli asked Helsley what Shenandoah County Sheriff Timothy C. Carter -- who has been against the regional jail concept for a couple of years -- had to say about the attorney's advice during the regional jail authority meeting.

"He had no comment," Helsley said.

"So, what does he propose?" Baroncelli asked.

Helsley responded, "You will have to ask him."

Baroncelli said the Board of Supervisors spent five years researching a jail solution.
"The amount of misinformation out there is unbelievable," she said. "It's unmanageable, and it's a shame that we're dealing with it three years after we made the decision, which took us five years to reach and research and study."

Baroncelli said residents aren't asking to see the "reams and reams" of data the decision was based on, and that "someone out there [was] starting this mass hysteria saying this can be stopped."

"We made the best decision at that time and I think the best decision in my term that's ever been made," she said.

Baroncelli said jail opponents "don't want to hear the facts."

District 3 Supervisor David Ferguson reiterated his commitment to the regional jail, saying it was in the best interest of taxpayers. He, too, said he's tried to give "facts and figures" to some people, and has been spurned.

"It's what the sheriff says that matters," Ferguson said. "[Carter] does not have to justify his numbers. He just has to say, "I feel this way," and he's the sheriff, and people will accept that."

Some publications with "their own agendas" have presented "lop-sided" information, Ferguson said.

4 Comments | Leave a comment

    And somehow these people manage to get re-elected.

    OK, we have a new Regional Jail. Whether or not we agree with this decision, it has been made and it is time to move on.
    Next news story, “Local jurisdictions have hard time paying transportation costs to the new Regional Jail facility located off of Fairground Rd in Warren County”.
    Gasoline went up ten cents just yesterday. The jail has not been built yet, but I can hear the yells now from the County Sheriff and Local Police departments, about the fuel costs in moving prisoners back and forth.
    Let us hope that the powers to be, at least have sense enough to include modern technology of video teleconferencing systems in the new facility. Thus allowing saving some transportation costs, to and from the Court in Woodstock.

    So from now on whenever any politician (local, state or national) makes a decision we all just need to sit back and thank our "representatives" for knowing better than us. Thank you Ms. Baroncelli and Mr. Helsley for disciplining us bad children. Of course representaive government means once you're in office we cannot question your decisions. Heck, I guess we shouldn't even attend meeting because you all are so much wiser than we.

    Well this citizen says you're both the ones who don't understand representative government. "We the people" are your bosses. It's just sad that too many just do what their party says and continues to vote you into office. I wonder why the County got so upset a few years back when Strasburg officials vote to give less money to the county...after all they're OUR elected representatives don't they know better than the county when it comes to Strasburg? Also, I guess all the unfunded mandates from Washington and Richmond should not be questioned after they are voted on. So now I hope the county just sits on their hands and says "thank you Richmond" for all the mandates they pass. After all "It seems to me once a decision's made, that should end the debate," ...isn't that what they all agree with Beverly Flemming on?

    The following information is based off materials presented to the Regional Jail Authority and subsequently to the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors and is dated below:
    Discussion Materials Prepared for:
    RSW Regional Jail Authority
    Oct 27, 2011
    The document states the total cost on page 15 as: $71,765,238 and the Virginia Commonwealth's share is 45.41% or $32,587,739 so the local costs will be $39,177,499 and everyone is going by these numbers for the jail costs.

    The real numbers that show the total cost are on page 19:
    Jail construction costs $71,765,238
    Interest on Bonds and notes and reserve fund $15,925,544
    Cost of issuance VRA and local costs and reserve fund $800,000
    VRA underwriters discount Bonds $425,185
    Additional Proceeds $3,638

    Total Jail Costs $89,085,000.
    This is the number that they are financing until the year 06/30/2043 according to page5 of the debt service document: That cost is $153,792,844.44

    Page 23
    Shenandoah County’s Pro Rata Share is 36.7%
    Warren County 50%
    Rappahannock 13.3

    The following is from a document that I presented 4 years ago please call the Sheriff or the BOS to verify these numbers:
    Build a new stand alone replacement Jail Facility.
    2005 cost:
    $17,300,000 X .75 (states share is 25%) = $12,975,000 (cost does not include property or extending utilities to site cost figure found in Shenandoah County jail needs analysis and expansion study 2005)

    Regional Jail cost $16.75 million (in 2005)

    Actual Cost for Shenandoah County’s Pro Rata Share at 36.7% = $20,734,494 which is 4 million dollars more than what they had originally predicted. The BOS made a bad decision and now is trying to say it was a good decision because they think the people are stupid.

    Page 25 Per Diem Calculation
    Sheriff Carter stated that his local jail will remain open and the operating cost would decrease 30% from $707,209 to 212,162 if the local jail ran for 30 years = $6,364,881 Warren is about the same as Shenandoah at 708,653 X 30% = 212,595 times 30 years = and Rappahannock comes in at 101,455 x 30% = 30,436 times 30 years =

    212,162 + 212,595 + 30,436= 455,193 year for operating the existing jails times 30 years for the duration of the Debt Service = $13,655,790

    Operating Costs for the Regional jail are on page 27 and they increase from 9,747,365 to 11,638,864 from 2015 to 2021 so I added these numbers up and used the last figure and ran it out to the end of the debt service of 30 years and you came up with 345.42 million for operating costs alone over the life of the loan.

    Total Debt service for the Jail that costs $89,085,000 over a 30 year note on page 5 of the Debt Service Document = $153,792,844.44

    If you add up the Operating costs of Operating the existing Jails and the Regional Jail to include the Debt Service.
    Operating Local Jail for 30 years 13.65 million
    Operating the Regional Jail for 30
    345.42 million
    Debt Service on the Regional Jail
    153.79 million
    $512.86 million cost to the citizens of the 3 counties. Yes that’s OVER ½ Billion Dollars!

    • Note they are not adding any outside bed rents which could possibly be a positive
    • They are adding in a 3 percent inflation factor
    • VRS retirement The document is saying that the state will pick this up and as of now for Shenandoah County even though the Commonwealth has shifted a $400,000 dollar burden to the county annually.
    • State per diem (I am under the impression that this will be decreased or even removed and not increased as forecasted in the document)
    • Northwestern Regional Jail has closed down 1 wing or about 95 beds
    • White Post has closed
    • The numbers are based on a steady inmate population from each county which will skew the numbers
    • Our supervisors were sold this project as a cash cow; if you were to look at the old rates or the cash they would receive for prisoner incarceration (State and Federal) you would understand why they elected to go the RJ Route. Also don’t forget the political side of this; “When they strip the local jail from the Sheriff, they actually remove one of the largest budget items from his control and this also diminishes the political clout he has.”

    Who is responsible to the people when something goes wrong at the Regional Jail? NO ONE! It is the AUTHORITY or 3 representatives from each county; a true non entity with multiple faces and multiple names. The Sheriff who is responsible to the people could be removed from office if he mishandles the local Jail so we actually have no recourse once the Regional Jail moves forward which is what the BOS wants.

    If this BOS wanted the best solution they should have formed a panel of citizens and board members to work out the best course of action in 2005. If they look at this document they will see that they are at a 4 million dollar cost overrun. And in their fashion, they are telling us what is best for the citizens of Shendanoah by not asking for input and being a bull in a china shop. Furguson, who was the Chairman when the board voted on weather or not to join the Regional Jail, said that he wouldn't join if the Commonwealth didn't put in the 50%. Well they have only put in 45% so you have the opportunity, that I know you will not take, by joining the majority of County residents by asking the Governor to issue a line item Veto of the Commonwealth's portion of this expenditure.


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