By Alex Bridges -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Work to build the area's second regional jail remains on track, but unknowns still lie ahead for the project.
The Rappahannock Shenandoah Warren Regional Jail Authority on Thursday formed a transition committee to begin addressing some of the issues facing the facility. Each of the three locality's sheriffs and representatives of the participating counties make up the committee.
But as the project moves forward it remains unclear how town police departments and sheriff's offices will handle transporting recently arrested people to the regional jail. Or will the county agencies continue to use their current jails as holding areas?
With the exception of the Strasburg Police Department, officers in all law enforcement agencies in the three counties face significantly longer drives from their respective localities compared to the distance they now travel to their local jails.
New Market police would see the biggest change in travel time and distance. Officers must travel approximately 20 miles from New Market to transport people to the Shenandoah County Jail in Woodstock. The distance from New Market to the regional jail on Winchester Road outside Front Royal is approximately 45 miles in one direction.
Mt. Jackson police travel 13 miles from the town to the jail in Woodstock. That distance increases to almost 38 miles when traveling to the regional jail. Edinburg officers travel approximately 5 miles to the Woodstock jail; the distance increases to approximately 31 miles. Woodstock police, whose station lies less than a mile from the county jail, will have to take prisoners nearly 29 miles away to the regional facility. Strasburg police will see the distance to the two jails increase from 11 miles to Woodstock to just under 14 miles, though it may take less time for officers to travel to the new facility.
If Front Royal police or Warren County sheriff's deputies arrest a person in or near town, they will travel approximately 6 miles to the new facility. Rappahannock County deputies also will see their travel time and distance increase since the regional jail is approximately 25 miles from the county seat of Washington.
Authority board Chairman Douglas Stanley said Friday some costs aren't determined because officials can't predict, for example, how many people a law enforcement agency would pick up in future years.
"We still have a lot of details to work out and that's what this [transition] committee will work on," Stanley said. "Like if New Market picks them up are they bringing them straight there [to the regional jail], take them anywhere else for a holding cell? If they're coming straight there then the authority would be responsible for transporting them to court?"
Stanley noted that operational details such as prisoner transportation remain undetermined.
"We're still in the construction phase," Stanley said.
But it's the unknown costs, especially those related to the jail's ongoing operations, that have worried Shenandoah County Sheriff Timothy C. Carter for years. Carter has questioned whether the project should move forward without knowing these costs or how to handle issues such as prisoner transports, and which entities pick up the bills.
In reference to whether law enforcement agencies would continue to use the local jails, Carter recalled Friday that he and the former county administrator, along with members of the panel that preceded the authority, talked about the possibility of creating a holding facility in Shenandoah County.
"Whether or not that is still going to occur that has not yet been determined," Carter said. "I have had contact with Mr. [County Administrator Douglas] Walker about the issues with regard to transportation that will occur for the towns as well as the county when the regional jail comes online and he is aware of that and we're going to have some discussion on that I know internally this fall here in Shenandoah County.
"It has not been determined by the authority that that is going to be an authority issue at this point," Carter added.
The authority has released some information on the project regarding costs and even those remain as estimates. The estimated project budget dated April 18 shows an estimated maximum cost of $65.68 million which would qualify for a 50 percent reimbursement by the state. The amount of the reimbursement through the Virginia Department of Corrections remains at $32.84 million, according to the document, the same amount the authority board voted to borrow through SunTrust bank. The authority expects to pay off the loan to SunTrust using the reimbursement from the state.
The board has planned to borrow money from the bank and bond proceeds from the Virginia Resource Authority in the amount of $45.63 million plus a premium of $5.74 million, for a total of $84.21 million, according to another document listing the sources and uses of funds.
Costs not eligible for reimbursement are estimated at $3.9 million. The total includes costs for items such as radio equipment, restraints and weapons, furniture and fixtures, uniforms, staff training, jail vehicles and a records management system. The estimate does not include costs to local law enforcement agencies for transportation of people arrested initially and taken to the regional jail.
The document notes the estimated cost to the localities is $38.47 million.
to Shenandoah County Jail to RSW
Edinburg -- 5.33 miles 9 minutes 31.45 miles 30 minutes
Mt. Jackson -- 13.02 miles 17 minutes 37.81 miles 37 minutes
New Market -- 20.35 miles 22 minutes 45.45 miles 43 minutes
Strasburg -- 11.42 miles 18 minutes 13.79 miles 15 minutes
Woodstock -- 0.71 miles 2 minutes 28.70 miles 29 minutes
to Warren County Jail to RSW
Front Royal -- 0.1 mile 2 minutes 6.36 miles 10 minutes
to Rappahannock County Jail to RSW
Washington -- 0.24 miles 1 minute 24.73 miles 35 minutes