By Alex Bridges -- firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- Opponents of the area's next regional jail, blamed for derailing the project and driving up the cost, remain safe from civil action -- for now.
The RSW Regional Jail Authority board met in closed session at their regular meeting Thursday to discuss legal advice with their attorney, Bill Hefty, and pending litigation in Shenandoah County Circuit Court filed by project opponent Mark Prince. The board at its last meeting in June asked its attorney to look into legal recourse the authority might take against foes of the project for having spurred the Virginia Resources Authority to pull the project from a bond sale in May. The authority claims the delay caused the VRA to pursue a separate bond sale which resulted in a higher interest rate and, thus, added $1.7 million to the total cost of the project.
The board came out of closed session but took no action. Hefty acknowledged that neither he nor the board has been served Prince's complaint.
"It's a lawsuit against the authority, so we need to discuss it, whether it's been served or not," Hefty said. "It's out there."
As for pursuing legal recourse against the jail foes, Hefty said the board has not yet asked him to move forward.
"I can't talk about what I told them in closed session, but the board would have to take action to file a suit against anybody and they didn't do that," Hefty said.
During the public comment period the board heard from vocal opponents of the project, Cindy Bailey and Prince.
Prince filed a lawsuit in Shenandoah County Circuit Court earlier this month seeking to void the financing for the jail on the grounds that the issue was never put on the ballot as a referendum. Bailey reiterated her concern that the board has not answered several questions she posed regarding the actual cost of the project.
Bailey also directed criticism at Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors Chairman Conrad Helsley Jr. and asked if he had spoken to his colleagues prior to supporting the authority's request of its attorney to look into possible legal recourse against jail opponents. Bailey expressed concern to the board, directed at Shenandoah County County Administrator Douglas Walker, over the fact he voted in favor of the resolution to seek legal recourse against the opponents.
The board, as is practice, did not respond to either speaker's questions or statements.
Also at the meeting, representatives with Patton Harris Rust & Associates showed the board photographs of the mock cells and explained the colors slated for the parts of the jail. Authority board members looked at samples of different kinds of rock and brick which would be used in the construction of the facility.
The board heard from Ted Cole, senior vice president with Davenport & Company, who, at the request of the chairman, again explained the financing and related costs of the project. Cole told the board the authority will have to pay back slightly more than $79 million to the VRA and to SunTrust when taking into consideration the interest on the loans borrowed and the fact the Virginia Department of Corrections will reimburse $32.85 million in certain costs toward the project, according to Cole.