By Joe Beck -- firstname.lastname@example.org
The long awaited opening of the Warren County Public Safety Building arrived Tuesday as about 100 employees of the Sheriff's Office and administrative staff from the county Fire and Rescue Service moved into their new quarters at 200 Skyline Vista Drive.
Sheriff Daniel T. McEathron, frustrated by delays in construction earlier in the year, was all smiles Wednesday as he toured the almost $10.55 million, 44,370 square foot facility.
McEathron said he was especially pleased at the seamless transition of the emergency dispatch center to its new quarters over the last several days.
"There was no loss of service to the public," he said.
The new space is a far cry from the 7,200 square feet available to the Sheriff's Office in the now darkened building on Jackson Street downtown. The new building's amenities include six interview rooms, including one reserved for children. Interviews in the old building were conducted in a single room, McEathron said.
The building sits on a hill overlooking Skyline High School and rolling hills to the west. Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive tower over the parking lot, which provides 42 visitor spaces and 124 employee parking spaces within a fenced area. The former Sheriff's Office parking was in an open lot nestled between the jail and the downtown business district and a residential neighborhood.
"It's nice not to have to concern ourselves with someone walking through the parking lot who doesn't belong there," McEathron said.
McEathron said he is also relieved to have a sizable garage type enclosure attached to the building that will make it much easier to ensure that anyone arrested and brought to the building for blood alcohol testing or interviews stays arrested. McEathron said the new arrangement lessens the opportunity for escape by denying suspects a chance to flee when they exit a police vehicle into the open air.
Some of the other features in the building include:
• Separate sections for administration, investigations, patrol, civil process serving, K-9 and bicycle patrols and animal control.
• A forensic room that includes devices for lifting fingerprints and drying out evidence.
• An enclosed evidence processing bay big enough to hold a commercial bus or tractor trailer if need be.
• An E-911 communications center with plenty of extra space for future expansion.
McEathron said the building was constructed to handle additional space demands that are expected over the next 25 to 30 years, assuming the accuracy of current population projections.
"We've got a lot of space," McEathron said. "I hope this community doesn't grow that big, but the estimates show Warren County could very well grow as large as Frederick County is now."
The project finished eight months behind its originally scheduled opening in December. Deputy County Administrator Robert Childress said earlier this year that the general contractor, Nielsen Builders Inc. of Harrisonburg and its sub-contractors were "working through" problems related to "materials and specific details that we laid out in the beginning."
The county's jail inmates will continue to be housed at their current downtown location until the completion of the Rappahannock Shenandoah Warren Regional Jail scheduled for completion mid-2014.