By Alex Bridges -- firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- The Leach Run Parkway project through the town and Warren County could take a leap forward by the end of the year, officials learned this week.
County Administrator Douglas P. Stanley told members of the town-county liaison committee Thursday that representatives from both localities, along with Economic Development Authority Executive Director Jennifer R. McDonald, are drafting a request for proposals for design services for the project. The Virginia Department of Transportation would then see the RFP before it is advertised.
"We hope, I would think, in the next week to have it finalized and shipped off to VDOT to get their final blessing, and by the first of October that would be advertised and solicit for a design firm to come in and finish the plans that have been done," Stanley said. "Then you'd be looking at probably towards the end of the year to engage that firm to do that."
State matching funds should cover the cost of the design work, land acquisition for rights of way and the construction, according to Stanley.
"We couldn't start the design work say six months ago because we wouldn't be reimbursed the 50 percent," Stanley said.
The administrator noted that regulations for storm drains and other aspects of road projects have changed since plans for Leach Run Parkway were crafted 20 years ago. The localities needed to hold off on acquiring more land for the project until officials determine how much property is needed for utilities, Stanley explained. The design would help the localities and the EDA see exactly how much land the project requires, Stanley said.
"I'm just excited everybody's on board with this thing," said Front Royal Town Councilman Hollis L. Tharpe. "I mean it's laid out there for 20 some years and now it's moving forward and it's rapidly moving forward."
Tharpe noted the parkway would help cut down on travel time for motorists. Stanley explained that the timing of the project appears advantageous for the Warren County School Board as it looks at two potential sites for a new middle school, one of which lies off the proposed Leach Run Parkway.
Also at the liaison committee meeting, members heard an update on efforts by the localities to resolve the issue of feral cats. Officials await an opinion by the attorney general's office on the legality of trapping feral cats in Virginia. County and town representatives met with the Humane Society on Aug. 15 to discuss the matter. The town attorney has drafted a request of the opinion for the review of representative from both localities and the Humane Society. The organization has indicated it is its understanding legislation exists which identifies as the de facto owner of any person who traps an animal for a neuter-and-release program, according to information provided by the county from the Aug. 15 meeting.
The committee of town and county representatives and the Humane Society will reconvene once the attorney general issues an opinion. If the attorney general determines trapping is not legal, the town and county may likely develop requests to local legislators to rectify this issue. The town and county will work with the Humane Society to develop educational materials to inform residents that feeding stray or feral animals results in an increased population if they are not neutered. If trapping is legal by the attorney general's opinion, the county and town would work with the Humane Society to develop a trap, neuter and release program, identify funding needs and educate the public.