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County may use forfeiture money study

By Alex Bridges

WOODSTOCK -- Shenandoah County officials are negotiating with a consulting firm that would study staffing of the emergency dispatch center and the sheriff's office.

The Board of Supervisors on Thursday heard an update from County Administrator Douglas Walker and others regarding the efforts to pick and hire a consultant to conduct the study.

However, it appears the county may need to dip into the sheriff's office asset forfeiture fund to cover the cost of the staffing study. Sheriff Timothy Carter is on board with the proposal, according to department representatives.

The county recently sought proposals from consultants to perform the study. As Walker and Deputy County Administrator Mary Beth Price explained, proposals carried a wide range of costs but not all submissions met the criteria set for the study.

Board Chairman Conrad Helsley said the county received proposals from seven firms. A panel that included Helsley, Price and other county staff plus representatives from the sheriff's office, decided to interview four of the firms.

Price told the board the panel has entered into negotiations with one of the firms the committee interviewed. Price reminded supervisors the county budgeted $18,000 for the staffing study. However Price advised the contract cost is at $36,000. Carter has OK'ed the use of asset forfeiture funds to cover half the cost of the study.

"We felt we needed to bring it to you because we only budgeted $18,000 and we wanted you to be aware of that," Price said.

"I think it's not a decision that needs to be made, really it's an awareness that the board needs to have of the issue so that there's no surprises when we get down the road and we've got that appropriation of the $18,000 from asset forfeiture you understand upfront how it's being used and the fact it's being used for this purpose," Walker said.

Supervisor David Ferguson asked whether Carter approved the use of asset forfeiture funds to help cover the additional cost of the study. Major Scott Proctor told the board the sheriff left it up to the panel and Carter did endorse using the asset forfeiture funds to cover the other half of the cost.

Ferguson said he would only back using the funds if the sheriff also supported the action.

Ferguson also asked about the cost included in each of the proposals submitted by the firms the panel interviewed. But officials would not divulge specific amounts of each proposal because of the ongoing negotiations. Revealing such information could hinder the county's ability to negotiate with other firms, staff advised.

Price told the board the costs of the seven proposals received ranged from $18,000 to more than $100,000. The proposals submitted by the four firms interviewed by the panel ranged from $18,000 to approximately $60,000, according to Price. Helsley noted one of the proposals sought to study only the staffing needs of the jail so the firm had to adjust the submission and thus the cost.

Also at the work session Walker told the board staff had completed the procurement process for consulting services to help the county find a new firm to provide maintenance of the locality's emergency 911 equipment. The county received notice a couple of months ago the current provider, Shentel, plans to migrate away from the business of maintaining such equipment, Walker said.

As Walker explained, the advance notice allows the county to also look at the equipment it has currently and to what it could migrate.

"There are an enormous number of variables that come into play with changes in technology as it relates to telephone equipment, next-generation 911 systems, state expectations for next-generation equipment," Walker said. "The county is seeking to understand better what its options are before it comes to you as part of the budget process or even sooner if we need to, to help the board understand what's the best course of action as we move away from its current relationship with Shentel to another relationship where it may involve additional equipment or other types of maintenance for 911 systems."

The administrator advised the board staff would come back to supervisors with a formal recommendation based on the options available.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com


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