By Alex Bridges
FRONT ROYAL -- The RSW Regional Jail Authority's choice not to send wastewater to Front Royal has sparked concern among Town Council members.
The authority on Thursday moved forward on an option to build a large wastewater treatment plant on the property of the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail on U.S. 522. The on-site plant would treat all wastewater from the jail before being released to a nearby stream.
At its meeting Monday, the council decided to meet in closed session with Town Attorney Douglas Napier to seek legal counsel regarding the authority's decision. Councilman Hollis Tharpe asked that this matter be added to the items up for discussion in the closed session. Council members did not comment on the issue before entering into the closed session, whcih also included discussion of personnel matters.
The authority at one point asked the town to provide the water and sewer service to the jail facility. After Front Royal officials declined to treat the wastewater created by the jail's laundry facilities, the authority sought other options, including an on-site treatment plant. Such a plant requires a permit from the Department of Environmental Quality.
Napier said Tuesday that the town had anticipated and expected that Front Royal would provide wastewater treatment.
"We have ... given permission to the regional jail to use the town's wastewater treatment sewage facilities and the town needed advice as to what that meant in terms of what the town had provided, what that meant in terms of what that could mean as far as precedence, what the town's options are, things of that nature," he said.
Council asked Napier to look further into the issue, give members a "heads up" and to advise them of any legal routes they might take.
The jail still must connect to Front Royal for its water supply, according to County Administrator Douglas Stanley, who serves as the chairman of the authority board.
Also at Monday's meeting, Town Council:
• Approved an ordinance to amend the town code pertaining to Freedom of Information Act requests under which the town will not charge for inquiries that require less than 30 minutes or fewer than 10 pages to fulfill.
• Approved an ordinance to amend the town code to grant an extension of the date of termination for utility customers or dependents in poor health.
• Approved an ordinance to amend the town code pertaining to outdoor displays, sales and storage. The amendment affects certain activities and the parking of recreational vehicles on private homes.
• Approved funding of $51,500 for a preliminary engineering report, as conducted by CHA Consulting Inc., on expanding the town pump stations at Crooked Run and Guard Hill. Upgrades are needed to accommodate for the Dominion power plant under construction.
Council also heard a report from Stanley on housing. New home construction for Warren County and Front Royal increased slightly in 2012 over the previous year, according to Stanley.
Of the 66 new housing starts, 13 were located within town limits. The county calculates new housing starts by the number of permits issued for construction. Stanley noted this marks the second year in a row that the county, which also handles the town's permitting, has experienced an increase in housing starts. The county saw 57 housing starts in 2011, Stanley said.
The community's growth rate for the past 10 years falls just under 15 percent, or an average of 1.5 percent per year, Stanley explained.
"So even though years like 2004 when we maxed out at 425 permits, if you take the 10-year period as a total, the population growth and new home growth has been relatively moderate in number," Stanley told council.
The Warren County Development Review Committee met Jan. 23 and discussed a bed-and-breakfast on Remount Road as well as Blue Wing Frog, a new bakery set to open on Chester Street in Front Royal, Stanley advised.
"The committee continues to enhance the communication between town and county staff," Stanley said. "I think it is helping to address some of those issues we ran into in the past and I think we'll be able to avoid those in the future."
Also in Stanley's report, the county recently received bids to complete the second phase of the Eastham Park Trail project. The phase calls for the trail to extend the trail from the completed section under the railroad trestle, around Skyline High School and to Skyline Vista.
A site plan has been submitted to the town Planning Department that seeks to double the number of parking spaces at the community center, Stanley said. Randolph-Macon Academy has agreed to a land swap that allows the county to acquire the space needed for the parking area expansion, according to Stanley.