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Council delays talk on jail wastewater

By Alex Bridges

FRONT ROYAL -- Town Council again balked at a member's request to revisit a proposal to have Front Royal treat the regional jail's wastewater.

Councilman Thomas H. Sayre requested that a motion be added to a future agenda for council to direct staff members to amend the town code to allow the jail to connect to the town's sewer system to treat the facility's wastewater. Under that motion, the town would treat rainwater collections and water used for the jail's toilets, laundry and heating, ventilation and cooling system.

The jail's system would need to adhere to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, Sayre said.

His request failed on a 5-1 vote because such a move requires unanimous council approval.

But as Vice Mayor N. Shae Parker noted at council's meeting Monday, the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail Authority board plans to bring up the issue when it meets Thursday. Parker said the item came up at council's last work session that Sayre did not attend.

"A representative from the regional jail did come to speak to us and at this time they're not even interested in exploring this option as they explained to us," Parker said. "Furthermore, the LEEDs program has a lot different ways to meet the means to become LEEDs certified."

The Warren County Public Safety Building is LEEDs certified, Parker noted.

"I understand the need to save the environment, but we also have to look at our business models and what is good and what is not good for our water and sewer systems," Parker said.

Parker said he would entertain another look at the idea.

"However, I don't see this being a viable solution to the controversy that we're currently wrapped up in," Parker said. "A couple of interesting things I've found with what's going on with the regional jail is they have precisely proven the argument that I've tried to make: that the business corridor is not business-friendly. When a not-for-profit organization such as the regional jail authority can't make the numbers crunch to connect to our water and sewer system, it's broken."

Parker continued to criticize the idea of locating the jail on U.S. 522 and suggested the authority could have saved money on utility connection fees had the entity sought to extend the town's boundaries to include the property.

Mayor Timothy Darr said he met with Douglas Stanley, county administrator for Warren County and chairman of the authority board, on Saturday. Darr said Stanley advised the board of plans to discuss whether or not to go back to council and look at this and other issues. The item could then appear on council's next work session March 4.

"There is another opportunity to discuss this in more detail at a later date," Darr said.

Councilman Eugene Tewalt reiterated his opposition to the proposal until he can receive more information on the LEEDs program.

Jail officials claim the effort to collect rainwater would save the facility $600,000-$800,000.

Sayre supported the idea brought to council by Stanley, but other town leaders did not agree and Front Royal declined to accept the rainwater into the treatment process. This prompted the jail authority to consider other option, and recently the board agreed to pursue the addition of a wastewater treatment plant for the facility. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality issued a permit to the jail for the plant.

But as Sayre warned, the permit allows the jail to release wastewater near McKay Spring. The councilman says the town should reconsider the option to take the laundry wastewater and to pursue certification through the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Connecting to the town sewer system will allow Front Royal to monitor how much water goes through, according to Sayre.

"This helps protect the Shenandoah River," Sayre said.

Use of the rainwater helps reduce the need to draw from the river, Sayre added. The town releases its wastewater into the Shenandoah River.

Also at the meeting, council:

  • Authorized Town Attorney Douglas Napier to sign a letter on behalf of Front Royal, with County Attorney Blair Mitchell, that requests the Commission on Local Government grant the localities a joint extension of time to provide responses to the annexation proposal by the Front Royal Limited Partnership.

  • Approved ordinances to amend the town code pertaining to exemptions for sign re-facing and to fence height and safety.

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


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