Regional jail, road works, landfill expansion, other projects on tap
By Alex Bridges
An "ambitious" year lies ahead for Warren County.
Road projects dominate the list of initiatives and projects for 2013, according to Warren County Administrator Douglas Stanley.
"There are some big things on tap this year from a transportation standpoint," Stanley said.
Meanwhile, Shenandoah County leaders look forward to making progress on some construction projects shifting from planning to construction phases.
As Shenandoah County Administrator Douglas Walker noted, the RSW Regional Jail Authority faces much work in the next year and beyond as the participating localities transition from running local jails.
Both counties marked last June as the construction kicked off on the $80 million Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail. Work continues into the new year as Howard Shockey & Sons makes strides to keep the project on schedule.
Shenandoah County started 2013 by celebrating the completion of the Toms Brook School apartments project - an initiative spearheaded by People Inc. and involving the Board of Supervisors and the Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission to renovate the former school building into affordable housing.
Work on Shenandoah County's next major construction project - renovations to the historic courthouse in Woodstock - should begin soon, according to Walker. The project ties in with the renovations to the old Edinburg School under the contracted firm Caldwell Santmyer. Demolition to the former school has begun. Project officials recently sought guidance from the Board of Supervisors on what color roof they wanted for the courthouse.
Caldwell Santmyer plans to complete the work on the school by early August.
"Theoretically, when one subcontractor finishes at, let's say Edinburg School, they'll just move over to the historic courthouse," Walker said.
"The project schedule's pretty tight and the priority is the Edinburg School because of the need to get the building finished in time for the next school year.
"These are not overly complicated projects, but they do require a significant amount of owner oversight...," Walker added.
Work on expanding the agricultural use of the County Farm property also remains a priority for Shenandoah County as the board seeks to lease the land to a farmer. Walker noted the effort includes a cost-sharing element unfamiliar to the county.
Walker also sees 2013 as a major year for the county landfill, particularly with a project aimed at storing and turning the gases normally released from the site into a source of energy or revenue. While the project has been approved and materials purchased, the county awaits better weather conditions to begin construction, Walker said.
A permanent system of pipes and collection tanks replaces temporary equipment in place to collect methane from both the new and closed sections of the landfill. The county currently destroys the methane but, as Walker explained, officials want to take advantage of an opportunity to find a purpose for the gas.
"The elephant in the room that I've been talking about for three years, as the board's aware, is the expansion of our landfill," Walker said. "It's filling up and we have to be migrating toward the opening of a new cell before we get too close to that."
A reduced amount of garbage going to the landfill, possibly as a result of recycling programs, allowed the county to put off the expansion, according to Walker. The county also plans to evaluate the recycling program this year for its cost-effectiveness, he added.
But even as the county moves toward the expansion, Walker estimated the project still would take a couple of years to complete. The issue will come before the Board of Supervisors in February.
In Warren County, the Virginia Department of Transportation plans to move forward on several major projects, including work on Gooney Creek Bridge, which Stanley said should go out to bid in the next few months. VDOT estimates the project will cost $14.6 million.
A contract has been awarded for a project to pave Gooney Manor Loop and work should begin in March, according to Stanley. Bids may go out this year for a project to build a new Indian Hollow Bridge, but Stanley explained the work likely will take a couple of years, as will improvements to Gooney Creek Bridge. Stanley said he expects left-turn lanes at Va. 55 and Interstate 66 to be built in the next few months. VDOT also is building a new access road into Rockland Park.
County leaders expressed hope they may see progress with the Leach Run Parkway project - a future thoroughfare eyed as a solution to traffic woes around town. The Economic Development Authority is spearheading the project, working jointly with the town and county.
An advertisement of a request for proposals may hit the streets soon, according to Stanley.
"The goal is to have the design done in 2013 and have the project to bid by the end of the year," Stanley said.
Department staff continues to clear the area for the next phase of the Eastham Park Trail. The county has advertised for bids on the project phase that calls for the construction of the next half-mile of the trail, according to Stanley. The section should be completed this year, he said.
Workers also should finish construction of the "isopod trail" - a dirt path around sinkholes near the future Dominion electrical power generation plant. The utility is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the county on ways to mitigate the impact of the plant's construction on the habitat of the Madison Cave isopod. The creature is federally listed as threatened.
The county plans to replace the restroom facilities at Fantasyland and make improvements to Gertrude Miller Park by Bing Crosby Stadium. Plans call for the paving of Little League Drive. As Stanley explained, the road often washes out during heavy rains, so paving the route should solve that problem. The project includes the installation of a groundwater injection well that should help drain the adjacent parking lot.
Last year marked a few milestones for the county, including the completion of the new public safety building. While some minor items remain that need addressing, the construction is complete and staff have moved into the facility, Stanley noted.
With the relocation of fire and rescue staff to the new building, the county plans to renovate the space and reconfigure some offices. Stanley said he expects to complete that by the end of the year.
The county completed construction of a dog park in the Eastham Park complex along the Shenandoah River.
The county also completed a study of the roads and drainage amenities in the Shenandoah Farms Sanitary District. Officials cite the study as a way to help guide them in making improvements to the subdivision. Improvements to the county courthouse in downtown Front Royal included the replacement of the sidewalk around the building at a cost of approximately $160,000. Work is slated to continue on the inside of the courthouse where the county plans to improve acoustics by installing special tiles.
Also this year, county officials expect to complete the update on the Comprehensive Plan. The Planning Commission has forwarded a draft of the update to the Board of Supervisors. The county should hold a public hearing on the draft in the next few months, Stanley said.
"Getting that done is a big accomplishment for 2013," Stanley said.
At the same time, the county expects to see work on the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail reach major milestones this year, according to Stanley. The RSW Regional Jail Authority board learned at a recent meeting that construction remains on time, if even a bit ahead of schedule. Roofing installed for some areas of the jail has allowed crews to work on the inside of the facility during inclement weather.
Crews began installing pre-cast, concrete cells in January and anticipate more in February.
The authority borrowed nearly $80 million last year for the project, but officials expect the Virginia Department of Corrections to reimburse a large portion of the allowable costs to build the facility. But, work still lies ahead for the board as members look to hire a superintendent several months earlier than previously scheduled, and more than a year before the facility reaches completion.
County officials also expressed hope for more revenue that could equate to raises for employees.
The Board of Supervisors in Warren County did fund raises after several years without an increase.
The raises affected employees differently, Stanley explained. The county had a salary study performed a couple of years ago that suggested adjustments to some employees' pay. No employee lost wages as a result of the study, Stanley said.
"I think we're optimistic that we'll have a little better year than we've had in the last couple years," Stanley said. "But revenues are still slow to recover."
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org