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Posted March 1, 2013 | comments Leave a comment

Regional Jail board delays moves

Decisions on payscale, water options to be made later

By Alex Bridges

FRONT ROYAL -- Salaries for the next regional jail staff remains a sticking point for area officials.

The Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail Authority board at its regular meeting Thursday chose to wait to act on the proposed staff salaries.

Shenandoah County Sheriff Timothy C. Carter said disparities exists between the salaries as proposed and what some members of his jail staff receive. Similar disparities are apparent between the other local jails and the proposed salaries. Carter said he feared the authority would create two classes of jail workers.

John McCarthy, county administrator for Rappahannock County, said the transition committee earlier that afternoon had recommended adoption of the starting salaries and benefits pay scale for Virginia Compensation Board positions as set by the Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center in Frederick County. That jail serves the counties of Clarke, Fauquier and Frederick and the city of Winchester.

The committee has discussed the issue for several months and looked at salaries paid at the local jails plus the regional jail in Frederick County and a similar nearby facility. The authority board may not need to create some positions that exist in other jails. The committee also agreed that the jail authority could alter the salaries once the board hires a superintendent, McCarthy said.

Carter said he thought the committee was just planning to present information to the board. "I didn't know we were going to be voting on the actual pay scale after that meeting."

Carter recalled Friday that the committee never crafted a specific list of proposed salaries nor did the authority board receive such a document.

In response to a question from Douglas Stanley, county administrator for Warren County and board chairman, McCarthy acknowledged that regional jail salaries for some of Carter's staff would fall "significantly under" what the officers receive now.

Warren County Sheriff Daniel McEathron noted that Carter brought up his concern at the committee meeting, but the panel still voted unanimously to endorse the salaries scale. McEathron said he felt the issue didn't fall under the committee's purview.

"That's a local issue; that's a local concern," McEathron said in noting that it would be up to the county governent to make up the difference in pay if so desired.

"An important local concern because whichever locality would chose to do that, there's no compensation board money, so it would be all local funds."

McEathron said the authority needs to limit pay disparities between the jail and the facility in Frederick County to avoid competing for employees.

Douglas Walker, county administrator for Shenandoah County asked the board to reconsider the motion made to approve the salaries document and, instead, table the matter to the next meeting.

McCarthy, in response to a question from Stanley, said the board does not have to act on the salaries scale. The board voted to table accepting the proposed salaries. McEathron voted against the delay.

The authority board also held off on taking action to separate the jail project from connecting to Front Royal's utilities. The board already has decided to move forward on plans to build a wastewater treatment plant on-site after Front Royal declined to accept the jail's water used in its laundry facility.

Now the jail board could back a plan to build on-site water supply facilities for the jail, eliminating the need for Front Royal's utilities. The town would lose the associated connection fees and service costs anticipated by Front Royal officials and used to calculate utility rates.

Carrie Henaghan of Moseley Architects presented information to the board on the options for wastewater treatment and water service. The firm has recommended that the jail authority move forward on plans to build the wastewater treatment plant on site.

Henaghan also gave the board information about water supply for the jail. Moseley found it feasible to provide water to the jail using on-site facilities, Henaghan said. The jail would need to have two new wells drilled and installed on the property. Moseley would need to take into account the water required for fire suppression services. This would require a water tank and pump in the rear of the jail, Henaghan said. The jail also would need to make sure the wells served as a 100-percent back-up source to compensate the cistern, used for laundry, should the levels drop.

A report on the options indicated no significant difference in cost between paying Front Royal for water service over 20 years and building on-site facilities, Henaghan said.

"Building the on-site water would not be a great financial benefit, but it would allow you to have the water you need if we need to go that way," Henaghan said.

Moseley and consulting engineer Pennoni Associates prepared a motion for the board to move forward with the design of an on-site water plant. Stanley presented the motion to the board, but then recommended members put off acting on the measure until he and John McCarthy, county administrator for Rappahannock County, meet with Front Royal Town Council on Monday to discuss the utilities issue. Jail design team representatives and authority attorney Bill Hefty plan to be at the meeting, Stanley said.

Also at the authority board meeting:

  • Approved color schemes for the jail's interior.

  • Heard a project update from owner representative James Marstin, who noted that construction remains on schedule. Marstin said he expects work to progress as the roofing contractor begins to cover parts of the jail. Authorized change orders have used 3.9 percent of the budget earmarked as contingency to cover unforeseen increases in construction expenses.

  • Heard from Hefty that earlier this week the Virginia Supreme Court chose to deny an appeal filed in the lawsuit over the jail project financing. Shenandoah County resident Mark Prince sued the authority, Shenandoah County, SunTrust Bank and the Virginia Resources Authority last summer in a complaint that claimed the local court should declare the project financing null and void. Prince, represented by attorney Bradley Pollack, filed a petition with the Supreme Court seeking to appeal the decision by Circuit Judge Dennis Hupp that dismissed the case. Hefty told members the case had cost the Jail Authority and the other defendants a "substantial" amount in legal fees, but he did not give an exact figure.
  • Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com

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