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Posted March 19, 2013 | comments Leave a comment

Town makes offer to jail on utilities

By Alex Bridges

FRONT ROYAL - A deal on the table may end a dispute between the town and the regional jail over the facility's water and sewer needs.

The Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail Authority has not yet received the offer, according to board Chairman Douglas Stanley.

Stanley, who is also the Warren County administrator, said in an email Tuesday he would not make any comments about the proposal until the authority board receives the formal offer and members can discuss the matter at their March 28 meeting.

Town Attorney Douglas Napier said authority representatives have seen a rough draft of the agreement but he has not yet presented a final version of the document to the jail board.

"It's trying to be fair to both sides," Napier said of the terms of the proposed agreement.

Town Council revisited its offer at a work session Monday and discussed some of the details and changes to the proposed agreement. Council met in closed session.

Under the offer, the regional jail would pay 1.375 times the in-town rate for both water and sewer use for 540,000 gallons per each 30-day billing cycle, according to Napier. The town would bill the jail based on the average monthly use of the services, Napier said.

Front Royal would bill the jail at two times the rate for water and sewer should the use exceed 540,000 gallons in a 30-day cycle, according to Napier. The town can also increase the levy to two times the rate should the jail expand its footprint and thus use more water.

Under the deal, the rates would remain in place for 60 years, Napier said. This marked a change from the 20-year period as discussed and approved by council at its previous meeting. Napier told council the Jail Authority considers 60 years the useful life of the facility.

The proposal also calls for the jail to pay the out-of-town connection fees for water and sewer.

Town Manager Steven Burke, in response to a question posed by Councilman Eugene Tewalt, said the authority originally sought an open-ended contract with no end date.

The dispute began when town officials decided Front Royal would not accept the rainwater collected at the jail and used for its laundry operations. Town officials assumed the Jail Authority still planned to connect to Front Royal's sewer and water services. However, the authority board, citing recommendations by the project architects and engineers, decided to apply with the state to operate a wastewater treatment plant on site. The board later decided to separate the jail from the town by constructing a water plant on the site. These actions, according to town officials, violated an agreement that called for the jail to at least connect with Front Royal for water and sewer services.

Council members expressed more concern when it appeared the jail would release its treated wastewater into a dry streambed near McKay Spring - a potential future water source for the town. Councilman Thomas Sayre revived the proposal to allow the jail to connect to the town and use environmentally sound technology.

Napier told council members Monday that should Front Royal take the jail's used rainwater, they would need to amend town code and modify Front Royal's existing policy.

Vice Mayor N. Shae Parker asked whether the jail would continue to pay the utility rates under contract should the town annex the land along U.S. 522-340 occupied by the facility. Officials and other council members agreed that question remains an issue for a future discussion.

Councilman Daryl Funk suggested any change to the town code recognize the jail as an institution as a precaution to prevent other properties from making similar requests.

"That's got to be ironclad in this contract," Tewalt said.

Sayre noted that such a deal would help protect the Shenandoah River and nearby tributaries and McKay Spring.

"Make sure that we agree in the contract that there will not be any discharge of water into that dry streambed at any time for the period of that 60 years," Tewalt said.

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

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