By Alex Bridges
Strasburg town staff and the Police Department may have found a way to solve their office-space crunch.
Under a proposal presented Monday to Town Council, the Police Department would consolidate most of its operations on the second floor of Town Hall with some storage space in the basement. Town administrative staff would consolidate its offices on the first floor.
Town Manager Judson Rex presented information to council's Infrastructure Committee on what may serve as the least costly option to help ease the problem of crowding in the current facility.
The option to renovate and configure the Town Hall under this option could cost an estimated $833,000, Rex told council. That preliminary estimate includes some expenses the town had planned to do over the next few years for management of the current building, including the replacement of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, and installation of a new telephone system and furnishings. The amount also includes a 10 percent contingency. The cost likely would escalate 3 percent each year.
Rex showed council members a diagram depicting one configuration of how to use the available space.
"This is the result of staff coming together and looking at how we change the building, take better advantage of the space that's here," Rex said.
The proposed configuration also seeks to address security concerns and access by the public to the various administrative offices on the first floor. The configuration calls for significant changes to the front lobby. The design seeks to close off the other offices from the public, but still allow access to the front lobby area for visitors and customers. The configuration also retains access to the council chambers after the Town Hall administration offices have closed. Visitors can move around Town Hall after hours.
"You can get into areas that you really shouldn't be, so security was one of the drivers," Rex said.
However, Rex noted that the configuration does not give administrative staff the space it may need to grow in the future.
"It's not a perfect plan," Rex said. "It's more to get some discussion going and look at some different options."
Police Chief Timothy Sutherly along with staff and Wiley Wilson, an architectural and engineering firm hired by the town, worked together to come up with the configuration.
The Police Department would expand its use of the basement for the polygraph testing equipment and storage of evidence and other items. However, the department also would take the community meeting area and use the space for interview rooms.
"Move up to the second floor it keeps the Police Department pretty consolidated, so it will definitely be more favorable working conditions," Sutherly said, noting that the Police Department currently has offices spread out around Town Hall.
With the Police Department in the second floor, Councilwoman Sarah Mauck asked how a person would receive in-person assistance from authorities at Town Hall. Sutherly said a person would come through the front door of Town Hall as they currently do, approach administrative staff and ask for a police officer. A visitor either would be greeted on the first floor by an officer or asked to come upstairs depending on the situation.
Councilman Scott Terndrup asked the chief how long the space would suffice. Sutherly told council the town's administration would run out of space long before his department would. Many of the department's officers spend much of their workday in their vehicles, Sutherly explained.
In response to a question by Councilwoman Jocelyn Vena, Sutherly explained that most walls in the space are made of drywall and can be removed if needed.
The option as presented does not include the use of the adjacent Brill property that the town purchased with the thought that it could use the building for space needs. Councilman Don Le Vine noted that the need for a bridge over Town Run to connect to the property greatly increased the cost to use the Brill building.
In response to Le Vine's questions, Rex noted that options for the Brill building include using the property as a new council chamber and meeting area that would free up the current space for other town needs. The Brill property likely needs improvements, Le Vine said. He said the issue boils down to determining what government operations does the town want in its downtown.
Strasburg officials have not limited their search for more space to Town Hall or buildings owned by the municipality. Councilman Richard Redmon broached the idea of using the Northern Virginia Daily building on North Holliday Street to house the Police Department or other town functions.
"I wonder if it wouldn't make more sense for us to lease a building for the police to be in," Redmon said. "If we could get a property like, say, the Northern Virginia Daily building, you'd have much better access to the roads and they'd have a lot of space."
Redmon added that leasing the property may free up the town to save money and build its own facility in the future.
Rex noted that he and Sutherly have looked at many buildings that have become available over the past year, including the Daily property and the former Artz Hardware store on King Street. Rex added that the town would need to investigate the condition of the buildings and the cost to make any renovations before pursuing the properties.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org