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Residents cite aging infrastructure as an issue in Front Royal

By Alex Bridges

Response to Envision Front Royal -- www.envisionfrontroyal.com -- remains high as the town uses the website to plan for its future.

A top concern posted on the site by many residents has been on the town's radar for years and Front Royal spends hundreds of thousands of dollars to address it.

Planning and Zoning Director Jeremy Camp told Planning Commission members at a meeting Wednesday that the words "aging infrastructure" appeared most often in the public comments.

The site, which asks residents to post comments and photos about the town, will stay online for several months as part of the process to update Front Royal's Comprehensive Plan. The process also will include public input meetings.

Town Manager Steven Burke explained Thursday that Front Royal has a neighborhood improvement program. The initiative links road improvements with water line work. The town prioritizes road projects based on the condition. The Department of Environmental Services performs a yearly assessment of roads identified as most in need of repair.

"We try and group the areas needing repair to be more of a neighborhood so that we can go in and focus our efforts in one area," Burke explained.

The town began the neighborhood-based approach in 2007, making road and utility repairs in the neighborhoods of Royal Village, Cherrydale and recently completed work in Warren Park, Burke said. In those projects, the department assessed the roads and the utility system to determine the need to replace existing water lines with larger pipes to serve for additional fire protection. Typically, the town advertises for bids separately for the water line work and then the department follows up with any necessary curb and gutter replacements as well as paving improvements.

"What it allows us to do is to try and prioritize areas based on the need, either driven by utility or driven by street condition," Burke said.

The town's Capital Improvement Program also lists the prioritized road and utility needs.

The department also hired a firm to look for leaks in the town's aging water lines. The testing occurs in the spring and summer months to give the town time to make repairs rather than deal with breaks in the pipes in the winter, Burke said.

"Conducting repairs during warmer periods of time is easier and less demanding on our crews than having to work on a water system failure in below-freezing temperatures," Burke said.

The department tracks water line breaks. Lines that have a high number of leaks or breaks move higher up the list of priorities, Burke said.

"Thankfully we've not experienced any given location that has had several, repetitive leaks or breaks," Burke said.

Front Royal also has hired a consultant to assess the town's sanitary sewer needs -- work that Burke said can occur separate from the water line improvements because it doesn't require the same intrusions. The town can line the manholes and sanitary sewers without having to dig up the roads and disrupt the surface, Burke said.

The expectation of the neighborhood program by town officials is that Front Royal can address the road and utility needs over time, Burke said.

The work hasn't been cheap.

Front Royal spent more than $1 million for each of the projects in Royal Village and Cherrydale. Warren Park cost about $300,000. Burke said the town spends $5,000-$10,000 for the leak detection services, and has dedicated $300,000 a year toward the sanitary sewer improvements. On Monday, Town Council could approve spending $211,000 for improvements to the manholes.

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

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