By Alex Bridges
FRONT ROYAL -- Town Council took steps Monday to pick a new, permanent home for the police department.
Council voted unanimously to direct Town Manager Steven Burke to offer to buy approximately 5.2 acres of land along Kendrick Lane between Monroe and Adams avenues owned by the Economic Development Authority.
Front Royal would offer to buy the vacant property at $7,000 per acre for a total price of $36,680, provided that existing issues with the existing covenants, specifically one that prohibits overnight sleeping, be resolved to the satisfaction of the town to allow the use of the land for the new police headquarters, according to the motion passed by council.
Funding for the purchase would come from the accumulated money from the real estate tax dedicated to the facilities study for the new headquarters.
Council approved the motion after meeting in closed session to discuss the investing of public funds and the disposition or acquisition of property.
Under the motion read by Vice Mayor N. Shae Parker, council further authorized Burke to enter into an agreement with Warren County to lease its former Sheriff's Office building for $4,000 per month, plus the cost to connect the facility to the town's computer network, as the police department's temporary home. Funding for the police department's emergency relocation comes from the real estate tax revenue dedicated to the facilities study.
Councilman Daryl Funk thanked Councilman Hollis Tharpe for his work on the effort.
Councilman Thomas Sayre said after the meeting that police Chief Norman Shiflett has indicated his approval of the site.
The town police department could move into the former Sheriff's Office headquarters next month, Burke told council earlier in the meeting.
Also at the meeting, Town Council took emergency action to broaden its deer management program to include other wildlife such as bears and groundhogs.
The change to the town ordinance approved at council's regular meeting took effect immediately. However, Mayor Timothy Darr advised that the ordinance does not automatically allow for the hunting of bears or other wildlife in town. Rather, the regulation lets the town's police department to work with the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to manage the populations of wildlife as allowed by the state agency.
The town added the section for deer management to allow agents of Front Royal to perform deer management through bow hunting.
Council held a public hearing on the motion to change the word in the ordinance from "deer" to "wildlife" management. Roger Keys, an avid hunter who lives in Williamsburg Estates, spoke about the ordinance change and the current problem with bears.
"To me, part of the problem with these large bruins and small ones, too, is we're running a buffet out there every night and it's getting dangerous," Keys said.
Keys told council that he saw a bear walking between neighbors' houses around 3 p.m. on a recent day, at a time when children were playing outside. Keys suggested that the town should look at the local regulations that dictate when people can put their trash cans out for pickup. Cans are being put out at times not allowed under the code. Likewise, Keys said the town has a program under which it provides chains to help keep bears out of trashcans. Keys suggested the town put tighter restrictions on the times at which people can put out their trashcans or else make the receptacles more secure.
In response to a question from Councilman Bret Hrbek, Town Manager Steven Burke explained that the change gives Front Royal the opportunity to work through the police department to contact the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to see if there is any form of permitting the state agency can extend for wildlife management.
"It expands our opportunities to perform management of populations of various wildlife in the future," Burke said.
"So it's the first step in many in order to take care of what's become a very dangerous bear problem," Hrbek said.
Burke concurred and added that changing the word to wildlife would allow the town to deal with other animals and not have to request further council approval. Burke told council the ordinance also would include groundhogs. The state can issue permits to allow for the population control of such animals.
The ordinance does not allow the use of firearms in a wildlife management program, Burke said. The town would need to consult with the state agency to see about including firearms in such a program.
Parker asked council to deem the ordinance an emergency so the change would take effect immediately. The matter had been placed on the agenda for the first of two readings. However, council would not meet again to approve the change on a second reading until Oct. 21. Council approved the emergency motion.
Also at the meeting, council approved an amendment to the current budget of no more than $162,013.61 for the construction of the Happy Creek Trail. The town spent $10,956.55 on materials, survey and equipment for the first phase. In the same action, council accepted a bid submitted by Racey Paving & Excavating for the construction of phase II at a cost not to exceed $137,324.60. Racey submitted the lowest of four bids for the construction of the project that extends from South Street to Criser Road.
Burke told council the contract provides 30 days for the construction of the trail. Councilmen Tharpe and Eugene Tewalt voiced concerns about building the trail during colder temperatures and that they would rather see the contractor wait until spring to perform the paving if the weather becomes a problem. Burke said the contractor should be able to begin work on the project next Monday once the necessary permits are obtained.
Burke advised that someone would be on site to observe the work on the next phase of the project.
The town has been working with David Means and the tree stewards on the path for the trail. Burke told council that Means and the town believe there are no tree-related issues with the route selected and surveyed for the trail. Tewalt said he wanted to make sure the tree stewards would have no problems with the project that could hold up the trail's completion.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org