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Posted September 10, 2013 | Leave a comment
Town police may move into old sheriff's office
By Alex Bridges
The Front Royal Police Department needs to move out of its home sooner than town officials expected, but the department may not have far to travel.
The Warren County Sheriff's Office, vacant since the agency moved to the new public safety center, could fit the department's needs, officials say.
Town Council agreed Monday to formally ask the Warren County Board of Supervisors to allow the police department to use the former sheriff's office building at 23 E. Jackson St. The council directed Town Manager Steven Burke to send a letter to County Administrator Douglas Stanley indicating Front Royal's interest in negotiating a deal to use the sheriff's office for the police department.
The Board of Supervisors plans to take up the issue at its regular meeting next Tuesday, Stanley said Wednesday. The board will discuss the request in closed session because it falls under contract negotiation.
Police Chief Norman Shiflett explained Wednesday that on Aug. 16 pieces of plaster fell from the ceiling and broke through the dropped ceiling below. Plaster landed on several computers in the patrol room. No one was in the room at the time, Shiflett said. The plaster compound contains traces of asbestos, the chief said.
Shiflett said he hopes the department won't need to stay in the former sheriff's office for more than two or three years, but said space needs will prevent the department from moving back into the current space. The investigations division has since moved to Royal Avenue.
Officials have not yet looked into hiring a firm to conduct asbestos remediation on the building as recommended by an environmental expert.
Many buildings contain asbestos, but the substance doesn't pose a health threat unless it breaks apart and turns to airborne dust. An environmental specialist evaluated the police department building and advised that all the plaster would need to be stripped from the ceiling.
"That's quite an overhaul," Shiflett said. "It would take an extensive measure to abate all of the plaster from this building."
No one has complained about feeling ill as a result of exposure to asbestos, the chief said.
The debris has since been cleaned up and the dropped ceiling replaced.
"But we don't know if more will drop," Shiflett said.
Town officials suspect that work done several years ago to replace the heating, air conditioning and ventilation system in the building disturbed the plaster and caused pieces to fall, the chief said.
Front Royal leaders began efforts to help the department address its space needs by hiring a consultant to study the possibility of moving the agency into one of several buildings downtown or to construct a new headquarters. Shiflett said the consultant is expected to present a report on the findings of its study at the next council work session on Monday.
The recent incident has accelerated the department's move from its current site though the agency doesn't yet have a new permanent home. Shiflett noted that it took seven years for the sheriff's office to plan and ultimately move into the new public safety building.
Shiflett pointed out that the sheriff's office already comes equipped for law-enforcement operations. The sheriff's office includes a communications center, a back-up generator, evidence and interrogation rooms, door locks and security cameras.
"It's set up for police functions," Shiflett said, adding that he worked in the building with the sheriff's office for about 20 years.
The sheriff's office has a few issues. The air conditioning unit needs to be moved from the jail roof to the sheriff's office, Shiflett said.
"So how often would a police department be available like that?" Shiflett said.
Also at the meeting:
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org
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