Warren may pay bigger share of jail costs

By Alex Bridges

FRONT ROYAL — Construction of the regional jail in Warren County remains on track and well within budget, officials say.

But the latest inmate population numbers for the three participating jurisdictions show Warren County may end up paying a higher share of the ongoing costs when the jail opens next year.

The Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail Authority board on Thursday heard updates on the project, including the construction, financing and spending.

Board Chairman Douglas Stanley, county administrator for Warren County, noted the importance of inmate numbers and each jurisdiction’s share.

“I know we’re all looking to see this transition into something that we actually have to start budgeting for on the local level,” Stanley said. “Part of that driver is the inmate population numbers and part of our service agreement had some language in there as far as how the funding is allocated.”

Mitch Brigulio, a representative of Davenport & Company, a consulting firm that has worked with board on the jail project, gave more details about inmate populations and assumptions. Stanley said the board would likely see at its meeting next month a new financial model on the projected costs to each county.

Brigulio explained that as the authority board approaches the creation of the fiscal 2015 budget, it will need to determine the costs of the jail for the facility’s first year of operation. The regional jail authority will determine the local share of the jail costs through a three-year average of the daily population.

Without a history to calculate three-year, rolling average, Brigulio said jurisdictions will pay the authority for the number of inmates for which they budgeted at the outset of the fiscal year. This gives a level of comfort not only to the board but also the Virginia Resources Authority and the bond-holders to show the authority has the money to pay for its fixed costs and debt service, Brigulio said.

A service agreement for the jail allows for adjustments throughout the year based on changes in operating expenses. Fluctuating inmate numbers would affect operating expenses, Brigulio said.

Stanley pointed out that Warren’s numbers have increased significantly in recent years, over the estimates made about five years ago. Shenandoah County’s numbers have dropped.

Stanley noted that the authority doesn’t know if these changes are an anomaly or a trend. But Warren County Sheriff Daniel McEathron said his jail’s inmate population has consistently increased since May.

In fiscal 2011 the share of the total inmate population were as follows: 7.22 percent in Rappahannock County, 42.20 percent in Shenandoah County and 50.59 percent in Warren County. The numbers in fiscal 2012 changed to 5.62 percent in Rappahannock County, 41.69 percent in Shenandoah County and 52.69 in Warren County.

However, in fiscal 2013 through May 31, 2013, the numbers show a major shift: 4.42 percent in Rappahannock County, 31.96 percent in Shenandoah County and 63.62 percent in Warren County. The numbers for the total average daily population include inmates in work release and held in other jails.

Also at the meeting, the authority’s owner representative for the project, James Marstin, told the board that construction remains on schedule. The contract calls for substantial completion of the project by March 28 and final completion by April 28. The jail is set to open in July.

Shenandoah County Budget Manager Garland Miller reported that the jail authority has spent more than $101,000 of the $3.9 million of the bond money allocated for the transition. Miller noted that the authority can expect to draw more money at a quicker pace in the spring as the project nears completion.

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