County agrees to buy property

The land will be used for a future school administration building

By Alex Bridges

FRONT ROYAL — Warren County plans to buy more property for a future school administration building.

The Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to buy 125 Hillidge St., Front Royal, for $120,000. The property lies adjacent to the county government center at 220 N. Commerce Ave. and covers approximately 1/10 of an acre.

Supervisors took the action after meeting in closed session to discuss the acquisition of property.

County Administrator Douglas Stanley said after the board’s regular meeting that the 20-year facilities plan calls for the construction of a new school administration building. The county may raze the building currently on the property. But the county has no immediate plans to build on the site.

Warren County Middle School Principal Alan Fox represents the property owner, his mother, Lillian Sealock Fox, in the sale, Stanley said. Online real estate records show Lillian Fox also owns 128 Hillidge St., a larger parcel with a home.

The records show that 125 Hillidge St. has a total value, both land and a dwelling, of $58,500. Property at 128 Hillidge St. is valued at $135,200. The county owns adjacent 131 Hillidge St.

The county also owns property at 200 N. Commerce Ave., Front Royal, which it rents to Sherwin-Williams. Sherwin-Williams asked for a five-year extension and then two optional five-year extensions through 2024. Supervisors held a public hearing on the lease that ends Nov. 30, 2014. No one spoke during the hearing. The board voted to approve the requested extension.

County Attorney Blair Mitchell said at the meeting that the county doesn’t know at this time when or if it will need the Sherwin-Williams property for expansion. Mitchell said the county has negotiated with Sherwin-Williams to ensure the two parties don’t get locked into a lease that would prohibit any expansion effort. The county can terminate the lease at any time provided it gives the tenant a three-month notice prior to Sherwin-Williams giving the county a 12-month notice to seek an extension, Mitchell said.

Also at the meeting the board voted to approve spending $193,246 for zoning and building inspections computer programs provided by EnerGov Software Solutions. The county will pay an annual subscription price of $48,492 for the software.

Front Royal has the option to join the county and use the software. The town would cover approximately 25 percent of the cost of the service. Of the county’s portion, the Building Inspections Department would cover 75 percent of the cost and the Zoning Department would cover the remaining 25 percent.

Jim Bond, of the Harmony Hollow neighborhood, spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting about the software purchase. A public hearing was not held on the matter at the meeting.

“The money that would be used for that software should be used instead for improving the county’s fire departments,” Bond said. “According to my insurance company, the fire department that’s designated as first-responder for the area in which I live, Harmony Hollow, is currently the lowest-possible rating for response time.”

Bond told the board the rating comes from an agency that provides information to insurance companies for underwriting purposes. Bond didn’t name the agency.

“It would seem obvious that the money for software to improve an administrative process would be better spent on critical life and property safety functions,” Bond said.

The first-due response station for his neighborhood, Chester Gap, lies in Rappahannock County. Warren County Fire and Rescue Services does not staff the station with paid personnel.

Supervisor Richard Traczyk, who has voiced concerns with the cost of such software, pointed out that the current situation makes it difficult for developers.

“I think it’s something we need,” Traczyk said.

The Building Inspections Department began looking for ways to improve its services following a study conducted by Springsted in 2012. County and town officials have worked together to find a solution. Staff interviewed and saw presentations from at least 12 firms. Most recently those involved in the effort compared two firms — Energov and Accela Inc. Staff sought input from jurisdictions that considered either of the two firms. Information from the county indicated that of the contacts made during the process where both firms were considered, EnerGov was chosen.

Also at the meeting, supervisors:

  • Approved a lease for the former Sheriff’s Office at 23 E. Jackson St. to the Front Royal Police Department. No one spoke during a public hearing on the matter. The county will lease the building and part of the parking lot to the police department for two years at $4,000 per month, or $96,000. Mitchell said the agreement allows the county to have the other part of the parking lot for jailers and court security personnel. The lease also allows for a year extension if needed.
  • The board appointed Raymon Guy, Joy Feldmeier, Ralph Rinaldi, Bryan Chrisman and Doug Rosen to serve on the Road Review Committee. The panel will review a list of roads requested by residents for inclusion in the Virginia Department of Transportation’s rural addition program for improvements.

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