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Town joins county on inspections software

By Alex Bridges

Front Royal plans to join Warren County in upgrading building inspections software -- a cost that left some leaders concerned.

Town Council voted 4-2 to approve spending up to $50,000 this fiscal year to participate with Warren County in the purchase of planning and building inspections software from EnerGov. Front Royal did not earmark money in the current budget to cover the cost of its share of the software. Money would need to come from the contingencies line in the budget, town officials said.

Warren County leaders spent months discussing a proposal to upgrade the building inspections software and hardware. The county also invited the town to participate in the system. Such participation has been touted as a way to further connect the town and county building inspections work.

The Board of Supervisors in October 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.

The town's share covers 25 percent of the initial price for the software and related equipment. Town Manager Steven Burke said Front Royal also will pay 25 percent of the annual maintenance costs that he estimated at $15,000-$20,000.

Vice Mayor N. Shae Parker and Councilman Eugene Tewalt voted against the motion.

"I know most of you all don't agree with me but I don't think it's right to take money from the general fund to buy things during the middle of the year," Tewalt said. "This is $50,000 that we're going to take out of our general fund contingencies. That was really set aside for special projects. This is not a special project in my book.

"This is something that I really don't think we need," Tewalt added. "I think it's something that we think we may need but I really don't think we need it at this time and, because it's coming out of the general fund, I made a commitment that I will not vote for anything coming out of the general fund unless it's something of an emergency or something that we really need."

Parker echoed Tewalt's concerns. Parker asked Planning Director Jeremy Camp if he felt his department had a better use for the $50,000.

"I think that it's something that's needed in the long term," Camp said. "I think it's sort of like a gym membership -- I think it's going to be kind of painful in the beginning from my perspective. But I think it's going to kind of help between the county and the town."

Camp said the town would need this kind of software if Front Royal would seek to set up its own building inspections department.

Councilman Bret Hrbek said he supported the motion as long as the town's joining the county in using the service doesn't interfere with any effort by Front Royal to set up its own building inspections department.

Camp said Front Royal would set up a separate contract with EnerGov and pay the provider directly rather than paying the county. EnerGov recommended the town use a separate contract given that Front Royal may set up its own building inspections program in the future, Camp said.

Parker questioned the motion before council in light of the proposal that the town would seek to sign a contract with EnerGov separately from the county. Camp said the town and county would still move forward together in using the software.

Burke advised a delay in moving forward with the county on the purchase could result in the town's share of the initial cost rising above the current $50,000.

Camp said the county approved the purchase of the software with the understanding that the town would participate and thus cover its share of the cost. In fact, over the course of several meetings and work sessions, the Board of Supervisors waited to hear from the town on whether or not it would join the county in buying the software.

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

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