Jail processing area gets green light from county

By Alex Bridges

WOODSTOCK — A plan to turn part of the Shenandoah County Jail into a processing area for arrested subjects should keep town police closer to home.

The Board of Supervisors at a work session Thursday voted to approve a proposal to renovate the area in the current jail at a cost of approximately $19,300 and paid for by the Sheriff’s Office.

The action ends months of study and debate over how the town police departments, particularly those south of Woodstock, would deal with the additional time needed to transport prisoners to the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail on U.S. 340-522 in Warren County set to open in July. The Shenandoah County Jail will cease to function as a jail at that point.

Law enforcement officials and other representatives of the towns in the southern end of Shenandoah County had expressed worry that the police officers would need to travel outside their jurisdictions to take arrestees to the regional jail. A study group that included County Administrator Mary Beth Price and New Market Town Manager Evan Vass began discussing the issue this past summer. Vass and Price presented a report to the board Oct. 8 in which they recommended converting part of the current jail with money identified by the sheriff’s office.

Board Vice Chairman Conrad Helsley explained at the work session that the money needed to renovate the area in the jail for processing could come from a telephone fund in the Sheriff’s Office budget. As Helsley pointed out, town police, once at the processing area, could contact the magistrate, take fingerprints and test arrested subjects for blood-alcohol levels if needed. Officers may release subjects at that point or have the arrestees transported to the regional jail. Deputies would likely have the responsibility of transporting the arrested subjects to the jail.

The board voted 6-0 to put the processing area in the current jail.

In a separate but related matter, the board discussed a proposal to add more deputies to the Sheriff’s Office. The Virginia Compensation Board has recently allowed for the county to receive funding to cover the bulk of the salaries for three additional deputies. The increase comes as a result of the state agency recognizing that the Sheriff’s Office will need to carry over three of its existing jail officers to the regional facility once it opens.

The county’s share of the three additional deputies is estimated to cost approximately $89,000, not including the cost for equipment, vehicles and uniforms.

Supervisor John R. “Dick” Neese made a motion at the work session that they approve the addition of the deputy positions as recommended by the compensation board.

Sheriff Timothy Carter has explained that the additional deputies would help his agency with the transport of arrested subjects and ultimately allow town officers to remain closer to their jurisdictions.

Carter said Friday he has requested five additional positions — two that would be funded solely by the county at a cost of approximately $101,566 and the three covered partially by the state.

A staffing study of the Sheriff’s Office indicated that the agency needed approximately two more deputies to handle increased calls for service, Carter explained.

At the work session, Carter expressed concern that the positions recommended by the compensation board were being confused with the suggestion made in the staffing study. Carter said one of the positions recommended by the compensation board would go to provide additional court services. This deputy would not be available to help transport arrestees from the local processing center.

Carter explained that he also needs to identify three jail officers who would go into training and become certified in law enforcement as deputies before the regional facility opens.

In response to a question by Chairman David Ferguson, County Attorney J. Jay Litten said the board could act on Neese’s motion at their work session or wait until their regular meeting. Neese withdrew his motion and the board agreed to revisit the matter at its Jan. 14 meeting.

Also at the work session, supervisors agreed to schedule a public hearing for Jan. 28 on the partial transfer of the county property from the Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging to Abingdon-based People Inc. People Inc. plans to build Woodstock Gardens — 11 apartments for elderly residents on the smaller of two tracts that make up the former school property.

Several years ago the Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging set its sights on moving its administrative offices from Front Royal to Woodstock. They planned to use historic tax credits and other funding sources to renovate the former school into offices, Price explained. The agency would use funding provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to build apartments for elderly residents on the other parcel across the road, Price said. The federal department had awarded the agency more than $1.2 million toward the housing project.

“Because of the misfortune of what happened with SAAA, we wanted to continue the HUD funding,” Price said. “It’s not wise to turn down HUD grant funding.”

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