Plan lists big projects for Warren County

By Alex Bridges

Warren County’s proposed capital improvements plan drew little attention last week despite outlining millions of dollars in future projects.

The Planning Commission endorsed the updated plan and sent the document on to the Board of Supervisors for its consideration. No one spoke at the commission’s public hearing. Supervisors will hold a second hearing next month.

But the capital improvements plans play a significant role in how local governing bodies create fiscal budgets and map out spending years into the future. Planning Director Taryn Logan explained that while the document helps officials in creating budgets each year, the plan does not allocate funding to any of the projects in the list. As the introduction itself states, the document “is strictly advisory.”

“This plan really helps the board with their budgeting,” Logan said Monday. “It’s planned for and then that helps them prioritized for budget purposes.”

Larger projects, especially those constructed in more than one phase, need to remain on the list to show they still require funding, Logan explained.

For example, the Health and Human Services Complex is listed in the plan at an estimated cost of $4.65 million for 2015. The county already has completed some of the work but the project remains under construction.

The draft of the plan under review looks out through 2019. The estimated cost of the 28 projects comes to more than $106 million, $102 million of which comes from county funds. Agencies submitted requests for projects to be included in the plan and showed how each item ranked in the department. Planning department staff and the commission then worked on their own rankings.

As Logan explained, each agency submits projects for consideration. Each project must cost more than $50,000 for general government and $100,000 for schools.

The county last adopted a plan two years ago. Some projects on the plan since then have been completed. The new plan includes new projects and reflects a change in the rankings of some projects not completed. The commission ranked the projects in the plan at their December meeting.

New school facilities and improvements to existing buildings make up the largest portion of the estimated spending. The school division’s projects make up $75.4 million of the total, or 70 percent of the estimated cost of all 28 projects. The new middle school is expected to cost more than $62 million, including $22.9 million in interest payments. The plan includes renovations to Ressie Jeffries Elementary School at a cost of more than $8.5 million and improvements to A.S Rhodes Elementary School for $2.5 million.

This marks the 14th year the county has gone through the process of creating the capital improvement plan. Since fiscal 1999, plans have listed projects that cost a total of more than $140.8 million, of which $113.3 million, or 81.47 percent, were for the county school system.

Ranking by planning staff and the commission doesn’t necessarily mirror the priorities of the individual agencies. In the draft of the updated plan, the county’s participation with the Virginia Department of Transportation in the state’s cost-sharing program for road improvements ranks first on the list. The county can expect to spend approximately $4 million over the next five fiscal periods as its share of about $8 million in project costs.

The Sheriff’s Office proposes to build an indoor firearms range for training at an estimated cost of more than $3.7 million in fiscal 2015. This project fell to the bottom of the capital improvement plan’s list. It was the only project submitted by the agency. As part of the justification for the request, the Sheriff’s Office indicated it needed the range to meet certification and training requirements. The Sheriff’s Office suggested using land at the county transfer station for a 10,864-square-foot building plus added land for parking.

The Warren County Fire and Rescue Services Department offered one project — a training center estimated to cost $1.85 million. However, the capital improvements plan shows the county spending only portions of the total over five years. The proposed center would lie on approximately six acres of land at the southwest corner of the Fishnet property. The department would use the center for live-fire training exercises.

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