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Strasburg to buy land for public works site

By Alex Bridges

Strasburg plans to buy land in the recently annexed industrial park for a new public works facility.

Town Council approved a motion at a special meeting Thursday to direct Town Manager Judson Rex to enter into a contract with the Shenandoah County Industrial Development Authority to buy 12 acres at a price of $24,000 per acre or $288,000. The land owned by the IDA lies in the North Shenandoah Industrial and Business Park and fronts Borden Mowery Drive to the east of First Bank. The IDA approved the town's offer on Tuesday.

Council voted 7-1 on the motion. Councilman Rich Orndorff Jr. voted against the motion, saying Friday that he preferred a second, nine-acre site close to Radio Station Road and U.S. 11. Though more expensive, Orndorff said more of the nine-acre site could be developed and would allow the department to expand if necessary.

"You're not comparing apples to apples because you're not getting the same amount of buildable land," Orndorff said. "I just thought it was a bad investment for the amount of buildable acres.

The department may not fit all of its supplies and materials in the area of chosen site usable for development, Orndorff said. The department would need to keep supplies off site, he added.

Orndorff noted that the site lies in an area of the park considered for commercial or retail development and said a public works building may not fit in with those kinds of businesses. Orndorff said it makes more sense to put the building near Mercury Paper and nearby industrial users.

The 12 acres should meet the needs of the department, Rex said by email Friday. Town officials estimate that the chosen site contains about 3.5 acres available for development without relocating any of the overhead power lines, Rex said. The town could free up one acre by relocating one of the lines. Rex said the department could put storage outside the 3.5 acres.

Town officials plan to take into consideration the potential commercial development along Va. 55 as it designs the department facility, Rex said. As the town manager explained, the site lies at Borden Mowery Drive and Colley Block Road -- an important intersection within the park.

The town has entered into a contract with English Construction to design and build a new facility for the Department of Public Works. The current department space is needed for the expansion of the town's wastewater treatment plant.

The contract price for the new department facility of $3.5 million does not include the cost for the land and other needs related to the project. The town will use $1.5 million from savings to cover the additional costs, including the price of the land for the facility.

Town officials considered the site for its proximity to utilities such as water and sewer as well as natural gas and fiber-optic cable.

"But, for all intents and purposes it's in pretty good shape for moving forward," Rex added. "It's a good site. We feel it will be a good fit for our Department of Public Works facility."

Town officials say they hope to close on the sale with the IDA in the next 30 days. The town then would issue a notice to proceed with the contractor. The town has some work to complete outside the contract to bring water and sewer utilities directly to the building pad, Rex said. The town also is responsible for other site work. Rex said he expects the project to take about a year to complete.

The town needed only about five acres for the facility. Not all of the 12 acres can be used, Rex said. Two electrical power transmission lines cross the property and take up a large portion of the 12 acres. A pad area next to First Bank covers approximately 3.5 acres. The town seeks to use that part of the property for the main building and then develop adjacent land for outdoor storage facilities.

"We don't know the specific amount of work that will be needed until we get further into the design process," Rex said. "But it is fully wooded right now so it'll need to be cleared and graded and some excavation work that will need to be done as well.

The town would only clear out what part of the wooded area needs to be removed for the project, Rex said. The town plans to keep some of the trees as part of a buffer between the site and an area to the south planned for future residential development, Rex said.

Work to extend Borden Mowery Drive continues and the current section lies in about the middle of the site for the public works facility. But with an anticipated completion in the spring, Rex said the work on the road shouldn't interfere with the public works facility project.

The project budget also includes money for unforeseen hurdles such as rock. The town has had geotechnical testing and soil surveys performed on the property.

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

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