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Strasburg OKs funds for department move

By Alex Bridges

STRASBURG -- A local property owner has offered to provide the town with space for its public works department after the building was evacuated last week due to safety issues.

But Town Council on Tuesday stopped short of giving the administration all the money it had requested to cover the cost to house the department in two separate spaces.

Town Manager Judson Rex told council Tuesday that Byron Brill has agreed to let the department use space at H.L. Borden Hardware & Lumber at 385 E. King St. The department will use the warehouse to hold supplies and materials.

"We've worked with the owner there and he's been very accommodating and very useful for us and [we're] grateful for his accommodations there, both from a timing standpoint and a cost standpoint," Rex said.

Town Council voted 8-0 to allow the administration to spend up to $30,000 from contingency funds to cover the cost to move into and use the warehouse. The town would pay $800 per month in rent for the 4,000 square feet of space. That rate doesn't include utilities and the town would need to spend some money to get power to the space.

Rex estimated the town would pay about $700 per month for electricity. Over two years, the town likely would pay $36,000 in rent.

The town did not have to issue a request for bids to provide the space needed, Rex explained Wednesday. The Virginia Public Procurement Act that outlines how local governments can spend money does not address Strasburg's situation, Rex said.

"We still took ourselves through a process of obtaining multiple options and quotes and looking at different options so that we could effectively spend the money and find the best space," Rex said. "Our own internal fiscal controls require us to get multiple quotes on any purchases."

The town did not receive any offers less than Brill's, Rex said.

The town also did not need to hold a public hearing on the spending request because the current budget already includes the funds, Rex said.

The town will temporarily run the department's administrative functions out of space at the former water treatment plant building on Queen Street. Rex said the space at the former plant would need some improvements.

The money would come out of the town's general fund as well as its separate water and sewer funds. The motion approved by council also calls for the administration to repay the funds with any money the town may receive from an insurance claim.

Rex had asked council to appropriate up to $90,000 out of contingency funds to cover the costs over the next 18-24 months. The town manager noted that normally the administration would ask for contingency funds to cover specific costs. But, given the early stages of the emergency, Rex said they have not devised a list of specific items the town needs.

But some council members said they didn't want to give the administration a blank check and suggested instead that they give him $30,000 out of the current budget. The administration can then come back to council if and when more money is needed out of those funds.

Officials vacated the public works department building, referred to as the town shop, last week after engineers found numerous deficiencies in the structure. While not in danger of collapse, town officials decided to move out of the building out of caution. Town Council held an emergency meeting March 27 to hear from Rex about the development and the administration limited access to the building.

The department moved its supplies and equipment from the second floor of the building by Tuesday afternoon, Rex said.

The department is expected to move into a new building in the North Shenandoah Industrial and Business Park off Va. 55 when it is built in about two years.

As for the fate of the town shop, Rex said officials are considering demolition or reusing the building, though they are leaning toward the former option.

Earlier in the regular meeting, resident Kim Bishop suggested the town look into the possibility of getting the people responsible for building the structure to pay for some of the costs associated with the evacuation. Town staff built the structure in the mid 1990s without the services of an architect or engineer. As Rex pointed out, the town likely did not receive the proper permits for the building at the time. However, Shenandoah County, which handles building inspections for the towns, destroys records after three years so documents related to the original construction are no longer available, Rex explained.

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

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