Supervisor suggests counties switch at jail

WOODSTOCK — A Shenandoah County supervisor says the board should look into swapping places with Page County at the regional jail in Warren County.

But Shenandoah County Sheriff Timothy Carter — still a critic of the regional jail concept — accused Supervisor Cindy Bailey and board Chairman David Ferguson on Wednesday of playing “political gamesmanship” with the issue.

Bailey asked at the board meeting Tuesday that county administration come back with information on how much local money has been invested in the regional jail. Bailey said that amount could be used as a starting point in a negotiation with Page County.

“I’m sure it would be favorable from the community if there was a way that Page County could take our place over there at the regional jail and we could continue on with building our own jail and sheriff’s office here as that was also one of the options,” Bailey said.

Ferguson voiced support for Bailey’s request.

“I think that’s a fair request, especially if the sheriff has indicated that he’ll pay for that entire local jail and he has land to build it on,” Ferguson said. “So, if that can happen, we should be without any debt and have a local jail.”

Page County rents space at the Middle River Regional Jail in Augusta County and has received an offer to “buy into” that jail.

Page County officials approached the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail Authority Board last week to see if it would be interested in letting Page County buy into the Warren County facility and at what cost, Carter explained. The RSW board made no commitments at that time but referred the request to the Finance and Personnel Committee for more discussion.

The RSW Regional Jail Authority Service Agreement, reached by the three counties in 2010, states that any eligible local government can join the authority with the approval of its governing body and the members of the authority. Likewise, any member of the authority can withdraw from the entity by a resolution or ordinance of its governing body. However, no member jurisdiction can withdraw from the authority “after any obligation has been incurred and remains outstanding except by unanimous vote of all member jurisdictions.”

Page County became involved in negotiations with officials in Warren and Rappahannock counties years ago when Page was considering building a regional jail in or near Luray. When that idea fell through, Page County withdrew from the regional jail discussion.

Timothy C. Carter

But Carter says the idea of Page taking Shenandoah County’s place is a no-go.

“My opinion is you have two supervisors that are involved in political gamesmanship right now,” Carter said. “It’s political games being played and I don’t think it serves the county well when we do that.”

Carter opposed Shenandoah County’s involvement in the regional jail from the beginning and says he still criticizes the concept of such a facility. Carter, who originally proposed that the county build a new local jail, continued to push for that alternative.

“But the decision was made … and I don’t know how that can be changed,” Carter said. “I don’t know if you can change it legally.”

The sheriff spent a year transitioning from the local jail to participating in the regional facility that opened July 1.

“I don’t believe that there’s anyone seriously that would begin to think that we would sit down and have a righteous conversation over changing direction at this point after the county has contractually obligated itself,” Carter said. “But that doesn’t change my mind that I thought it was a bad decision. I think it’s a bad decision now but, at the same time, it is what it is.”

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

Timothy C. Carter