Academy denies county’s request to leave

WOODSTOCK – A potential funding loss likely prompted a law-enforcement training academy to deny Shenandoah County from leaving to join another school.

The Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office and the Department of Emergency Communications sought to leave the Central Shenandoah Criminal Justice Training Academy in Weyers Cave. The agencies intended to join the planned Skyline Regional Criminal Justice Academy in Front Royal once that school opens.

But members of the academy in Weyers Cave recently voted down Shenandoah County’s request. County Administrator Mary T. Price and R. Jason Malloy, director of emergency communications, advised the Board of Supervisors on Thursday of the academy’s decision. Specifically, the county agencies did not receive enough votes by the academy members present to leave.

Randy Mullins, director of the Central Shenandoah Criminal Justice Academy, was not available for comment.

Sheriff Timothy C. Carter said Friday he was disappointed by the vote. Had the members voted in favor of the request, they then would vote on whether or not to impose a penalty for withdrawal, Carter explained. Had the academy board voted in favor of the withdrawal request and then decided on a monetary penalty, county officials then would need to decide if leaving the school would be prudent given the cost.

“Of course I’ve never seen anyone not get an affirmative vote to leave,” Carter said.

The sheriff has said he did not intend to politicize the request.

“Here you have a locality that thinks that, you know, it’s more cost-effective to go a different direction and they’re not even allowed to leave even with a penalty,” Carter added. “That’s, to me, an example of, you know, a locality losing control of its own destiny.”

No appeals process exists, Carter said.

Supervisors adopted a resolution in August supporting the Sheriff’s Office’s desire to leave the academy.

Malloy, who attended the academy meeting, recalled the action by the members present.

“Essentially, when it came up for a vote there were questions from … some of the member agencies about the amount of revenue that would be lost by both agencies transferring to another academy,” Malloy said. “That’s both in the form of member fees and there’s also some revenue that comes in from the state based on a formula of the number of people you have at your particular academy.”

Any time an agency withdraws, the academy must increase the fees the remaining members must pay, District 4 Supervisor Cindy Bailey said. Academies must go through the state Criminal Justice Services Board in order to raise fees charged to members, Malloy added.

Assistant County Administrator Evan Vass further explained the situation and likely motive.

“It’s an economies-of-scale issue, I think,” Vass said. “Their fees are generated through membership and, yeah, the impact to a large jurisdiction leaving has the implication to make everybody else’s fees go up, so I’m sure that plays into the decision.”

The academy voted to add police departments in Timberville and Louisa, roughly 16 people, Malloy said. However, the school would have lost 79 assigned people in the Sheriff’s Office and 18 in the Department of Emergency Communications if it had allowed Shenandoah County agencies to withdraw.

Questions were answered and members voted without explaining their reasons, Malloy recalled. The Sheriff’s Office and the Department of Emergency Communications each had a vote as separate member agencies, he said.

“Unfortunately, we were not permitted to withdraw,” Malloy said. “That process only occurs with a 2/3 vote once every five years, in October of that year. If we try to leave at any other point, it is mandated by code to be a 100-percent positive vote.”

Not all the police departments in Shenandoah County’s towns supported Carter and Malloy’s request to withdraw. New Market’s representative voted against the request, Malloy said. Mount Jackson representatives did not attend the meeting. Woodstock abstained from voting, Malloy said. Strasburg is a member of the Rappahannock Regional Criminal Justice Academy.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Conrad Helsley asked why another town voted against the county’s request after supervisors adopted the supportive resolution. No one provided an answer. He asked how the towns would know about the resolution if they weren’t made aware of the resolution. The academy postponed a previously scheduled meeting in which they likely intended to discuss the requests so they didn’t take up the matter before the vote, Malloy said.

“It doesn’t bother them that we stay there but it will cost taxpayers some money if we can’t move from one to the other,” Helsley said.

Malloy said his agency sometimes trains at the Rappahannock Regional Justice Training Academy’s satellite school in Middletown because it has offered courses not available at the Weyers Cave facility.

“Historically, there has not been training specific to communications offered by (Central) other than the basic state certification,” Malloy said.

Vice Chairman Richard Walker asked Supervisor John R. “Dick” Neese, whose district includes New Market, if he could find out why the town did not support the county agencies’ requests. Helsley asked Bailey, whose district includes Woodstock, if she could find out why that town abstained from voting.

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