Security upgrade: Courthouse has new inmate processing center

Warren County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Joe Starcher watches the video cameras inside the monitoring room in the courthouse. Additional cameras monitor activity inside and outside the courthouse for increased security. Rich Cooley/Daily
Warren County Sheriff's Office Capt. Roger Vorous uses the call box to open a secured door in the new prisoner processing area. The call box relays voice and video coverage at doors inside the facility. Personnel in the processing control center control door locks, adding extra security. Rich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL – Prisoners flow through a new $254,000 processing and holding area at the Warren County Courthouse made recently from the former jail.

County officials say they would like to add more amenities in the facility if and when money becomes available. For now, the Sheriff’s Office runs a holding area with upgraded security features and equipment as well as new accommodations for the deputies in charge of keeping an eye on the inmates in the holding area and through the courthouse.

Deputy County Administrator Robert Childress said the project made basic upgrades to accommodate prisoners at the courthouse.

The county entered into a contract with Lantz Construction Winchester to build the project for $224,824. Childress said problems that arose during construction resulted in change orders that increased the cost by $29,616. Unexpected cost increases can occur when remodeling and updating older structures, Childress said. Lantz completed the project on time.

Prisoners transported from the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail by van enter the processing area that once housed part of former county jail’s kitchen. The inmates stay in old jail cells while awaiting their court appearances. The redesigned area includes new bathrooms, office space and a kitchen as well as a security monitoring station. The holding area features upgraded security features and processing equipment.

The county began planning for the reuse of the jail as a holding area a couple of years ago shortly after the RSW Regional Jail opened on Winchester Road. However, early estimates put the cost of proposed renovations to the former jail at approximately $500,000 – a price that county officials didn’t want to pay. The county sought ways to reduce the cost by eliminating some of the amenities.

The initial design called for new holding areas for male, female and juvenile detainees, Childress said. The design also included more bathrooms, an enclosed and secured area known as a sally port for loading and unloading prisoners, significant upgrades to the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system as well as more security features, Childress said.

“But we scaled back or cut those out of initial plans in order to save funding and we’re still meeting the basic need in the prisoners,” Childress noted, adding that inmates are still separated in the old jail cells. “Now as far as future projects, I would certainly think that some of these items that we cut could certainly be considered for future projects.

“There’s nothing in the immediate future to begin any additional phases,” Childress added. “That will be dependent upon, first, need – the sheriff’s input on what would be needed – and then, of course, funding.”

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

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