Money, timing play role in academy vote

A criminal justice training academy chief says timing and money likely kept Shenandoah County from leaving the regional school, its director said Tuesday.

The Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office and the Department of Emergency Communications had 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 the school opens. Members of the academy in Weyers Cave instead voted against the county agencies’ requests.

Randy Mullins, director of the Central Shenandoah Criminal Justice Academy, spoke to the Board of Supervisors at their Tuesday meeting about the vote to deny the requests.

“I personally don’t have any say in the matter of who leaves the academy, who stays, nor can I really answer the question of how each member votes,” Mullins said. “Each member votes his own conscience … I can give you an idea of why. If I were going to be a voting member, I would vote no because it would take away revenue from the academy, and if you look at revenues our incoming revenues are very limited.”

The academy derives much of its revenue from annual fees paid by member agencies and state funding, Mullins explained. The state revenue, he said, is based on the academy’s proportion of the total number of officers in the state. The academy has approximately 1,800 people who train at the school – roughly 12 percent of the state population of police officers and emergency communications workers, he said. If the academy loses members and the percentage drops to 10 percent, the school loses membership fees and state revenue, Mullins said. The academy would need to increase membership fees to cover the loss in revenue if an agency leaves, he said.

Chairman Conrad Helsley asked Mullins if the academy allowed members to leave in the past. Mullins said the academy had let members leave. Mullins noted that open enrollment occurs every five years and three agencies left in 2011. This year, one of the agencies returned and another wanted to rejoin but could not work it out, he said. Agencies in Timberville and Louisa joined.

Vice Chairman Richard Walker told Mullins that the head of Shenandoah County’s Emergency Communication Center, R. Jason Malloy, doesn’t have access to required training through the academy and therefore has to send his employees to other facilities. Walker asked Mullins if his academy would reimburse the county for the cost to send the employees to other facilities for training. Mullins went on to say that sometimes member agencies don’t realize what the academy offers in time to enroll an employee.

“There are various reasons that someone might miss an opportunity but the opportunities are there,” Mullins said. “In fact, we met with the (Emergency Communications Center) people individually and we asked them what they wanted and we started to build a training schedule that we felt was more than adequate only to have the ECC people say wait a minute, you’ve got so much training, we don’t have enough people to send.

“So I would suggest that maybe that’s a communication problem,” Mullins added. “I don’t know what they’re looking for that we’re not providing.”

Helsley pointed out that the academy recently bought land in Rockingham County and asked for a $4.5 million bond and asked Mullins if fees would increase as a result of the loan. Mullins said the academy used a consultant to determine if it could afford to borrow the money. The academy also expects to add to its rainy day fund.

The academy received favorable terms on its loan for the property, Mullins said. The academy also sees its debt payments decrease by about $60,000 a year.

“We’re very stable and I would not look for anybody to start increasing rates in the next five to 10 years,” Mullins said.

Shenandoah County’s agencies could save at least $15,000 a year by switching to the academy in Front Royal, Helsley said. The chairman noted that, in addition to a vote to allow the county to leave, members would then decide any penalty for the departure. The county didn’t receive enough support to leave so they never entered the second part of the process.

Helsley went on to say that it appears the county has no option and must stay. Mullins agreed, then said the county could still approach the academy board with the request to leave and a proposal to pay the locality’s share of the debt service. The academy does have the power to consider a request outside the 5-year window as required under state code, Mullins said. The academy has not required any agency pay its share of the debt service to leave, Mullins added. He suggested that Shenandoah County not leave to join the new academy immediately given that the facility likely would have “bugs” at the outset. Mullins went on to say he would want to know the local cost to enroll people in the new academy.

Helsley had asked District 1 Supervisor John R. “Dick” Neese to talk to New Market officials and see why they voted against the county’s requests. Town officials chose to stay for financial reasons, Neese said. District 4 Supervisor Cindy Bailey said she didn’t talk to the chief of the Woodstock Police Department about his reason for abstaining from voting on the requests, noting that she wouldn’t second-guess his decision.

Mullins said, “Timing is a huge piece of this.” The academy let agencies go five years ago. At some point, the academy members looked at the situation and raised concerns that letting more agencies leave might put the facility in a difficult financial situation, Mullins said.

“For me it’s kind of bittersweet: I’m glad Shenandoah stayed with us and the sheriff is wonderful, the department’s wonderful and I’m glad in that regard and I’m glad it’s not going to change our finances,” Mullins said. “But part of me is a little bit sad about it because I know it’s not their desire to stay.”

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

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