Criminal justice academy gains approval

FRONT ROYAL – A new law enforcement academy took another step forward – at least on paper – Tuesday.

The Warren County Board of Supervisors voted 4-0 to approve a charter agreement and corresponding resolution for the future Skyline Regional Criminal Justice Academy. Happy Creek District Supervisor Tony Carter did not attend the meeting.

The Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail Authority, the Northwestern Regional Jail Authority, the Frederick County Emergency Communications Center, Lord Fairfax Community College, the counties of Clarke, Frederick, Rappahannock and Warren, the towns of Berryville, Front Royal, Middletown, Stephens City and Strasburg and the city of Winchester agreed to form the academy. Other members have or are expected to approve similar resolutions and charter agreements.

A private investor is working with the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority to build an $8 million training academy in the Happy Creek Technology Park. Proposals call for the construction of a 15,300-square-foot facility on 18 acres at the end of Progress Drive with a 14,000-square-foot, indoor firing range.

Warren County Sheriff Daniel T. McEathron spoke to the Board of Supervisors briefly before members voted. McEathron started the effort in 2015 to create the school for the members of the Rappahannock Regional Criminal Justice Academy who meet at the satellite facility in Middletown.

The Department of Criminal Justice Services approved the academy in May 2016 following the General Assembly’s passage of legislation to allow it to happen, McEathron recalled. Member jurisdictions directed organizers to move forward to create the academy. Governing bodies then needed to approve the charter agreement and the corresponding resolution.

Organizers expect to establish the academy effective July 1.

In response to a question from Fork District Supervisor Archie Fox, McEathron said the cost to the county comes by way of dues paid out of the Sheriff’s Office budget. Members pay $468 per employee who enrolls. Warren County has paid dues to the academy since it joined in the early 2000s.

“There’s no fiscal impact to the locality,” McEathron said. “My budget was not increased at all because of (the academy).”

Shenandoah District Supervisor Thomas Sayre asked when McEathron expected construction to begin. McEathron said he and Jennifer McDonald, executive director of the Front Royal Warren County Economic Development Authority, went before the Front Royal Planning Commission last week to discuss the academy.

Specifically, the commission considered a request by Pennoni Associates Inc., on behalf of the EDA, for a special exception to extend Progress Drive, an extension needed to accommodate the development of the academy on a new 18-acre lot. The land at the end of Progress Drive adjoins property owned by the Front Royal Limited Partnership. The developers of the academy seek to extend Progress Drive beyond the maximum length of 800 feet for dead-end streets. The Front Royal Town Council expects to take up the request at its next meeting.

The Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office and Department of Emergency Communications tried unsuccessfully last year to leave the Central Shenandoah Criminal Justice Training Academy and join the school in Front Royal.

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