Jail Authority supports trolley proposal

FRONT ROYAL – The Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail Authority voted unanimously Thursday to participate in efforts to establish trolley service along U.S. 340/522.

The jail authority’s interest in the project stems from a desire to find safe, reliable, affordable transportation for work release inmates traveling to and from their jobs. Jail officials have been worried about the safety of inmates walking along the highway and the hardships of traveling on foot in bad weather.

A smaller number of inmates are able to reach their workplaces by finding rides with individuals approved by the jail administration or by taking a cab at a cost of up to $10 per round trip.

Douglas Stanley, chairman of the authority, said he has been trying to line up a public-private partnership to pay for part of the trolley. The funding sources would include the jail, local businesses that would benefit from the service, and the Warren County Board of Supervisors.

“For the jail, it’s about getting our guys better transportation,” Stanley said.

The trolley service would cost an estimated $183,300 in the first year, more than two-thirds of which would be paid for by the federal and state governments. Of the remaining $59,656, the jail would pay for about $20,000.

Authority members made no decisions about how the jail would raise the money. Suggestions included using money from the jail commissary where inmates make small purchases for snacks and other items. A separate user fee charged to work release prisoners using the trolley was also mentioned.

The trolley service would be available to all members of the public. Stanley said local businesses would benefit from having the trolley as an alternative mode of transportation for customers and employees, including work release inmates, who don’t have a car or are unable to drive.

A recent survey found that 105 of 160 respondents would use the trolley to travel to stores and other businesses along the highway. The survey also showed that 72 respondents did not have a vehicle available to them everyday.

Stanley said he still needed to line up support from local businesses, and the Board of Supervisors to support the project.

“This is not a done deal by any stretch of the imagination,” he said.

Also on Thursday, Stanley noted that a possible partnership between the Jail Authority and Page County has died.

Stanley said he learned a few months ago that Page County had decided to stick with the Middle River Regional Jail in Staunton as its alternative location for inmates who cannot be housed at the facility in Luray.

Stanley said he learned of the decision through a newspaper story and a follow-up conversation with Page County Administrator Amy Moler.

“Unless they come back to us, it’s over with,” Stanley said.

Page County officials approached RSW almost two years ago about a cooperative agreement of some kind that would allow female inmates from Page County to be placed at the Warren County facility. The Page County jail is not certified to take female inmates, who were being sent to the Middle River Jail for $38 per day at the time.

By mid-year 2015, the jail authority agreed to enter into negotiations with Page County officials about adding their jurisdiction to the jail authority. Months of discussion and data gathering ensued.

Page County officials were looking to lower the amount they paid for housing inmates outside their Luray headquarters.

Stanley said Middle River subsequently reduced the rate it charges Page County, a move that led to the decision to remain with the Staunton facility.

RSW officials believe they have enough space to cover 20 to 30 years of jail population growth, but the addition of Page County would likely have shortened the time when it reached full capacity.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com.