Town breaks ground on future police headquarters

Front Royal Police Chief Kahle Magalis prepares for the groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday for the police department's new headquarters off Viscose Avenue. Rich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL – Town leaders, officials and law enforcement officers – past and present – broke ground Wednesday for the police department’s future home.

Mayor Hollis Tharpe led the event in the former Avtex Fibers parking lot at Kendrick Lane and Monroe Avenue, flanked by current and former town officials and elected leaders. The group donned hard hats and dug the “golden” shovels into the packed gravel for the ceremonial groundbreaking. More than a dozen police department officers joined the group for the event. Former Chief Richard Furr and current Chief Kerry L. “Kahle” Magalis II participated in the ceremony.

It took about five minutes for those in attendance to break ground on one of the town’s most costly capital projects in recent years.

“We’re gonna be making history,” Tharpe told the crowd. “This will be the first building for the Police Department that the town of Front Royal has built and it’s the second since 1935.

“Council set out on a journey three years ago and it has done its due diligence,” Tharpe added. “It has checked and rechecked and double checked our figures, the building, the need and we’re happy to be here today to actually break ground.”

Front Royal Mayor Hollis Tharpe speaks during the groundbreaking ceremony for Front Royal's new police headquarters Wednesday. Rich Cooley/Daily

Construction should reach substantial completion Oct. 31, Tharpe said, with the contractor finishing the project a month later.

Former Mayor Timothy Darr, who stepped down in December 2016, called the groundbreaking an important moment for town residents and the Police Department.

“Our public servants that serve us in this community do an outstanding job and for many years they’ve been slighted … not having the proper facilities and places to do so,” Darr said. “I’m glad I could be a part of the fact that now we’re giving them what they need to do their job.

“It’s been a long time coming and Chief Furr can attest to that and Chief Magalis and this is something that is very important and I think Hollis said it very well, and congratulations to the town and the citizens for taking this effort and making it worthwhile,” Darr added. “It’s gonna be a beautiful building.”

Former Councilman Thomas Sayre and now Shenandoah District representative on the Warren County Board of Supervisors recalled looking with Tharpe for possible locations and the Kendrick Lane site ranked first.

Furr also spoke about the groundbreaking.

“I’m just glad to see the town make an investment in their police department,” Furr said.

Retired department employee Janice Hart commented, “Well, it’s about damn time.”

Magalis, who worked as a major for the Warren County Sheriff’s Office before taking over the town department, said it was an honor to participate in the groundbreaking. He said he looked forward to moving out of the former Sheriff’s Office building.

The Town Council voted Oct. 10 to award a contract to Dustin Construction, of Ijamsville, Maryland, for $7.73 million. The total estimated cost of $12 million could change depending on available finance rates, according to information from Town Manager Joseph Waltz. The town plans to pay off the loan through the New Market Tax Credits Program. The Town Council approved a resolution Oct. 10 to use the tax credit program for up to $10 million to cover the cost of the project. The town has spent $497,071 on the project to date.

The project includes the construction of the main building covering 15,751 square feet plus a 7,208-square-foot support facility.

The town pays Warren County $50,537 per year to lease space in the former Sheriff’s Office building downtown.

The Town Council voted in late September 2013 to approve the purchase of 5.2 acres from the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority at the intersection for $36,000, or $7,000 per acre. The town paid for the land with money collected from revenue generated by an increase in the real estate tax rate. At the time, the council also authorized then Town Manager Steve Burke to enter into an agreement with Warren County to lease the former Sheriff’s Office building for $4,000 per month. The council would seek to extend the lease in April 2015 as the town continued to work with consultants on the design of the headquarters. The town also continued to raise the tax rate to cover spending needs including the increasing cost to build the police headquarters.

In June 2015, the council approved a proposal from Moseley Architects to design the facility for up to $490,000. Moseley proposed a two-year schedule to design the project, seek bids and construct the facility. At the time, Burke put the estimated cost to construct the project at $4 million.

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