Board names firm to design $2.2 million E911 center

WOODSTOCK – Shenandoah County leaders on Tuesday directed architects working on a new Sheriff’s Office headquarters to incorporate into the design a future home for the 911 center.

The Board of Supervisors voted 5-1 to authorize Grimm and Parker Architects to continue the design of a new emergency communications center in conjunction with the work underway on the Sheriff’s Office complex. District 3 Supervisor Richard Walker voted against the motion.

The board received a preliminary report from Grimm and Parker on Feb. 1 after supervisors asked the firm in January to provide conceptual planning, renderings, a timeline and cost estimate for adding the county’s emergency communications center to the Sheriff’s Office complex design. The report noted that a communications center would add approximately $2.2 million to the overall cost and extend the completion deadline by about four months.

Walker asked if any cost analysis had been performed to look at how the county could finance the construction of an emergency communications center and the effect on the locality’s overall debt. County Administrator Mary T. Price said no such analysis had been performed and her proposed fiscal 2019 budget did not include the estimated cost of the communications center. Walker voiced concerns that the county is moving too fast to approve the additional project.

“Right now we’re throwing in $162,000 worth of unbudgeted expenses in the current year,” Walker said. “Before I contract to build a building I usually like to know how it’s gonna be financed, paid back and all that sort of thing. I really think we’re moving a little fast as far as the financial commitment without knowing where the money’s gonna be coming from.”

The county needs to move forward on the design for the emergency communications center so as not to delay the Sheriff’s Office complex project, Chairman Conrad Helsley said. Further study of the communications center would delay the work on the other project and the cost likely would increase, he added.

Authorization by the board commits the county to proceed with completing the design and construction documents for the communication center’s incorporation into the Sheriff’s Office complex. The board hired Grimm and Parker two years ago to design the new home for the Sheriff’s Office on county-owned property on North Main Street in the northern end of Woodstock.

The county would need to spend $162,045 for the additional design, engineering and construction administration fees. The motion approved by the board Tuesday included an amendment to the fiscal 2018 budget to increase the use of the unassigned fund balance, or savings, to offset this expense. County officials do not expect to spend the entire $162,045 this fiscal year ending June 30.

Assistant County Administrator Evan Vass told the board Tuesday that the proposed fiscal 2019 budget does not include the $2.2 million for the emergency communications center. Staff did not assume the board would want to move forward with the design of a communications center, Vass said. The budget only includes the estimated cost to build a new Sheriff’s Office complex. Helsley noted that the cost to replace the emergency communications center equipment alone is estimated at $10 million.

During the public comment period earlier in the meeting, resident Ken Cruise pointed out that the county likely would need to borrow the $2.2 million needed to build a new emergency communications center. Cruise suggested that the board consider borrowing the money by issuing general obligation bonds that would require the county to put the matter on the ballot as an election referendum and allow voters to voice their support or opposition for increasing local debt.