Proposed E911 center project raises concerns

MOUNT JACKSON – A group of Republicans want Shenandoah County leaders to consider alternatives to building a $2.2 million new home for the emergency dispatch center.

Critics of the county’s spending policies also want the Board of Supervisors to let voters decide whether or not the locality should borrow the money necessary to build and equip the new center.

Supervisors recently decided to pull from the discussion of the fiscal 2019 budget all spending related to a new emergency communications center as well as the proposed Sheriff’s Office. The actual cost of both projects remains undetermined, County Administrator Mary T. Price said Monday. Any fiscal 2019 budget approved by the supervisors would not include the projects. However, as Price explained, the board would need to hold a public hearing if it chooses to amend the budget and the costs equal at least 1 percent of the approved spending plan.

Replacement of the communications center equipment could cost roughly $10 million, according to one estimate. A new facility for the center could cost approximately $2.2 million. Some residents have questioned why the county couldn’t expand the existing space used by the center rather than construct a new building. County officials have said that a dispatch center must operate during an equipment upgrade and there is not enough room in the existing space to do both.

The Republican Women of Shenandoah County met Saturday to discuss the projects and the potential cost to taxpayers. Former District 5 Supervisor Marsha Shruntz, District 3 Supervisor Richard Walker and S. John Massoud, vice president of two Northern Virginia area taxicab companies, spoke to the group about the county’s pursuit of replacing the emergency communications center equipment and potentially building a new facility for the department.

Shruntz provided information to the group about the kinds of bonds the county could seek to cover the cost of the projects. The county can issue general obligation bonds but must pose the question to voters as a ballot referendum at an election. The county can bypass the voters by issuing moral obligation bonds, which the Board of Supervisors did years ago to borrow the funds to build the General District Court facility. The Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail Authority also issued moral obligation bonds on behalf of the participating counties to cover the cost of the jail facility.

Massoud told the group about dispatch centers for his taxi companies, the space needed and the option to use office trailers.

Supervisors have asked for information on interest rates and annual payments for each type of bond to see what option might best benefit the county, Walker said.