Town seeks safety net for phones

FRONT ROYAL – After a recent Town Hall power outage knocked the Police Department’s phones offline, the Town Council is considering purchasing a back-up power generator.

Town Manager Joe Waltz said in addition to the Town Hall’s phones, other critical lines that went down during the outage included the Police Department’s non-emergency number and a data collector for its body and in-car cameras.

He said it was an oversight that no generator has been installed since the Town Hall was moved to its 1 East Main St. location five years ago. He said he hates asking for money, “I truly feel it is necessary to get going.”

Town Energy Services Director David Jenkins proposed a 60-kilowatt generator “that would carry the whole building” and automatically reboot power during outages. Estimated costs are $82,500. He suggested installing the generator in the Town Hall parking lot in a handicap space near the necessary utility pole.

Waltz said Town Hall’s lack of a generator is an “oversight” and “we survived for almost five years without it catching us empty-handed.” He said the phone system was previously housed in the Police Department, which has a generator.

Jenkins said the generator would emit up to 72 decibels, which falls somewhere between the “range of a passenger car at 65 miles per hour and a vacuum.” It would not constantly be on, but “exercise itself” a few times a week.

“So that’s not too terribly loud,” Jenkins said.

Councilman Gary Gillipsie asked if it would be more economically feasible to place the generator on the Town Hall’s roof. Councilman Eugene Tewalt said that would necessitate an engineering study, which would most likely negate any possible savings. Waltz said all possible spaces would be examined before the generator’s final location is determined.

Councilman Jacob Meza said he “is having a little bit of a hard time understanding the need.” He noted that the town will spend nearly $300,000 on generators for the new Police Department headquarters, and wondered if all the communications equipment could be placed there.

Waltz said the town did not want to “put all of its eggs in one basket.”

Waltz explained that some communications equipment is housed at Town Hall and the Police Department because “you need both hubs.” He said all the phone lines come into Town Hall, and “some of the more technical stuff” will be housed at the Police Department.

“Right now what we’re trying to do is position ourselves where if we lose one hub or the other, at least we can operate in some fashion,” Waltz said.