Construction on new police station about halfway done

From left, Front Royal Police Chief Kahle Magalis, Randy Atkins, who is overseeing construction of police headquarters, Maj. Kevin Nicewarner and Moseley architect Chris Roman tour the construction site of the the new building. Josh Gulley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL – If all goes according to plan, Front Royal Police Department officers will receive about an  $11 million Christmas gift in the form of a new station.

Crews have been hard at work since a November 2017 groundbreaking and Randy Atkins, who is overseeing the project for the contractor, said construction is about 45 percent complete, which should allow for a Dec. 31 finish.

Chief of Police Kahle Magalis said the new, “modern” station off Kendrick Lane will be a huge upgrade from the department’s current home at 23 E. Jackson Street.

The 22,000-square-foot facility will consist of two buildings – a 17,000-square-foot main office and 4,000-square-foot support building – connected by a hallway. The station’s red brick exterior was selected in an attempt to blend in with offices across the street at the Royal Phoenix site, and Magalis noted that no decision was made on a whim while planning construction.

He said thanks for a lot of that planning is due to Maj. Kevin Nicewarner, who worked alongside Moseley Architects for three years to make the much-needed new facility a reality.

In addition to the usual police station amenities, the station will include a fitness room, which Magalis said taxpayers should not worry about funding as all of its equipment will be paid for by the Front Royal Police Foundation.

Nicewarner noted that the facility will fulfill the department’s needs for 25 years, and was designed for projected staff growth. He said whether the need for a new station will arise in 25 years will have to be considered in the future and right now he is focused on seeing construction completed.

While police officers look forward to moving in, town officials must continue considering how to pay for the $11 million facility. Town Finance Director B.J. Wilson said that the town has $410,000 set aside for construction, with more to be added to that pot when the new budget year begins in July.

Jennifer McDonald, Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority executive director, said the station will be funded through the New Market Tax Credit Program.

The program is a complex funding source that allows the town to pay interest only on the project for seven years, which she said will ultimately save around $3 million. The program allows unknown private investors to get tax breaks at the end of the seven years, at which time the town will refinance the remaining debt.

Wilson said the terms and rates in seven years are unpredictable, and there is no telling if the town will pay off remaining costs over 20 years or 40 years. He said the Town Council plans on discussing future financing plans later this month.

The station was the subject of many debates by Town Council members as to whether a tax increase was necessary this year. The board ultimately decided not to raise taxes, which left Councilman Eugene Tewalt concerned that the town may have to implement a large future increase.

Wilson said that a variety of factors could influence how construction is funded and whether a tax increase will be necessary. Those factors include upcoming new property assessments and whether the town moves forward with other projects.

Wilson said, “we’re just fine as far as this year,” adding that officials know they must identify future funding and “it’s just a matter of how we prepare for it.”