Front Royal Town Council members took action Monday to help pay for police department positions.

Council members voted to amend the fiscal 2021 budget by adding the funding of an administrative assistant position in the police department.

The Washington/Baltimore High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area LLC will provide the Front Royal Police Department a $52,035 grant to cover the salary and benefits for an administrative assistant. The position will be eliminated if funding is cut or the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area discontinues the designation.

Specifically, the council voted to approve an amendment to the fiscal 2021 budget of $39,025, or 75% of the grant, for the position. The remaining $13,010 would be included in the fiscal 2022 budget.

The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area is a federal Drug Enforcement Agency program funded by a grant that is maintained by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, according to information provided by Front Royal Police Chief Kahle Magalis.

The Northwest Regional Virginia Drug and Gang Task Force, of which Front Royal is a member, has applied for the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area designation for several years. Warren County received the designation in 2019. The task force coordinator this year identified the need for an office assistant. The position was approved in the program budget request.

Council members also granted a request by the police department to fund an additional officer position. The council voted to approve a motion to transfer $55,915 from the contingency fund in the current budget to the police department for the “attrition” position.

Magalis explains in a Sept. 2 memo to Town Council members and the mayor that he asked for additional money in his budget to hire another sworn police officer as the department struggles to keep up staffing. The police department has one vacant officer position and the chief states he expects to lose three more veteran officers in the next year. Historically, the department has had two vacancies in the last 12 months, five vacancies in the past three years and 11 vacancies over five years, according to information from Magalis. The department also can expect to see two officers retiring the next year. These numbers do not include factors that contribute to increased, unplanned employee turnover, which Magalis states are likely to occur considering the social climate and legislation.

The department could not begin the hiring process until the position becomes available. The hiring process takes more than six weeks for applicants not already certified by the Department of Criminal Justice Services, but it takes another 39 weeks for a new hire to begin working full duty for the department, Magalis notes.

The hiring of an attrition position could help immediately fill the gap when the three officers retire, Magalis said. The salaries and benefits for the three officers total $306,000 while the cost to hire a non-certified officer is $60,000 with benefits.

Also at the meeting, the council members:

• Voted in favor of changing the town code pertaining to peddlers, solicitors and itinerant merchants to allow the use of vending vehicles operating on town streets to sell ice cream and other frozen desserts. No one spoke at the public hearing held on the first reading of the proposed change.

• Voted to approve the consent agenda, which included the fiscal 2022 budget calendar, an extension of a contract with Business Recovery Consulting Services, a bid for transformers of various sizes, and a bid for a replacement transformer at the Kendrick substation.

Mayor Eugene R. Tewalt, Vice Mayor William A. “Bill” Sealock and council members Jacob A. Meza, Gary L. Gillispie, Letasha T. “Tasha” Thompson, Chris W. Holloway and Lori Cockrell attended the meeting.

– Contact Alex Bridges at abridges@nvdaily.com