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Votes

Jail to be Financed

Supervisors opt for financing jail facility over paying cash.

Given the county’s fiscal situation, the Board of Supervisors opted to lease-purchase instead of paying cash for constructing and equipping the Adult Detention Center, as decided at its Nov. 4 board meeting.

The Adult Detention Center, which is scheduled to open in May 2005, will replace the current jail facility in downtown Leesburg. The facility will be demolished at a cost of $595,000.

“I firmly believe that jail needs to be replaced. It’s in horrible shape,” said chairman Scott York (R-At Large). “It’s not a choice of whether we have one or not. It’s absolutely essential.”

Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling) disagreed. “I didn’t think it was an essential service to provide a state-of-the-art [facility] for criminals. Let them eat cake,” he said. “This is not a school. This is not a salary increase. This is aid and comfort to people in our custody. If we made them pay for the building, that would be justice.”

“State-of-art means it’s safer for residents outside” the facility, not comfort for the inmates, Supervisor Mark Herring (D-Leesburg) said in response, adding, “The current jail is antiquated. It needs to be replaced.”

THE ADOPTED fiscal year 2002-08 Capital Improvements Program (CIP) includes $20.9 million to fund the Adult Detention Center project over five fiscal years. The project is eligible for $4.6 million in cost reimbursement from the Board of Corrections, which is required to approve the county’s new funding source.

The Board of Supervisors opted to fund the project through lease-purchase financing at a cost of $22.6 million. The funding option provides $16.9 million in local-tax funding from the FY '03-04 planned appropriations and could be used to offset $28 million in debt service for FY '04.

“The immediate impact of this project is to increase the county’s debt service,” said John Wells, deputy county administrator, adding, “We are not abandoning the notion of maintaining as much cash as possible.”

Wells said the county’s bond rating should not be affected by taking on the additional debt, which is estimated at $1.7 million a year for debt service. “There is sufficient debt capacity,” he said.

“Oftentimes when we’re in a financial situation, we make short-term decisions without thinking of the future,” York said. “In the out years, we’re going to be adding to our debt capacity. I would hope we would stick to our guns and pay cash for the facility.”

The Board of Supervisors voted 6-2 in favor of lease-purchasing the Adult Detention Center, with York and Delgaudio voting against and Drew Hiatt (R-Dulles) absent.

Through the vote, the board directed staff to begin preparing the required financing documents for board approval and to advertise for construction bids in November. Construction of the Adult Detention Center is scheduled to begin in the spring.

IN OTHER BUSINESS, the board:

* Heard a report on the Virginia Department of Transportation’s (VDOT) snow removal program, as given by Farid Bigdeli, assistant district engineer and transportation manager for Loudoun County.

VDOT budgets about $48 million a year for snow removal. In Loudoun, VDOT removes snow from 2,300-lane miles and provides chemical treatment for more than 800 miles and nonchemical treatment for 1,500 miles. VDOT has 265 pieces of equipment to use in Loudoun during major weather events. VDOT’s policy is to plow 30 percent of roads within 16 hours of the end of a storm and make all roads passable within 48 hours.

* Approved a $1 fare increase per ticket for the county commuter bus service, effective on Jan. 1, 2003, and granted a waiver to the 30 percent limit on gasoline-tax subsidies for the program. The waiver increases the allocation for FY '03 by $184,000 to $788,000.

“We need to do everything we can to encourage its growth. It’s time for a fare increase,” said Supervisor Chuck Harris (D-Broad Run).

The county’s contract with Yellow Transportation, which ends Dec. 31 will be extended by one year, as approved Oct. 21 in a joint meeting of the Transportation Committee and the Finance and Government Services Committee. The extension will result in a $74,000 increase in operational expenses above estimates for the FY '03 budget. The county is below budget due to delaying the fare increase for an indefinite period, as decided at the July 1 Board of Supervisors meeting, along with delaying until September the expansion of the commuter bus service from 13 to 15 buses.

“We wanted to show an increase in service with the fare increase,” Bogard said.

* Endorsed the Countywide Public Transportation Study with an 8-0 vote. In May, the Transportation Committee received the final report for the study, which provides five- and 10-year recommendations for transportation in the county.