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Utility problem nearly derails Round Hill sheriff’s station plan

In 2006 and 2007 voters in Loudoun County approved referendum questions to build a sheriff's substation in western Loudoun.

In 2013, the Board of Supervisors are still hashing out the details.

Since 1995, the Sheriff’s Office has been operating a western branch out of 1,650 square feet leased out of the Town of Round Hill’s offices.

A new western Loudoun sheriff's substation was originally proposed as a joint fire and rescue-sheriff station in the county's fiscal 1999-2004 capital improvement program (CIP). The county's current CIP and Capital Facility Standards provides for an 18,000-square-foot Sheriff substation as part of the Sheriff’s Office’s decentralized policing strategy. In 2005, the board approved construction of a new fire and rescue station in the Town of Purcellville to replace Purcellville Volunteer Rescue Squad Station 14 and the Purcellville Volunteer Fire Co. Station 2 in western Loudoun.

On Wedneday it appeared final planning, design work and construction of that new western station will soon be underway. The Board of Supervisors voted 6-3 to amend and fund the county's capital fund to extend Round Hill public water and sewer utilities to the site, thus allowing the project to move forward.

The vote comes after an oversight from county staff that mistook the capacity for the new station at 47 W. Loudoun St. in Round Hill to be served by a well and septic system. It turns out, County Administrator Tim Hemstreet said Wednesday, well and septic service isn't an option for the new sheriff's facility, and the new station must served by the Town of Round Hill utility.

“Under the zoning ordinance, we are required to hook in to water and sewer with the Town of Round Hill,” Hemstreet told supervisors, several of whom made known their disappointment in staff's error.

In February 2012, supervisors approved scaled-down plans for the western Loudoun station to reduce the price tag. Part of the cost-cutting measures included the well and septic plans, something Supervisor Geary Higgins (R-Catoctin) pointed out.

“I'm troubled by the fact we're back at the well on this project,” Higgins said. “This was not an easy vote last spring … we were assured at that time that we could build this station pared down for the amount of money that was put forth at that time.”

Higgins said the lower cost with the well and septic was part of the reason he voted for the project last year. The Catoctin supervisor eventually supported advancing the project this week.

The county initially spent $1.2 million to acquire the land for the western Loudoun station and issued an $8.3 million bond to finance the design, construction and equipping of the new station. This came in the years following the referendum vote.

Despite the recent misstep, the county says it will still bring in the project in line with the amount approved through the bonds.

Hemstreet estimated the new substation, to be built on 14 acres, will be under construction by this fall.

Several supervisors and staff voiced concerns that, if the board didn't support advancing the project Wednesday, the new substation wouldn't be built for another several years.

Sheriff Mike Chapman lobbied for the board to continue with the project as staff recommended.

“I think it'd be a travesty to move it back,” Chapman said, calling the current station in Round Hill “pathetic.”

Opposing the motion, made by Vice Chair Shawn Williams (R-Broad Run) were supervisors Ken Reid (R-Leesburg), Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling) and Janet Clarke (R-Blue Ridge).

“This is really a real kick in the pants here – to find this out at this late juncture,” Reid said. “ … This is just really not good government here.”
Reid and Clarke both pointed out that Round Hill is known to have relatively high utility rates.

Both supervisors also floated an option to push the project back and potentially plan for and simultaneously fund a combined sheriff and fire and rescue station.

Reid asked whether there could be cost savings realized by combining the two projects, something Chapman wasn't on board with.

“What you're talking about is prolonging what's been going on since before 2006 for probably another several years,” Chapman said. “ … By installing water and sewer [at the new station] will give us the ability to actually put a fire station there at a later time.”

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