Building task force moving forward on renovation plans

Weighs uses for empty county jail, other buildings

When the Rappahannock Shenandoah Warren Regional Jail opened in Front Royal in 2014, Rappahannock County’s jail closed down. Then-County Administrator John McCarthy joked that the emptied jail facility would become a very secure filing cabinet.

And he wasn’t far off. At last Friday’s meeting of the county’s Building Task Force, a large part of the discussion revolved around how to better use the jail as . . . storage. All joking aside, though, the county is in desperate need of clean, dry, secure storage space for valuable paper documents, such as land records, court records, and evidence files.

A tour of several deteriorating albeit historic county buildings along courthouse row in Washington earlier this year revealed to the task force the urgency of finding storage space. For example, the basement of the courthouse is jammed with filing cabinets and cardboard boxes precariously piled on top of wooden pallets in a room that collects water with every heavy rain storm.

Jail cells at the Rappahannock County Sheriff’s Office are now used for storing items like tires and Christmas decorations. By John McCaslin

Friday’s meeting at the county Visitor Center was attended by task force members Kees Dutilh, a local builder, and county supervisors John Lesinski (Hampton) and Ron Frazier (Jackson); interim County Administrator Brenda Garton; Ricky Jenkins, the county’s maintenance staff; and technology consultant Dave Yowell.

First on the agenda was a discussion with county sheriff Connie Compton about how best to use her facilities, including the jail and the magistrate’s office — a separate building across the parking lot from the jail — for emergency personnel, the 911 coordinator, other county staff, and locked storage for evidence.

Rappahannock Sheriff Connie Compton sorts through old prisoner uniforms during a tour this year of the closed county jail. By John McCaslin

Garton suggested that the jail cells could be used for secure, safe storage of county records. Currently the jail is being used to store such things as tires and other automotive supplies for the sheriff’s department’s patrol cars, out-of-date inmate uniforms, and Christmas decorations.

Compton said that RSW inmates could be conscripted to clean out the cells to make room for county storage.

The task force also discussed where the county’s building and zoning officials could be housed more economically than in the Kramer Building on Gay Street in Washington. The county pays over $4000 a month in rent for the space.

Washington Mayor John Fox Sullivan, who attended the meeting, told the task force that he and his wife own the building on Main Street that now houses the Rappahannock News. Sullivan said he would be willing to sell the building to the county.

Garton and Jenkins reviewed bids awarded, work completed, and pending work on county buildings and grounds, including completing emergency electrical work at the courthouse, renovations at the Visitor Center to create offices for the county administrator, and repairs to the steps in front of the Circuit Court Clerk’s office.

About Patty Hardee 294 Articles
Writer, consultant, actor, director, recovering stand-up comic, Patty covers the county’s courts and other topics of interest for Rappahannock News. She lives with her grape-growing husband Bill Freitag in Flint Hill.