The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors yesterday designated nearly $14 million from the general fund for a new jail to replace the aging Loudoun County Adult Detention Center in downtown Leesburg.
County officials had planned to seek voter approval in a referendum to finance the project through general obligation bonds.
Supporters said the new plan eliminates the possibility that voters would reject financing the jail. County staff said using general fund money will save about $8 million in interest costs over the 20-year life of the bonds.
"With schools and libraries to be built, you know what people will say no to," said Supervisor Eleanore C. Towe (D-Blue Ridge). "Our current jail looks like a dungeon from the 1800s. Our jail staff are working in a terribly unsafe, antiquated facility."
Supervisors Scott K. York (R-Sterling) and David G. McWatters (R-Broad Run) voted against the measure. Supervisor Steven D. Whitener (R-Sugarland Run) was absent.
"We sure need this detention center, and I support it 100 percent, but I don't vote for stuff that's a major cost to taxpayers without a referendum," McWatters said.
The three-story jail, which was built in 1958 and has had several additions, has inadequate cell size and bed space. It also lacks an area for attorney visits and does not have enough storage space for food and kitchen supplies.
The jail lost its certification in January 1998 after an internal audit found that staff sometimes failed to notify the state when inmates walked away from work-release programs and that not all training was properly documented. The audit also criticized the jail's dim lighting. The facility was recertified the next month after most of the problems were corrected.
The jail will be built outside of downtown Leesburg, near the Leesburg Executive Airport. The planned 84,000-square-foot facility, which will house 220 inmates, will include inside and outdoor exercise areas, space for counseling and processing inmates, and offices for detention administrators and magistrates.
Lessons for Loudoun From Colorado School
Loudoun school officials released a report on school construction costs Tuesday that showed a high school just built in Douglas County, Colo.--the nation's fastest-growing school district--cost nearly $10 million less than a high school under construction in Loudoun.
Chaparral High School in Douglas County was built for $18.4 million. Stone Bridge High School, which is being built in Ashburn Farm, will cost $28.4 million. But Colorado schools have less stringent building and safety codes than do schools in Virginia, Loudoun school officials said. In addition, construction costs overall are lower in Colorado than they are in Virginia.
A group of school officials traveled to Colorado during the summer to compare school construction costs. The officials' report was presented to Loudoun School Board members during a discussion about the Loudoun district's six-year capital-improvements proposal.
Despite the differences in the two school districts, Loudoun School Board member-elect John Andrews said he hopes Loudoun can get some cost-cutting tips from Colorado.
"For $10 million, there should be something we should be able to learn from," he said.
Times-Mirror Building for Sale--Maybe
The Times-Mirror building in downtown Leesburg is for sale for about $5 million.
But Peter Arundel, the president of Times Community Newspapers, which owns the Loudoun Times-Mirror newspaper, said company officials may not sell the East Market Street building and could expand it instead. The newspaper company needs additional space to house more presses, Arundel said.
"We've outgrown our central production facility in Leesburg and are looking at options for expansion now," he said.
If the company doesn't enlarge its current building, Arundel said it will move to another Leesburg location. He also said he wants to close the company's headquarters in Herndon and move 30 employees to Leesburg. About 80 employees work in the East Market Street building.