Tuesday, Feb. 12
When Fauquier County presented its proposed FY 2014-2019 Capital Improvement Program (CIP) to the Planning Commission last month, one of the many focus areas was the county's police force.
During the working session Fauquier County Director of Community Development, Kimberly Fogle, outlined key infrastructure needs for county sheriff, emergency services and a joint communications center based on a 2006 report by Teng Design, design consultant hired by Fauquier County.
Fogle's presentation stated the following priorities:
Remedies for considerable space and building deficiencies with 78 W. Lee St. location
The need for a Public Safety Center -- approximately 60,000 square feet
Establishment of a small substation in Bealeton and in Marshall
During the presentation, Cedar Run Planning Supervisor Dell Ennis asked Fogle how soon the needs for county sheriff infrastructure improvements would need to be addressed.
"Today," Fogle answered.
Fauquier County Sheriff Charlie Ray Fox Jr., who was in attendance, immediately followed Fogle's comment with his own time-line assessment.
"We need this yesterday," he said.
Sheriff Fox later agreed to an interview with the Times-Democrat to clarify his comments.
"This building [Fauquier County Sheriff's Office] leaks water from the windows, things are broken, the air conditioning units in the windows are for trailers and not for this kind of building, and we've got people stacked on top of each other for space," he said in regards to the overall condition of the sheriff's office.
"I don't know if we even meet code," he added.
"I know we don't meet ADA code (American Disability Act)."
Building renovation is one suggestion but Center District Supervisor, Chris Granger thinks otherwise.
"Renovating the building isn't the right answer because it isn't going to solve the problem of putting our emergency services together," said Granger.
Granger, who along with Marshall District's Peter Schwartz, sits on the Fauquier County Facilities Planning Infrastructure Committee, sees too much need across the emergency services spectrum.
"Public safety is high on our radar for funding," said Granger.
"The police need better storage for evidence. They need room for roll call rooms, report writing, witness interviews, etc. It's all hodgepodge right now," he said.
According to Granger, everything is spread out, and the biggest need is to put the 911 dispatchers in the same building as the emergency operations center. Right now, they're more than a mile from each other.
" I want them to be able to walk down the hall to be able to talk to each other," Granger said.
However, Fox balanced his needs with the reality of what he admitted was everyone's needs in Fauquier County.
"There will always be needs," Fox said. "The economy hasn't helped anyone, and the county can't spend money it doesn't have.
Raising taxes isn't the only way to secure funding for improvements. Many police departments qualify and compete for state and federal grants.
Fox said, however, that Fauquier's population and rural pace affect its ability to compete for grants.
"We're too big to be small and too small to be big," he said.
What Fox is referring to is the county competing for grants with other police departments like Virginia Beach or Fairfax County who can show a greater need based on their population and public service demands.
"It's a blessing and a curse," said Fox. "We don't compete for grants as well as they [bigger police departments] do, but we also don't have the crime or demands on our police force that the larger cities and counties have either."
When asked about the need for substations in Bealeton and Marshall, Fox said having them could help provide better service to county residents in those areas, but it comes with a price.
"Having a substation means the expectation that the sheriff will have services available around the clock for residents in Bealeton or Marshall," said Fox. "But that's going to cost a lot of money and I don't know if the benefits outweigh the costs considering the improvements we have made to our officer's patrol cars."
Fox said the MDT (Mobile Dispatch Terminal) system officers have in their cars are like mobile offices able to get and receive calls and respond accordingly which has helped improve the sheriff's office response times.
Despite the need for improvements to infrastructure, Fox said he needs upgrades to personnel just as much.
"I need more people just as much as I need equipment and space improvements. If I don't have the people in the first place, none of the building upgrades matter."
One area Fox used as an example of needing more officers was in drug enforcement.
"I have two to three officers on drugs right now and I'd like to have six or eight. Right now, people are dual-hatted and if I could get them to work on drugs exclusively, it would make a difference."
Still, Fox said, improving his officers' presence in Fauquier will lead to more enforcement and that ultimately snowballs the stress on resources in the county.
"If I get more officers, then they'll enforce more laws and write more tickets. That backs up the courts and overloads my jails, so the right answer isn't to just improve one aspect of law enforcement but our entire system."
Granger agrees and wants to build a new public safety center housing fire rescue, dispatch, and the sheriff in one building.
"In my mind, the if has been decided, and the big question now is the what and where regarding a public safety center for the county," said Granger.
Fauquier County's capital improvement program has police force improvements in the FY2014-2019 plan.