July 2, 2008

Dumfries Police Moving Headquarters

By Aileen Streng, Manassas Journal Messenger, Va.

Jul. 2--The Dumfries Police Department will soon be moving out of the basement of Town Hall and into rented space down the road.

The Dumfries Town Council voted last week to lease 3,000-square feet of space in the Triangle Shopping Plaza for three years until an alternative location is found or built for the police officers.

It was the final action taken by the council before its new members--Dorothea Barr, Nancy West and Willie Toney--were sworn in on Tuesday.

The vote was four to three with Mayor Fred Yohey, Stephanie Bradley and Rafael Lopez dissenting. Bradley and Lopez are no longer on the council.

Yohey questioned the town manager's decision to put the lease to a vote before the new council members took office, as well as the expenditure of $77,000 for the lease and remodeling of the rental space.

"Why are we spending money on something we don't need?" Yohey said, adding that several town residents, as well as Barr and West, spoke out against the move during the town's public hearing on its fiscal 2009 budget held in April.

Dumfries Town Manager Dave Whitlow said he had hoped to have the lease ready earlier in the month but there were a few delays.

"The majority of the council had already voted in favor of the project [by including money for it in the budget]," Whitlow said. "I was just trying to keep it moving along."

Several months ago, the town hired a consultant to conduct a "space needs analysis" of its town hall to include the police department's space, expecting that the results would likely point to the need for a new building.

"When you build a government building, you should expect to be there for quite a while so it's best to look ahead," Whitlow said. "[The analysis] is to be based on the current needs as well as projecting the needs 20 years in the future."

Currently 14 officers and two administrative staffers work in about 1,000 square feet of space in the town hall's basement. The space also includes an evidence room, records and an armory.

Although the final space analysis has not been turned over to town officials, Whitlow said the consultants have already said the police department is working in about one-third of the space that it needs.

"It is highly unlikely that we could house a town hall and expand the police department on this existing site," Whitlow said. The town hall land along Main Street in Dumfries is already in a flood plain and the property borders the Quantico Creek that has its own environmental protections that would prohibit building near its banks.

"We thought we ought to do the sensible thing and start looking for alternative space on a temporary basis until we build a new building [for the police]," Whitlow said. After looking at available rental space within the town, Whitlow and Police Chief Calvin Johnson decided upon 3,000-square feet of space in the south end of Triangle Shopping Plaza.

"It was the best space we could find," Whitlow said. Yet it will need some remodeling in order to meet the police department's security needs.

The town council had included in its fiscal 2009 budget $57,000 for a lease and $20,000 for remodeling.

Whitlow said he hopes to have the lease signed this week so the remodeling work can begin.

Staff writer Aileen Streng can be reached at 703-878-8010.


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