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FRIES—There will be a new sheriff in town on March 1 in the small town of Fries, after an agreement was met for the Grayson County Sheriff’s Office to provide police coverage.
Sheriff Richard Vaughan presented the proposed agreement to the Grayson Board of Supervisors on Jan. 13 and explained that the Fries Town Council had already approved the contract.
Beginning March 1, Vaughan and his staff will take over patrol duties within the town.
The county provides back-up assistance to the town police department — a one-man operation with Police Chief Bobby Jones.
“We have talked about this for a couple of years,” Vaughan told the supervisors.
Negotiations began earlier this year when Jones accepted a position with the sheriff’s office as a School Resource Officer for Fries Middle School (Deputy Jeff Hines is retiring from the post effective Feb. 28.)
“I believe the move is a win-win for all concerned,” Jones told The Gazette after the meeting. “I believe it will benefit the town, the residents and myself. I just want to thank everyone for making my 15 years as police chief as memorable and rewarding as it has been.”
Speaking to the supervisors, Vaughan explained that the contract — which requires the Town of Fries to pay $40,500 a year to the sheriff’s department — requires a deputy to dedicate 160 hours of patrol every four weeks in the town.
Along with the annual stipend, the town also has agreed to forfeit all police equipment — including a car and firearms — to the sheriff’s department.
Vaughan explained that some of the equipment was bought through grant money and required ownership to be retained by Fries for a set number of years or the grant would have to be paid back.
The agreement includes an addendum that specifies exactly what the Fries Police Department will turn over.
Items on the list total just over $40,000 and include a 2006 Crown Victoria patrol car, Kustom Eagle II radar, Remington 12-gauge shotgun, digital camera, Kustom handheld radar and flare alert kit.
“In reviewing this and looking at the nature of such an agreement, I would like to state in advance that this is what we think is a creative, resourceful approach to providing services to the folks of Fries,” County Administrator Jonathan Sweet said.
Following Vaughan’s presentation, supervisors had minimal questions.
Supervisor Mike Maynard asked if Vaughan would need to hire additional manpower to handle the dedicated coverage in Fries.
Vaughan said he doesn't plan to hire additional personnel, but noted that if his department needed to, it could put the annual $40,500 payment from Fries towards a salary and benefits for a new hire.
When asked the length of the agreement, Vaughan said the initial term was 16 months, with an automatic renewal if neither party provided a written notice within 90 days.
“I think it’s going to be a win-win for both of us,” Vaughan continued.
Supervisor Joe Vaughan questioned if Jones would be able to respond to calls within the area while serving as a school resource officer.
Sheriff Vaughan said that, while Jones could do a few business checks on a lunch break, the position requires making sure the school is covered first because of the guidelines attached to the grant provided for the position.
Speaking about the grant — which only remains for two years — Vaughan said his intention was to use some of the annual stipend from Fries to pay for the position in the future.
If the sheriff's department takes on the full cost of the position, Vaughan said there was more leniency on what the resource officer could do.
“I appreciate you thinking out of the box here,” Chairman Larry Bartlett stated. “I agree with you that this is a win-win now for Fries… it gets them two officers instead of one and it keeps an office that they’ve come to depend on. For Grayson County, it keeps down the cost of providing services to Fries that we’ve been providing anyway. I think this is great thinking on your part.”
Supervisor Joe Vaughan then motioned to accept the agreement. It was seconded by Vice Chairman Doug Carrico and passed unanimously.
“I guess you can say it is a two-headed sword for me,” Jones told The Gazette this week. “On one side, I am truly going to miss working for the town. All the mayors and council members have been super to work for. And nowhere will you find townsfolk that are as nice as the people of Fries.
“But on the other side, I could not find another job that will be as good as working for the Grayson County Sheriff's Department. They have a super department and finding work 100 yards from your house and retirement and benefits — what more could I ask for?
“The last 15 years have been the greatest in my life. I hope the next 15 will be as good.”
Speaking about the agreement later in a press release, Sheriff Vaughan said, “I am excited about the opportunity to provide this service for the Town of Fries. It will save the town some money in their operating budget, and it will allow the sheriff’s office to enhance our services to the town and the surrounding area.”
Deputies already answer calls for service in the town when Jones is not on duty.
Vaughan noted the excellent job Jones has done.
“We are glad to have him on board,” Vaughan said. “Bobby will be a good fit for the school since he already knows most of the children that attend Fries Middle School and their parents.”
Vaughan said that when deputies begin the dedicated patrol in Fries, they will be surveying citizens to find out their concerns.
“I have an open door policy and anyone that has a concern about this transition or about a public safety issue in the town should contact our office.”
Vaughan stated during the supervisors' meeting that agreements like this are permissible under the Code of Virginia.
The agreement states that “the sheriff shall be chief law enforcement officer to the Town of Fries and shall be the town’s Chief of Police.”
In this capacity, the sheriff's office “shall provide law enforcement for the town, including enforcement within the town’s limits and on real estate owned by the town.”
During the term of the agreement, Vaughan and his deputies, “shall have the same powers, rights, benefits, privileges and immunities” as both regular town police officers and deputy sheriffs.
The town’s yearly bill of $40,500 must be budgeted for each year and paid to the sheriff’s office on a quarterly basis, with the first payment being due on July 1 of each year.
To get the agreement on the same timeframe as the town’s fiscal year, the first term of the agreement will be from March 1, 2011, until June 30, 2012.