WINCHESTER — The Winchester Police Department is joining more than a dozen regional law enforcement agencies, including the sheriff’s offices in Frederick and Clarke counties, that will use a new intake center for people in need of emergency mental health assessments.

The Northwestern Crisis Intervention Team Assessment Center (CITAC) is being set up by Northwestern Community Services at Winchester Medical Center. It will be the 43rd CITAC in Virginia.

Winchester Police Chief John Piper told City Council on Tuesday night that about 20% of police work involves transporting people who need mental health assessments and waiting for medical professionals to determine if they pose a danger to themselves or others.

The Northwestern CITAC at 1840 Amherst St. would be open daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and allow officers to transfer custody of people needing assessments to CITAC staffers, eliminating the need for on-duty officers to wait for hours until assessments are completed.

“Other CITACs around the state have been very successful” in allowing police officers to return to duty,” Piper said.

He asked council to approve a memorandum of understanding with the Northwestern Community Services Board that would allow off-duty Winchester police officers that are certified and have crisis-intervention training to staff the CITAC at a pay rate of $37 an hour. The city would pay the officers and be reimbursed by Northwestern Community Services.

“I think this is a great program,” Councilor Kim Herbstritt said.

“We’ve made great strides in mental health over the years,” added Councilor John Willingham. “This is another tool in the toolbox.”

Council voted unanimously to forward the proposed memorandum of understanding with Northwestern Community Services to its next meeting on June 11.

In other business at Tuesday night’s meeting and work session, City Council:

Voted 6-3 to approve Winchester’s $93,882,000 operating budget for fiscal year 2020, which begins July 1. The budget includes a 93-cent real estate tax rate, which, following a citywide reassessment last year that resulted in higher property values, equates to a 3-cent increase to the current 91-cent tax rate. Councilors Herbstritt, Willingham, David Smith, Evan Clark, John Hill and Judy McKiernan voted in favor of the budget, while Corey Sullivan, Les Veach and Bill Wiley opposed it.

Voted 5-4 to approve a 15-cent increase to the city’s 35-cent tax rate on individual packs of cigarettes, effective July 1. Councilors Smith, Clark, Hill, McKiernan and Herbstritt voted in favor of the 50-cent rate, while Willingham, Sullivan, Veach and Wiley were in opposition.

Voted 8-0 to nominate Elyus Wallace for a vacant Ward 3 seat on the Winchester School Board. McKiernan, an employee of Winchester Public Schools, abstained from the vote.

Unanimously agreed to forward a proposed ordinance that would make it illegal for pedestrians to panhandle or solicit along city roadways.

Voted 7-2 to forward draft bylaws that would govern the operations of City Council and the conduct of its members. Willingham and Wiley opposed the bylaws, which were first proposed by Smith on June 13, 2017.

Unanimously approved a zoning text amendment to allow for large, free-standing signs at regional tourism destinations of 3 acres or more along Winchester’s Corridor Enhancement Districts. The only qualifying locations are the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley and the Winchester-Frederick County Visitors Center.

Unanimously approved zoning text amendments that clarify permitted uses within the city’s Limited Industrial (M-1) and Intensive Industrial (M-2) zoning districts.

Unanimously agreed to forward conditional-use permit requests from Stephen Von Fange to convert a one-story commercial building at 501 N. Cameron St. into a two-story structure with a pair of one-bedroom apartments, and make major improvements to a neighboring two-story apartment building at 505-507 N. Cameron St.

Unanimously approved a request to shift and reallocate funds in the city’s fiscal year 2019 operating budget.

Unanimously approved a refund of $3,994.20 in erroneously billed personal property taxes.

Unanimously approved administrative changes to the city’s Comprehensive Employee Management System, communications policy, salary scales and position classifications.

Unanimously approved updated project administration agreements with the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Held a first reading of a proposed easement that would allow CSX to build a new railroad crossing for the city’s forthcoming Hope Drive extension project.

Held a first reading of a proposed ordinance authorizing city officials to make property acquisitions needed for the forthcoming Hope Drive extension project.

Unanimously approved the appointments of Lanita Byrne to a three-year term on the Old Town Advancement Commission, ending May 27, 2022; and Nancy Bollinger and Kaye Smith to six-year terms on the Handley Board of Trustees, ending May 13, 2025.

Unanimously approved the reappointment of Anita Schill to a four-year term on the Social Services Advisory Board, ending May 31, 2023.

Unanimously recommended the appointment of Jared Priddy to an indefinite term on the Lord Fairfax Emergency Medical Services Council.

Met in executive session for eight minutes to discuss the performance of public officers and prospective appointments to the Social Services Advisory Board and Old Town Advancement Commission. No action was taken following the closed-door discussions.

Attending Tuesday night’s City Council meeting and work session in Rouss City Hall were Mayor and council President David Smith, Vice Mayor John Hill, Vice President Evan Clark and councilors Kim Herbstritt, John Willingham, Les Veach, Bill Wiley, Judy McKiernan and Corey Sullivan.

— Contact Brian Brehm at bbrehm@winchesterstar.com

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