Augusta supervisors discuss courthouse

Augusta County CourthouseBy Lynn R. Mitchell

“The county has shown considerable patience and due diligence” on the Courthouse issue. –Pat Coffield, Augusta County Manager

At Tuesday’s work session, Augusta County supervisors faced a packed agenda of items and reports from staff for everything from fire and emergency updates from the chief to VDOT report to economic update. Perhaps the most anticipated item, however, was discussion on the future of the Augusta County Courthouse and whether it would be renovated at its current Staunton location, or a new courthouse constructed at the government complex at Verona.

Supervisor David Karaffa (Beverley Manor District) provided a thoughtful perspective regarding the courthouse (see The Augusta County Courthouse decision).

The courthouse issue was presented by county manager Pat Coffield who provided some background who pointed out that the question of renovate or build has been floating around for more than 25 years and, though other facilities have moved to Verona as originally planned, the courthouse decision has continued to be kicked down the road.

In the 1980s, Augusta County decided they would move operations out of downtown Staunton because they were landlocked and could not expand. In 1988, the board agreed in public session to pay $5 million for the current location in Verona known as the Government Center. The master plan called for most if not all county offices and operations to gradually be moved to that location and surrounding land.

The juvenile detention home was eventually relocated in Staunton. In 2004 the sheriff’s department moved to Verona, and the Middle River Jail was built beside the government center and opened in 2006.  Updates have taken place at the government center over the years as needs have arisen for various departments and meeting rooms.

In 2010, eight years into the current plan, the issue of renovating or moving the courthouse was again brought up and shared with Staunton’s city manager. In October 2012 all members of the board authorized $85,000 for a study to renovate and expand the current courthouse in Staunton. The board accepted the report and it was suggested to hold onto the study for three to five years and then revisit the issue. It is now within the three year minimum of that limit.

The price tag for renovation and staying in the historic courthouse in Staunton is $9.5 million. Construction costs for moving to Verona, including furnishings, would be $13 million.

Augusta County has met with the mayor and vice mayor of Staunton who were alerted that the discussion would take place at Tuesday’s meeting. Tuesday discussion seemed pretty evident that Augusta County clearly expects Staunton to be a financial participant if renovation is chosen. Needless to say, much was discussed with thoughts from supervisors and the county manager. This is an issue worth following because of its ramifications on both localities.

For more on this issue:
Supervisors work with Staunton on a courthouse plan by Bob Stuart (News-Virginian)
Supervisors to Staunton: Help with courthouse by Calvin Trice (News Leader)

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