Here are some of my rough notes while live-Facebooking Monday night’s Augusta County Courthouse meeting. There will be more information to come….
County administrator Tim Fitzgerald is presenting the facts about the courthouse remaining in downtown versus moving it to the Augusta County Government Center in the county as planned 20-30 years ago.
– Plenty of room at the Government Center for building (no need to purchase land), free parking outside the door (no need to park in parking deck a block away, handicapped parking will be available that is currently unavailable at downtown location), and located with all the other county services.
– If the new courthouse is voted down, it cannot be voted on again for 10 years, as per state law.
Clerk of Court Carol Brydge is now giving boots on the ground experience of working in the courthouse for 28 years and the inadequate facilities, security, lack of space, limitations of handicapped access.
– Historic records from 1700s and 1800s have molded in the basement storage. Some have been removed to other facilities to prevent further deterioration.
– Thousands of folks pass through the doors annually to conduct business.
– No elevator; only have a chair lift on the stair railing for handicapped visitors to reach the court room that is located on the second floor.
– No handicapped parking
– Lack of storage for files. Juvenile court is across the street so staff has to go back and forth throughout the day. Lack of space means limitation of desk/office space for employees.
– Overflow of court rooms means halls are filled with those waiting to go in.
– Juvenile court has opposing family members sitting side by side due to limited space.
– This isn’t about the court folks wanting a new courthouse. This is about the future of Augusta County and serving her residents in an efficient way.
– Moseley Architects have an excellent reputation for the courthouses they have built.
– The downtown building just is not fit. A $12 million band aid is not a prudent expenditure of citizen taxpayer money.
Sheriff Donald Smith is speaking.
– Deputies are at risk due to limited secure hallways and entrances.
– Witnesses are together in hallways as well as defendants because no holding rooms.
– Parking and escorting prisoners is difficult and potentially dangerous.
– Security is an issue.
– Limited holding cells.
– No space available to house inmates in general court and no bathroom so they have to interact with witnesses and jury members.
– Deputies are there to protect judges, juries, visitors….
– Security cameras need to be upgraded.
– Bailiffs are split up because buildings are across the street from one another. Having them split up three ways with the proposed city plan would require more staff because they will have to protect three different buildings.
– Last several years the county tried to negotiate with Staunton.