YES, Move Augusta County Courthouse Part 4: Frequently Asked Questions

augusta-county-courthouse-2
Proposed plan from Moseley Architects for new courthouse at Augusta County Government Center in Verona.
Augusta County’s historic 1901 courthouse in downtown Staunton is no longer suitable for conducting business in today’s court system on a number of levels — safety, security, space limitations, no parking, no handicap parking, limited handicap access, court buildings separated by a main city street, dwindling storage, and other issues of concern. For more background, see YES, Move the Courthouse Part 1.
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions, and the response from Augusta County.
Is building the courts complex going to take away tax dollars for schools and emergency services?

Operating funding for schools and emergency services will not be cut from the budget to build the new courts complex.

What will be cut from the budget to compensate paying for the courts complex?

Operating funding will not be cut from the budget to pay for the courts complex. The project is being bonded.

Why is building a new courts complex a priority?

The Circuit Court Judge has made it clear to the County that the Judge is charged by statute to achieve safe and adequate facilities for the courts. All three courts; Circuit, General District and Juvenile Domestic Relations are not safe and adequate for current and future needs. The courts complex in Verona addresses all three courts.

Why is renovation not the solution?

Renovating the Circuit Courthouse is a short term solution. It does not adequately address parking issues or meet current Building Code requirements. Waivers would be needed for Building Code and Americans with Disability Act requirements to renovate the Circuit Courthouse. Adequate security cannot meet the Virginia Courthouse Guidelines. Renovating also does not meet the space needed for current and future courtroom needs and related services. Renovating the Circuit Courthouse also does not address the needs for General District and Juvenile Domestic Relations Courts.

Why is shared (County/Staunton) not the solution?

Sharing or consolidating courts will include three separate buildings. There would be duplication of services such as transportation, security, and Clerk of Court services if the courts are shared. Operating three buildings versus one will not provide operational savings as compared to a new efficient building. Citizens may be confused on which building to enter for the service or the court they are seeking. Parking will remain an issue. State approval would be needed to consolidate as well.

Why is the existing buildings not sufficient?

The existing Circuit Courthouse and District Courts Building does not meet current space needs, does not adequately address handicapped accessibility needs, has electrical and mechanical issues, is not efficient, and does not allow for expansion.

Where did the projections come from used to determine court’s needs?

Statistical data from Weldon Cooper Data Center was used to determine the number of case filing trends and to project the number of courtrooms and space needed now and in the next twenty years. Also considered was current and future use, functions and types of space. The Virginia Courthouse Facility Guidelines were used as well.

Why do we need a 120,000 square foot new building?

Currently both the Circuit Courthouse and District Courts Building provides 67,965 square feet of space. The needs assessment indicated 89,712 square feet of space is needed now. The twenty year planning horizon indicates 120,007 square feet of space will be needed.

Why is the District Courts Building being considered in the solution?

The Circuit Court Judge has made it clear to the County that the Judge is charged by statute to achieve safe and adequate facilities for the courts. All three courts; Circuit, General District and Juvenile Domestic Relations are not safe and adequate for current and future needs. The courts complex in Verona addresses all three courts.

What is included in the $45,000,000 estimate?

The $45,000,000 includes construction of a 120,000 square foot courts complex, road improvements to Dick Huff Lane, security, furniture allowance, data and telephone allowance and moving expenses.

What will happen to the old Circuit Courthouse?

The 1901 Circuit Courthouse is a magnificent building! It is part of the County and Staunton’s history. It can remain a part of Staunton’s culture. We are seeking ideas on how it can be preserved and what uses would be appropriate to downtown Staunton. There are no plans to board up the windows and abandon the building.

What are the current security issues and can it be addressed in the existing buildings?

Victims, witnesses, the public and staff cannot be adequately separated to accommodate security and safety needs. Prisoners are not safely transported and parking is not secure. Very limited security improvements can be made in both the Circuit and District Courts Buildings and none will address all the issues.

If the referendum fails, what’s next?

If the referendum fails, moving the County Seat cannot be re-considered for ten years.

The County Circuit Court Judge could rule that the existing Court facilities are not “secure, in repair, or otherwise sufficient” which could require the facilities be repaired or replaced in the City of Staunton.

The cost of building the County Courts system in Staunton will be significantly more than the cost to build in Verona.

Why have the courts buildings not been properly maintained?

Routine maintenance has been and continues to be performed. Routine maintenance includes maintaining electrical and mechanical and plumbing systems. Items such as flooring, painting and structural work are planned accordingly when needed. Renovations have also occurred in both buildings to give more space and replace outdated systems. With the age of the buildings and limited space, now is the time considering a new facility.

What you can do to learn more:                                   
  • Visit the courthouse on Saturday, October 22, between 10am-2pm for a tour of the two current courthouses, the Circuit Courthouse and District Courts Building located on opposite sides of the street, to see conditions of the facilities. If moved to Verona, all three courts and court functions would be located in one building.  Courts include Circuit, General District, and Juvenile Domestic Relations.  Court functions include Clerk’s Offices, Commonwealth Attorney, Victim Witness, Court Services Unit, Magistrate, and Court Security.
  • Contact your supervisor to ask questions.
  • Visit the Augusta County website for information.

For more information, see:

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One thought on “YES, Move Augusta County Courthouse Part 4: Frequently Asked Questions

  1. f maffett says:

    Hi
    Another date has been added to Tour the Courthouses. Both the circuit court and the general district courts.
    October 29, 2016 has been added, time 10:00 AM-2:00 PM.
    If you are still undecided please, visit these courthouses for visual impacts.
    The naysayer, the elites & the lawyers, are well funded & organized.
    Augusta County citizens need to “Vote-Yes” for progress.
    Thanks

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