Tag Archives: Staunton

October 2017: 20 Things To Do In and Around Staunton, Va

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Historic Wharf District in downtown Staunton.

It’s autumn in western Virginia.

Voted as one of America’s Top 20 Main Streets by Travel and Leisure magazine, the central Shenandoah Valley city of Staunton was also recently named one of the 20 Best Small Towns in America by Smithsonian magazine. Known as the Queen City, Staunton was founded in 1747 and was named for Lady Rebecca Staunton, wife of Virginia’s Governor William Gooch.

With views east toward the Blue Ridge Mountains and west toward the Appalachians, Staunton is an historic slice of Virginia that offers restored Victorian homes, cozy downtown shops, and small-town atmosphere.

There are many things to do during leaf season that peaks in October so here are some places and events you may find interesting. Enjoy!

1. Trolleys
A great way to get around downtown, Staunton’s two trolleys are inexpensive — 25 cents — and pick up and discharge passengers at stops located throughout the city. Check here for parking around Staunton. More information can be found at the Visitors Center on New Street.

2. Frontier Culture Museum of Virginia
This unique hands-on outdoor museum in Staunton brings the past alive with costumed interpreters and farm animals that can be seen along a two-mile trail that connects the English, Irish, German, and African farms with the New World’s American homesteads. They tell the story of America’s settlement. Picnic tables on the grounds.
 Octoberfest – Oct. 7: Enjoy a traditional Oktoberfest celebration at the German farm with music, children’s activities, self-guided tours of this hands-on museum, and your favorite brew.

3. Staunton-Augusta Farmers Market
Voted one of the best farmers markets in Virginia, the Staunton-Augusta Farmers Market offers fresh, locally grown produce, flowers, herbs, eggs, fruits, meats, and more from the convenience of the Wharf parking lot in downtown Staunton. Free parking. Open Saturdays from 7 a.m.-noon.

4. King’s Gourmet Popcorn at Afton Mountain
It’s not just an October thing but if you have a snack attack while around Afton, be sure to stop by King’s Gourmet Popcorn and say hello to Ron King. He has kettle and caramel corn, and many other flavors along with pork rinds, hotdogs, cold beverages, coffee, and more. Umbrella-covered picnic tables provide a respite during a day of sightseeing. Located at the top of Afton Mountain on Rt. 250 where I-64, Skyline Drive, Blue Ridge Parkway, and the Appalachian Trail all cross. Look for the bright yellow food truck.

5. Hands & Harvest Festival in Highland County
October 6-8. While enjoying the spectacular autumn colors and crisp mountain air, drive an hour west of Staunton to Highland County for their Hands & Harvest Festival. This event grows bigger every year. Visit area sugar camps for apple butter and cider making, BBQ and other food, pumpkin carving, wagon rides, farmers market, and entertainment. A complete list of activities and locations throughout the county is available at the website.

6. Myers Pumpkin Farm
Myers Pumpkin Farm offers pumpkins, gourds, corn stalks, chrysanthemums, and other seasonal decorations at reasonable prices. There is a pick-your-own pumpkin patch and corn maze to round out the farm experience. Myers Farm is located east of Harrisonburg off Rt. 33.

7. Fall Foliage Festival Art Show
The weekend of October 14-15 will see the Virginia Fall Foliage Festival Art Show take over the streets of downtown Waynesboro as they are turned into an outdoor art gallery. More than 200 booths of fine arts and fine crafts will line Main Street and Wayne Avenue featuring artists from all over the country.  It has been named one of the top shows in the East with paintings of all kinds, pottery, jewelry, sculpture, and more.

8. Shenandoah Fall Foliage Bike Festival
October 20-22. At the peak of fall leaf season for the Shenandoah Valley and surrounding mountains, the Fall Foliage Bike Festival based out of Staunton will be held the third weekend in October. Enjoy warm days and cool nights riding the back roads through scenic vistas of rural beauty.

9. Blackfriars Theater
The Blackfriars Theater was built in downtown Staunton in 2001, the world’s only exact replica of William Shakespeare’s indoor theater, and is home to the American Shakespeare Center. What a great place to catch a play, tour the facility, or get involved in their camps for young and old alike. Check their website for current plays and activities.

10. Staunton’s Ghostly Evening Tours
What better way to see the architecture of historic downtown Staunton than with the Ghosts of Staunton Tour? Spooky historical tours of the Depot train station, Mary Baldwin College, and other downtown buildings. If you are looking for something different and unusual, this is the tour for you. Reservations strongly recommended.

11. Shenandoah National Park
Nature’s calling! Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains east of Staunton, Shenandoah National Park offers 200,000 acres of wilderness, campgrounds, picnic areas, hiking trails, horseback riding, lodges, and visitor centers along the 100-mile-long Skyline Drive. Big Meadows Lodge and Skyland Resort and several campgrounds provide overnight accommodations. Escape to the quiet beauty of the mountains.

12. Humpback Rock Farm Visitor Center, Picnic, and Hike
A mountain homestead much like the ones from the nineteenth century, Humpback Rock Farm is located at Milepost 5.8 on the Blue Ridge Parkway south of Afton and I-64. Costumed interpreters and musicians are on hand weekends throughout the fall to answer questions and demonstrate crafts from a bygone era. Farm animals, a working garden, mountain music, and more round out the experience. Visitor Center and picnic tables are available on the site. Hike to the top of Humpback Rock, grill out in the picnic area, or go back in time at the farm.

13. Dayton Farmers Market
A favorite with visitors and locals alike, the Dayton Farmers Market is located on Rt. 42 about 30 minutes northwest of Staunton. Featuring the “best big soft pretzels on the East Coast,” it also has a restaurant as well as a variety of shops offering goods plus fresh produce with apples and pumpkins. Outside is a hitching post for the Old Order Mennonites to park their horse and buggies when they stop by to do a little shopping of their own.

14. Green Valley Book Fair
Open September 30-October 23, the Green Valley Book Fair offers hundreds of thousands of books at up to 90% off retail price that include classics, children’s, political, novels, fiction, history, health and self-help, religion, science, sports, cookbooks, home and garden, crafts, art, reference, computer, nature, and outdoors. Convenient free parking, no admission charge. Located in Mt. Crawford 20 minutes north of Staunton, it’s a bookworm’s paradise.

15. Virginia Mennonite Relief Sale
The Mennonite Relief Sale is September 29-30 at the Rockingham County Fairgrounds located on Rt. 11 south of Harrisonburg. Each year, thousands of volunteers come together to raise money at Relief Sales for Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) for the relief of suffering in the world. Entertainment, quilts, crafts, food, baked goods, antiques, silent auction, live auction, farmers market.

16. Nichols Apple Barn
Located in Middleburg, Nichols Apple Barn offers a wide range of apples right at the orchard. Walk in the barn, get a bag or box, and start picking out your favorites straight from the wooden apple crates a few steps away from the orchard where Staymans and other juicy varities grow.

17. Paugh’s Orchard Roadside Stand
Located in a curve along Rt. 42 in Shenandoah County, Paugh’s Orchard offers an explosion of fall goodies including many varieties of apples, pumpkins, mums; mini pumpkins, gourds, and Indian corn for decorating; jars of jams and jellies and other goodies. See Autumn afternoon road trip to apple country and Apple season in Shenandoah County, Va. They are closed on Saturdays.

18. Massanutten Fall Festival
The annual Massanutten Fall Festival will be held on October 14 with chairlift rides, arts and crafts, food vendors, beer garden, wine tasting, kids activities, entertainment, and more. Takes place at the scenic Massanutten Ski Resort east of Harrisonburg.

19. Dayton Days Autumn Celebration
One of the largest craft and food festivals of the fall, this year will be the 38th annual Dayton Days Autumn Festival has celebrated the arrival of autumn since 1980 by closing the small historic downtown area to all but foot traffic. Thousands of visitors enjoy crafts, live music, entertainment, exhibits, arts, children’s games, and food food food. If you’ve never been, you’ve missed a fantastic day. Dayton is located smack in the middle of Old Order Mennonite country.

20. Lots of Eats
There are plenty of places to grab great eats in the Valley. Here are a few: Depot Grille, Byers Street Bistro, Split Banana, Shenandoah Pizza Clock Tower, Kline’s, Green Leaf Grille, Wright’s Drive-In, Mill Street Grill, Emilio’s, and Sorrel’s in Staunton’s Stonewall Jackson Hotel.

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Memorial Day 2017 … Small Town Honors Fallen With Moment of Silence

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The annual Memorial Day tribute in front of our house from my Air Force Vietnam-era veteran husband.

On this Memorial Day weekend, a special memory comes to mind that epitomizes the meaning of the day.

It was Memorial Day in 2009 in the central Shenandoah Valley. My sister and I had made a last-minute trip to the local Food Lion in Staunton for a forgotten cookout item when now-retired manager Dan Pritchett’s voice came over the intercom at the Coalter Street store. In his soft southern voice, he addressed employees and customers:

“Ladies and gentlemen, it is Memorial Day. The store will shut down for the next 60 seconds as we observe a moment of silence in honor of America’s fallen heroes.”

Perhaps this is one of the things I love most about living in a small town.

Dan Pritchett

News Leader photo

It was 3:00 pm on Memorial Day, the time of the national moment of silence. The cashiers stopped checking out customers. Muzak was turned off. Customers paused in aisles while employees ceased working. The store was essentially shut down and for the next 60 seconds all observed a moment of silence for America’s fallen military heroes. Among those was an uncle I never knew, a casualty of battle in Germany just six weeks before the end of World War II in Europe.

Thanks to Mr. Pritchett, the small town of Staunton in western Virginia paused to remember … this town that is home to the Stonewall Brigade, the 116th Infantry Regiment of the U.S. Army National Guard, founded in 1741 and active during the Civil War, World War II, and most recently deployed to Bosnia, Iraq, Kuwait, and Afghanistan … this community that turns out when troops deploy and return from battle.

It is also home to the Statler Brothers whose “More Than a Name on a Wall” is their own hauntingly poignant tribute to those who died for God and country, and returned home draped in the American flag: “She said, ‘Lord my boy was special and he meant so much to me. And oh I’d love to see him just one more time, you see. All I have are the memories and the moments to recall. So Lord could You tell him he’s more than a name on a wall.’ ”

Freedom is not free….

Staunton area community welcomed home the Stonewall Brigade in 2011 after deployment to Iraq.

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell

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Frontier Culture Museum ‘Pay What You Will’ on Memorial Day

On Memorial Day Monday, May 29, the Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton will celebrate May Fair and, best of all, it will be a “Pay What You Will Day” so you decide how much to pay for admission: pay a little, pay a lot, or pay nothing at all.

During the 16 years that we educated our children at home, our one-income family lived on a tight budget and often could not take in all the historical sites we wanted to see so a “pay what you will” admission is helpful for families who are in the same place.

If you have never experienced the Frontier Culture Museum, or if you’ve been multiple times throughout the years, Monday will be a great time to join in the fun, enjoy hands-on history, explore the early days of 1600s England, 1700s Ireland, 1700s Germany, pioneer America, and 1700s West Africa. Interact with on-site historical interpreters dressed as the country they represent as they go about the daily tasks of the time — cooking, spinning, basket weaving, gardening, and other chores common to the time period.

Stroll the trail between the Old Country and pioneer Early America. Linger at the forge in Ireland and watch the smithy at work. Pause to talk with the animals — sheep, cattle, pigs, chickens. Explore the Indian village. Stop by the rustic 1740s log cabin, then discover how early American housing advanced with the 1820s and 1850s American farm houses. Peek inside the school house.

Bring the entire family from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm to experience the living history, enjoy lunch on the Museum’s Pavilion with live musical entertainment, and visit the Artisan Vendor Fair in the Courtyard throughout the day.

ARTISAN FAIR:  (9:00 am – 5:00 pm) 
Shop the artisan craft booths located in the Museum’s newly expanded courtyard throughout the entire day. Visit the caricaturist, face painter, and ballon twister too!

FOOD VENDORS:  (9:00 am – 5:00 pm)
Area food vendors will be on hand beginning at 9:00 am.

LIVING HISTORY ACTIVITIES:

  • Old World Exhibits: (9:00 – Noon)
    • West Africa: Drum and Dance/Gardening
    • England: Green Woodworking/Herbals in the Garden
    • Ireland: Natural Dyeing/Spinning
    • Germany: Games/Gardening
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  • Lunch: (Noon – 2:00)
    • Pavilion:  Take a lunch break under our covered pavilion or at the picnic tables
  • America Exhibits:  (2:00 – 5:00)
    • Ganatastwi: Clay cooking pot construction/ Fire Starting
    • 1740’s Settlement: Court Days and Militia Drill
    • 1820’s American Farm: Bread oven baking/Doll making
    • 1850’s American Farm: Basketmaking
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Moving Dirt at Frontier Culture Museum for Chick-Fil-A, Bojangles, Aldi, More

Frontier Culture Museum of Virginia’s property on Richmond Road. Photo take March 8, 2017. (Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell)

There’s no way you could have missed all the earth moving equipment the past weeks in front of the Frontier Culture Museum of Virginia (FCMV) on Richmond Road (Rt. 250) in Staunton or, for that case, on the opposite side of the road where the city of Staunton is clearing land for retail development.

But in front of the FCMV, facing onto Richmond Road/Rt. 250, are spaces where Chick-Fil-A, Bojangles, Aldi, and other retail will be going up. It’s been in the planning for several years as the Museum worked with developers to design and lay out the space, and bring in tenants.

Chick-Fil-A had originally planned to be open a year ago. A delay with the property slowed their plans.

I wrote 18 months ago about the owner of Charlottesville’s Bojangles telling us he would be opening a location in Staunton.

There are also proposals to perhaps have a hotel and another restaurant so stay tuned to see what else will join Sheetz in that popular location that will be very accessible to travelers on I-81.

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10 Things To Do in Staunton on New Year’s Eve 2016

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Things to do in Staunton this New Year’s Eve….

1. The Store: Belgian Waffle Breakfast with Mimosa or Champagne. 8:00 am-11:00 am

2. Sunspots: Blow Your Own Glass Ornament, 11:00 am – 4:00 pm.

3. Zynodoa Restaurant: 4 course prix-fixe menu.

4. American Shakespeare Center: 11:00 am Playhouse Tour; 2:00 pm Romeo and Juliet; 5:00 pm Final performance EVER of The Twelve Dates of Christmas, a play written for their stage by one of their actors, with $2 glasses of champagne.

5. Baja Bean Co: Findells Rockin’ New Year’s Eve Party with champagne toast at midnight! $10 cover.

6. Redbeard Brewing: Hosting Magnolia Mountain Grill, and Dragon Wagon is playing, w/ Special Guest.

7.  Clocktower Downtown 27: NYE Bash with live music from Maybe Tomorrow & DJ Neili Neil. The front restaurant will be open until 1 AM, with a Feature Menu, and they will be offering $3 glasses of Prosecco for Midnight toasting.

8. Byers Street Bistro: New Year’s Eve Party. 9:00 pm – 12:30 am featuring dinner specials, live music from Gypsy Town and a champagne toast at Midnight.

9. Pompei Lounge Annual Masquerade: Hosted by The Judy Chops. The show starts at 10:00 but come early as we will definitely sell out. $10 cover and a champagne toast at midnight. Open till 2am.

10. Barren Ridge Vineyards: Open late on New Year’s Eve (until midnight) for anyone who wants to ring in 2017 in a quiet and cozy setting.

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Chick-fil-A Planned For Staunton

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The announcement of a Chick-fil-A coming to Staunton finally made it to the public on Tuesday, a little later than originally planned, but better late than never.

According to reporter Laura Peters with the News Leader:

Staunton Frontier LLC plans to bring retail, restaurants and lodging to a 42-acre area off U.S. 250 and Frontier Drive on land adjacent to Sheetz. The anticipated development is across the street from another mixed use development called Staunton Crossing, which has nearly 300 acres available. Two hotels have already signed on for the Staunton Crossing location and is expected to bring multiple food options, large retail, a gas station and possibly high-end office buildings.

Located at Exit 222 off I-81 on the busy Richmond Road (U.S. 250) corridor near Lowe’s and Wal-Mart, the chicken restaurant will be at the entrance to the Frontier Culture Museum within a half mile of the interstate. Its proximity to the heavily traveled interstate makes it the only easily-accessed Chick-fil-A between Harrisonburg and Roanoke. Staunton’s location is by far the fastest on-off for motorists as they travel north-south.

It’s often a hurry-up-and-wait situation when developing sites and recruiting businesses. Hopefully, Staunton will have its own Chick-fil-A soon.

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Augusta County Townhall Meeting On Courthouse Issue To Be Held At Government Center

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Augusta County’s supervisors, looking to be as accessible as possible to the public, have announced an open house about the Courthouse issue to be held on Thursday, November 3, from 4-7:00pm, in the Smith Room of the Government Center in Verona.

Courthouse blueprints and plans will be available for observation, and supervisors will be on hand to answer questions about this very important issue that will be on the ballot on November 8.

The schedule for November 8 allows citizens to stop by as convenient, offering an opportunity for those who could not make it to the townhalls that were held around the county in September and early October. For those who are not able to attend, feel free to contact your supervisor with questions.

4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. One on One
5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. Presentation
6:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Questions and Answers

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Background:

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.
Parking: There is no parking at the current location (the closest parking is available a block away at the New Street parking garage for a charge). Ample free parking would be available at the new Courthouse. Space limitations make it impossible to add parking to the downtown location.
Handicapped Parking: There is no handicapped parking at the current location. At the new Courthouse, handicapped parking would be available and convenient.
Handicapped Access: In the old Courthouse, those who cannot climb stairs (the only courtrooms are on the second floor) must ride a chair-lift mounted on the stair rail, both humiliating and embarrassing, because there is no space to add an elevator to the building.
Find more information about other safety and security concerns in this PDF Presentation.
Augusta County is up against powerful lawyers, judges, businessmen, and a state delegate in Staunton who want the Courthouse to remain downtown, and who have two groups working with them along with voices outside the area who have mounted an effort to achieve that goal with printed “No” signs and pamphlets.
What you can do to learn more:                                   
  • Visit the courthouse on Saturday, October 22, and Saturday, October 29, between 10am-2:00pm, for a tour of the two current courthouses, the Circuit Courthouse and District Courts Building which are 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.
  • PDF Presentation full of information.
  • Contact your supervisor to ask questions.
  • Visit the Augusta County website for information.

For more information, see:

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Vote YES To Move Augusta County Courthouse to Verona

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Did you know the estimated cost to building the new Courts Complex in Verona is $45 million? The estimated cost to building the same structure in Staunton is $59 million. Both buildings are for all three courts – Circuit, General District, and Juvenile Domestic Relations.

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Did you know relocating the courts to Verona takes care of current and future needs of all three courts and court functions?

Did you know that the $9.5 million 2012 Frazier estimate you hear about is only to remodel the 1901 Circuit Court Building? It does not include General District or Juvenile Domestic Relations Court needs, nor does it adequately address Circuit Court needs.

Did you know determining the size of the Court Complex doesn’t involve just the number of courtrooms? Between the existing and proposed, there is only one additional courtroom (General District). Space need is also about enough work space for staff, for file storage, for handicapped accessibility, and most importantly for security.

Do you know the functions of the Circuit Court Clerk? Duties include court proceedings and jury management; issuance of marriage licenses, concealed carry permits, passports, game licenses, and trade names; management land records, court records, historical records, and election ballots; probate of estates; and constitution officer, and notary oaths. Last year, 27,761 citizens passed through the metal detector at the Circuit Courthouse. That averages to more than 100 people per day!

Did you know that the following archive documents are stored in the basement of the existing Circuit Courthouse? Judgements, inquests, land, personal property, wills, and marriage records are some of the documents stored in the basement. Space is a significant need for the functions of the Circuit Court Clerk so that records can be managed and maintained appropriately. After all, there are documents dating back to the 1700s.

Do you know why 118,170 square feet of space are needed in the new Courts Complex? The existing buildings provide 67,965 square feet, and the needs assessment indicated 89,712 square feet are needed now. A new courts facility will provide for current needs and future expansions on land owned by the County.

Did you know in both Courts Buildings combined, 1,410 square feet of space exists for security purposes? Moseley’s “Needs Assessment” indicates 3,625 square feet of space is needed. Currently, inmates, the public, and staff utilize the same hallways. Victims, witnesses and their families share the same waiting rooms. There is inadequate space at the entrances. There is no sally port for the Circuit Courthouse and no secure sally port for the General District Building. The new Courts facility proposes 3,625 square feet that meet security needs for now and the future.

Check out the Augusta County Facebook page daily for updates on the courthouse, meetings, and other events in the county.

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.

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:

#VoteYES

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

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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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YES, Move the Courthouse Part 3: Will Taxes Be Raised For a New Courthouse?

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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.
A frequently asked question is, “Will the County raise taxes for a new courts complex?”
The Augusta County website notes that additional tax increases are not planned in order to fund the Courthouse in Verona. As with current school construction, projects have been planned for and budgeted accordingly without a tax increase.
The County will borrow funds to pay for the Courts Complex. Payments will be made over a period of years using funds set aside from the sale of surplus property and the 2015 real estate tax increase. A portion of future growth in real estate values will be dedicated to funding the project, until such a time the debt is fully funded.
However, if the referendum fails and the County is required to build the same $59.5 million building in Staunton, taxes may be raised. Only $45,000,000 is being budgeted for and planned.

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.
  • Visit the Augusta County Facebook page.

For more information, see also:

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YES, Move the Augusta County Courthouse Part 2: Funding a New Courthouse

augusta-county-courthouse-2Proposed 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.

A frequently-asked question is, “How will the county pay for a new courthouse?”

According to the Augusta County website, the new Courthouse in Verona is estimated to cost $45,000,000.

Additional tax increases are not planned in order to fund the courthouse in Verona.  As with current school construction, projects have been planned for and budgeted accordingly without a tax increase.

The county will borrow funds to pay for the Court Complex. Payments will be made over a period of years, using funds set aside from the sale of surplus property and the 2015 real estate tax increase. A portion of future growth in real estate values will be dedicated to funding the project, until such a time as the debt is fully funded.

Did you know that Virginia and U.S. law require Courts to provide safe, secure, and adequate facilities? If not provided, the Judge can direct the County to provide and the County to pay the cost. That cost could be different from the proposed $45,000,000 in Verona. It happened in neighboring Rockbridge County in 2002.

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.
  • Visit the Augusta County Facebook page.

For more information, see also:

Cross-posted at Bearing Drift

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YES, Move the Courthouse Part 1 — Monday’s Town Hall Meeting

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Proposed plan for Augusta County Courthouse at the Government Center Complex.

Monday night, October 3, marked the final town hall meeting hosted by Augusta County supervisors concerning the historic downtown Augusta County Courthouse, and the issue of whether to build a new facility at the Government Center Complex in Verona. (For more information visit the Augusta County website.)

bos-1After attending the first town hall meeting at Wilson High School in September, it was good to see that Monday night’s crowd was twice the size of the first, but still only about 60 people were present. This is an issue that has raised passions on both sides, and some attendees became verbally confrontational with supervisors.

Everyone loves the historic 1901 courthouse that is on the National Register of Historic Places with its Scales of Justice on the domed roof. Its place on the national register pretty much assures it will not be razed. Rockbridge County sold their old courthouse to Washington & Lee who made it into offices. Augusta County’s old courthouse would be perfect for a museum, historic society offices, or an art gallery. But it 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, building separated by a main city street, and other issues of concern.

In the end, it is the county’s decision. Not Staunton. Not the lawyers who have offices downtown. It is entirely the decision of the residents of Augusta County as to what to do with their courthouse.

If you missed Monday’s meeting, you missed an informational presentation by county administrator Tim Fitzgerald, Clerk of Court Carol Brydge, Sheriff Donald Smith, and five of the seven supervisors — Chairman Carolyn Bragg (South River District), Gerald Garber (Middle River District), Terry Kelley (Beverley Manor District), Mike Shull (Riverheads District), and my supervisor Tracy Pyles (Pastures District). Six of the supervisors are in favor of moving the courthouse. Only one is against.

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Notes From Augusta County Courthouse Meeting

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.

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There’s More to the Courthouse Issue Than Many Realize

David KaraffaBy David Karaffa
Guest Post

[Editor’s Note: The ongoing Augusta County courthouse issue is once again in the news. The Staunton News Leader’s articles (see County approves courthouse referendum petition, Staunton responds to county courthouse decision, County approves courthouse referendum petition, and New courthouse would not serve the greater good) are helpful for background in the ongoing discussion as well as those from LynnRMitchell.com writers (see Augusta County Courthouse: ‘This is the song that doesn’t end‘ and Augusta County Courthouse moving forward, Staunton counters and The Augusta County Courthouse decision and Augusta County: Renovate courthouse in Staunton or build new one in county?) in this two-year-old issue. Former supervisor David Karaffa, who was very involved in the courthouse issue, provides background in a less-confined way than when he was on the board. Originally published May 16, 2016.]

I have been reading the online News Leader and other news sources as the Augusta County Courthouse issue heats up again and I feel the need to tell the truth about the discussions that have been taking place for years between Staunton and Augusta County about it.

First, the News Leader is incredibly biased (if you didn’t know that already). When I was in my first or second year on the Augusta County Board of Supervisors, we opened a dialog with Staunton to discuss the overwhelming issues we were having with the courts. We also reminded the Staunton City Council of the many promises and deals that were made in good faith to keep the facilities up and running and in Staunton at a shared expense.

The Board of Supervisors, the courts, and the citizens of Augusta kept up their end of the deal for decades (yes — decades; you read that right), and the Staunton City Council never moved forward on their end of the deal. Shameful. Now, of course, over the decades many of the people on the council and board have moved on, but some are still there. So that is some deep background.

Augusta County CourthouseNow for the more recent history that needs to be told….

As I said before, I was on the Board when we reminded Staunton of its past agreements with the county. We invited Staunton into the discussion as we moved forward with Frazier & Associates on what the cost would be to renovate the court building to provide another couple of decades of use. The numbers were out of this world high and still didn’t address all the issues. The Board of Supervisors gave all the information to the Staunton City Council and they basically said, “It’s not our problem.” (Thanks for that, by the way.)

At that point and after many discussions the idea was dusted off that the courthouse should be and was always planned to move to Verona when the county’s other services moved there (novel idea!). So the board hired an architect to look into what it would cost to move and build a new courthouse that could last for some 75 years (remember our current one has been in use for more than 110 years).

A plan was delivered. It was also shared with Staunton, and another round of talks with them about other options took place.

Staunton then hired Frazier & Associates to come up with another plan (yes, the same firm the county hired). Another plan was delivered, more tailored towards Staunton’s requests. We all got to see it and it included a SKYBRIDGE! Wait … what? A SKYBRIDGE that was going to cost like a MILLION dollars or something (I cannot remember the exact figure but it was out there; like, in orbit out there).

Staunton City Council’s Miss Dull said she couldn’t justify spending Staunton taxpayer money on the Augusta County Courthouse, but she was sure willing to spend it on a SKYBRIDGE! Then it involved demo of other buildings downtown at even more cost. Needless to say, it was not a plan that the Board of Supervisors could sign on to and not a good fiscal plan for the county taxpayers.

Now we have arrived at the current plot. The county exhaustively has discussed this with the City of Staunton, an agreement cannot be made because all the options to staying downtown don’t meet all the needs, and the costs are way too high for the short amount of time that it could all be jury rigged (pun intended) to work in downtown Staunton.

The best option is to build a new courthouse in Verona. It will save a ton of money in the long run, be better access for the public, safer for the citizens with more secure transfer of prisoners, and consolidate services for Augusta County residents all in one place, and you don’t have to pay to park. Ah! That’s nice.

Now it’s up to the citizens of Augusta to answer the Board of Supervisors’ question: Would you like a new courthouse in Verona?

Just one more thought. The News Leader opinion piece that basically demoralized every citizen of Augusta County was absolutely inappropriate and rude toward you all. I was very disappointed. Funny thing is, if Staunton City Council had just kept up their end of the deal DECADES ago we wouldn’t be talking about this at all. Just goes to show you, keep your promises…. (Drop the mic.)


David Karaffa is a former Augusta County supervisor for the Beverley Manor District (2011-15) who now lives with his three daughters in Palm Coast, Florida.

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Friday Thoughts

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It’s a sunny, warm August morning in the Shenandoah Valley with hot summer temps on tap through the weekend. Local public school children returned to classes this week in a new school schedule for Augusta County, Staunton, and Waynesboro that begins earlier and ends by Memorial Day.

Some Friday morning thoughts….

Watching the skies: Did you see the Perseid meteor showers last night, the most prolific in 20 years? No, we didn’t either, but we all have another chance tonight for the most prolific showers in this annual event. We didn’t have artificial light issues here in the Shenandoah Valley and the skies were clear but the moon was bright enough to dim the stars. With competition from the Olympics, the meteors lost out in our attention span. Maybe we’ll check back tonight….

Watch out for the bears: If you’re heading to the Blue Ridge Mountains, keep an eye out for the black bears. Last weekend’s activity centered around the Humpback Rock picnic area along the Blue Ridge Parkway (MP 5-9) after a bear broke into a vehicle parked at Dripping Rock overlook which is a connector to the Appalachian Trail. Other reports of active bear activity caused authorities to close the Humpback Rock picnic area with trail warnings. See more here. Enjoy the mountains but stay safe out there.

Staunton area activities: If you’re heading to the central Shenandoah Valley, be sure to check out my 40 Things To Do In and Around Staunton for tips on historic areas, restaurants, hotels, and more.

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