Home ‘A once-in-a-lifetime project’: New Augusta County courthouse expected on budget

‘A once-in-a-lifetime project’: New Augusta County courthouse expected on budget

In November 2022, Augusta County residents voted for the building on the right to be built in Verona as the county’s new courthouse.

The idea of a new Augusta County Courthouse was first proposed in 2009.

Discussion resumed in 2012, but became a bigger part of meetings and agendas in 2015.

“We’re happy to be moving forward,” Augusta County Administrator Tim Fitzgerald said.

Development plans are nearly 100 percent complete for the estimated $80 million project to be constructed in Verona. Plans were sent to the Commonwealth on March 22, and the county awaits approval in the coming weeks.

“We actually had a deadline of April 15 [to submit plans] to the Commonwealth for further review,” Fitzgerald said. He added that “for the most part,” the state has approved plans submitted by the county.

Augusta County was ordered by the Commonwealth to construct a new courthouse building after discussion dragged on for several years about what to do to replace the building at the corner of West Johnson and North Augusta streets in downtown Staunton. The county’s services outgrew what the facility is able to offer.

Construction plans, including furniture, equipment, IT and other details, for the building are still in the works and then will be put out to bid.

Next Wednesday, at the Augusta County Board of Supervisors’ regular meeting, the board will consider bids from construction management firms to hire an individual to lead the project and handle details.

“So we have the right folks out there,” Fitzgerald said.

Funding for the position, according to Fitzgerald, will come from the county’s capital budget, which includes savings the county has set aside to hire a project manager. If hired now, the individual can get in on details about the design and planning phase of the building.

“We have the money already in our budget for that [person],” Fitzgerald said.

Then the county will borrow what’s necessary to construct the building.

The total cost is unknown until the county receives construction bids this fall, but Fitzgerald hopes to bring the total in below the $80 million that county voters voted for on November’s ballot to build in Verona. He said while construction costs are now leveling out, the project’s costs could be up because of high interest rates, which means the county will pay more for the money necessary to borrow.

“I’m hopeful that that number will come down a bit. If I don’t have to spend $80 million, I won’t,” Fitzgerald said.

He said the county will keep its promise to voters and not go over $80 million.

The county’s next deadline is to get construction plans to Virginia by August 26, 2023.

“I don’t think that’s going to be an issue for us,” Fitzgerald said.

If bids go out in fall 2023, construction in Verona could begin in spring 2024.

“That has been the goal. That’s still the goal. We’re still moving in that direction.”

The new courthouse will become the marquee building of Augusta County’s Verona campus.

“We’re excited about the project. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime project,” Fitzgerald said.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.