Youngkin signs bills authorizing Augusta County Courthouse referendum

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Augusta County voters will be able to weigh in on the future of the Augusta County Courthouse in a November referendum.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed HB902 and SB283 on Friday, giving county voters the opportunity to decide the location of the Augusta County Courthouse in a referendum that will be held during the Nov. 8 general election.

The referendum in the November election will read as follows:

Under Virginia law, Augusta County must provide an adequate court facility for the Augusta County Courts. To accomplish that purpose:

Shall the county courthouse be relocated to Augusta County at a cost of $ [insert estimated cost]?

Shall the county courthouse remain in the City of Staunton at a cost of $ [insert estimated cost]?

“The Board of Supervisors expresses deep appreciation to Sen. Emmett W. Hanger Jr. and Del. John Avoli, who carried the legislative efforts in the General Assembly for a new referendum,” said Augusta County Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerald Garber.

“We are pleased that Gov. Youngkin was interested in learning more about the history of our past efforts to progress the courthouse project downtown,” Board Vice Chair Butch Wells said. ”The governor gained additional perspective on why we are at an impasse.”

Wells, Avoli and County Administrator Tim Fitzgerald with the governor in his office in Richmond on May 11 to answer questions surrounding the challenges facing the courthouse project.

County leaders are pushing for the approval of voters to move the courthouse to Verona, a final step in a master plan developed in 1988 to plan for the projected growth and space needs to accommodate core government services and administrative departments, which were then located in the historic 1901 courthouse, the district courts building, and other storefront buildings in Downtown Staunton alongside the three courts.

That master plan has provided guidance for the planned relocation of agencies and departments from Downtown Staunton to Verona. County government administration relocated to Verona in 1990, social services in 1992, the jail and juvenile detention center in 2003, the sheriff’s office in 2006, and the Augusta County School Board in 2013.

The final phase of this plan prescribes the relocation of the courts to a courts facility built on county-owned property near to the Augusta County Government Center.

Moseley Architects, an experienced regional firm for courthouse design and construction, is finalizing schematic plans for both a new courts facility in Verona and a new court building on the property of the current district courts building in Downtown Staunton. These options will be considered by the voters in the November referendum.

Moseley Architects has been under an existing contract with Augusta County since January 2019. Estimated costs must be finalized by Sept. 8.

Updates to information on the courthouse project will be posted on the website. Learn more about the courthouse project and its history by visiting www.co.augusta.va.us/government/county-projects/courthouse-project.

Individuals may also sign up for e-notices for updates on the courthouse and other large projects in Augusta County. E-notices are sent directly to an email address or texted to a mobile phone as a link.

Residents can register online to vote at the Virginia Department of Elections and can find more information about voter registration at www.co.augusta.va.us/government/departments-and-offices/voter-registration.

Story by Chris Graham

 


AFP

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