This blog includes news about City Hall, city schools and other 22401 news.Pamela Gould reports on City Hall. You can reach her at 540-735-1972 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Robyn Sidersky reports on city schools. You can reach her at 540-374-5413 or email@example.com.
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I was out yesterday, but here are some loose ends on the courts front.
As we reported here and then in a newspaper-exclusive story on Tuesday, council members seem to want to look at less expensive options for building the courts, especially as they keep watching city tax projections plummet and adjusting their budget accordingly.
Six of them have said they want to explore what has now come to be known as "Princess Anne Option C" (explained here). However, as they said Tuesday, they’re not quite ready to give up on the post office site yet.
One of the biggest reasons building on that site is so much more expensive is that it requires the city to buy land outside Fredericksburg and build a new facility for the post office’s carrier operation in order to buy the property from the U.S. Postal Service. It will also require the purchase of the Wachovia/Wells Fargo bank branch at Princess Anne and Charlotte. There are no really firm estimates yet on all of those costs.
The Keating Corp., the private firm that the city has been dealing with on the PO site because it does all of the USPS’s land deals, submitted a memo to council members right before their meeting Tuesday night. Read it here.
Keating basically offers another alternative for phasing the courts work, which mirrors the phased approach in "Princess Anne C." Keating had offered another phased option in its presentations to the council last month, but nobody ever talks much about that, because building in phases is more expensive in the long-term (millions of dollars more expensive).
The "Phase 1" approach that was presented for the PO site back in December (which would have included new space for the Circuit and JDR courts) was priced at $41.6 million. The two-year-old estimate on the "Princess Anne C" option was around $33 million, but it’s questionable what that estimate’s worth now, and city staff are going to be looking more closely at it in the coming weeks.
Keating points out that the post office site could save the city the expense of buying a small office building next to the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court and relocating the JDR court while construction is going on. Those savings would be around $1.7 million, and need to be remembered when comparing the non-post-office plan with costs associated with the post office site, Keating says.
The memo points out several other advantages Keating thinks the post office site has, and warns, "there is no guarantee that the USPS will engage years from now; and the City has no ability to condemn USPS property."
While we’re on the subject of people selling their land to the city, here’s another element of the courts situation: Expect to see the owners of the Lafayette Boulevard courts site, which the city rejected more than a year ago, try to get back in the game.
One of those owners, Lou Crotta, sent this note to Judge Willis on Tuesday. The other owners say they think their site has many advantages, and are watching these discussions closely.
That would bring back up the question that got the council focused on the post office site in the first place: Is there an economic development reason to keep the courts downtown? In 2007, five different city groups said yes.
On Tuesday night, Mayor Tom Tomzak said, "The political will seems to be to keep that courthouse downtown. If there is a rising tide against that, please come forward."