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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Willis urges action on courts. Again.
City Council members just got out of a nearly hour-long work session in the Circuit Courthouse where they heard from Judge Gordon Willis about the need for new court facilities that will better meet the space and security requirements of the city’s court caseloads.
We’ve been here before. Fredericksburg’s Circuit Court judges have been asking for improvements to the 1852 courthouse for years, and the current search for a courts solution goes back to a 2005 letter that the late Judge John W. Scott Jr. wrote to the council asking that the city build a new judicial complex.
Almost exactly two years ago, Willis came to a City Council meeting and described the current court facilities as “a tragedy waiting to happen,” and said any delay would be unacceptable.
At that point, council members were looking at a nearly $50 million plan to build courts on the current site of the Princess Anne Street post office. Soon after that, they decided that was too expensive and opted to hire another consultant to look at cheaper options. They ended up spending $97,000 with architectural consultant Glave, Holmes, Perkins Eastman to come up with the most recent plan the council committed to, which involves relocating the downtown fire station and building new court space on that site.
But since a November 2009 vote on that plan, two new council members have been elected and there’s a lot less certainty about what direction this council will take. A request for court-building proposals from the private sector does not specify a location for the courts.
New Ward 3 Councilman Fred Howe has come out as the most vocal council member questioning the city’s ability to pay for this project, which could cost in the $30 million to $40 million range, and which will require a tax increase to finance.
Tonight’s discussion touched on everything from the need for long-term planning when building a new court to the possibility that the project could bankrupt the city and turn it into a town in Spotsylvania County. To be clear, that’s not something anyone is advocating, but it kept coming up.
Honestly, I am still trying to figure out what is “new” that happened tonight in order to put it in perspective for you. Check out tomorrow’s paper for the full story.