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Augusta residents briefed by architect on courthouse options

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Augusta County Courthouse

Augusta County Administrator Tim Fitzgerld, left, and Tony Bell of Moseley Architects answer questions regarding the construction of a new Augusta County Courthouse on Thursday night in Verona.

VERONA — An architect told Augusta County residents Thursday that building a new county courthouse in Staunton would cost $24 million more than in Verona, and it would take an additional two years before the facility could be occupied.

Augusta County voters will go to the polls Nov. 8 and decide where a new courts facility is located, the current location of Staunton or in Verona, adjacent to the county’s government center.

“This is Augusta County’s largest capital project ever,” Augusta County Administrator Tim Fitsgerald told county residents during a Thursday night information session on the courthouse options at the government center.

Augusta Count Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerald Garber urged county residents to vote on Nov. 8.

“This is not a slam dunk,” Garber said.

An earlier courthouse referendum in 2016 authorizing a move to Verona was defeated by a two-to-one margin. But now, Augusta County is under a court order to upgrade its court facilities.

Architect Tony Bell of Moseley Architects told a group of county residents that both options would involve a facility of more than 126,000 square feet.

Bell said construction of the courthouse on the current District Courts site in Staunton would involve designing and getting a temporary courts facility in Verona, and demolition of the District Court building in Staunton. The five-story new courthouse in Staunton should be ready for occupancy by late May of 2027 at a cost of $104 million.

Building a new courthouse in Verona on land adjacent to Middle River Regional Jail and the Augusta County Government Center could be complete and ready by September of 2025 at a cost of $80 million. The Verona site would be four floors. And building in Verona would not entail paying for a $15 million temporary courts facility.

When asked by a county resident about expanding at the Staunton site, Bell said that would not be an option. He said 10 to 20 years after the courthouse is built in Staunton, the only option would be moving occupants out of the building to create space.

No such problem exists in Verona, where there is additional space available to add courtrooms and offices.

Fitzgerald said there has been no detailed analysis of the economic impact of both options.

He acknowledged that moving court staff and courts out of Staunton would “have some impact on downtown business.” And Fitzgerald said bringing court facilities to Verona would have a positive impact on Verona and Augusta County economically.

When asked about the potential impact on county taxes, Fitzgerald said the construction would be funded by 30-year bonds, and he would have to assess the impact on taxes later.

The county is scheduled to have another information session on the courthouse project on Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. at the government center.

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