Future of Augusta County Courthouse put to vote
AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) - The saga continues Wednesday night as the Augusta County Board of Supervisors voted on the future of the Augusta County Courthouse.
The discussion between Staunton and Augusta County has been ongoing for years, but officials have not been able to pass any legislation to move locations.
In 2016, a referendum to build a new courthouse in Verona was voted down, and Augusta County Administrator Tim Fitzgerald said they would have to wait until 2026 to bring the proposal up to the public again.
In 2018, the board proposed building a new courthouse in the City of Staunton. Now, officials are seeking another chance for citizens to give their input.
The Supervisors unanimously voted in favor of a Memorandum of Understanding with the City of Staunton, which is a step to move the Augusta County Courthouse from the Queen City to Verona, by allowing the citizens to vote again in November 2022.
“The legislation we’ll be putting forth is no longer to allow us to build in Verona, but it is to allow us to have another referendum in November 2022,” Fitzgerald said. “This will be special legislation that would allow us to have another referendum in November 2022, and we would let the county citizens vote on where they want to build their courthouse.”
The Board of Supervisors had a lengthy discussion Wednesday night, hearing several public comments too. Some leaders mentioned that moving to Verona would cost taxpayers less in the long run, while also offering more convenience and parking opportunities.
“As this county grows and more courts are needed, the future costs of upgrades and expansion would be far less and bureaucratically simpler than building in Staunton,” Supervisor Scott Seaton said.
Before, the proposal said the courthouse would move to Verona. The Memorandum of Understanding said that with Staunton’s support, the city would get control of the buildings.
“With that, the MOU that the board is going to consider [on Dec. 8] with the City of Staunton has also been changed to reflect the fact that the new legislation is for a new referendum next year,” Fitzgerald said.
The proposal to move the courthouse to Verona got a big response from the community and if the legislation passes, citizens will get a chance to vote. Staunton and Augusta County residents said they were frustrated with the reversal of the referendum.
“As the citizens said, slow down, we need more answers. We need to see the county seat remain in Staunton, and we don’t want to see a referendum flipped,” said Staunton City Mayor Andrea Oakes.
Oakes hosted a town hall meeting Tuesday, Dec. 7 in an effort to start a conversation about the proposal. She said most residents in attendance were against the move to Verona.
“There was a lot of confusion as far as the Memorandum of Understanding just because there hasn’t been a lot of information put out there,” Oakes said.
Staunton City Council is meeting Thursday to decide whether or not to support the county’s legislation.
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