Governor signs legislation over Augusta County courthouse referendum

Published: May. 27, 2022 at 3:23 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) - This fall, Augusta County voters will have the chance to decide the location of the county’s courthouse.

Governor Glenn Youngkin signed legislation Friday that will add a referendum to the ballot on November 8.

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 legislation comes after a referendum in 2016, when voters decided to keep the courthouse in Staunton. Augusta County leaders said, by including the price on the ballot, voters will be able to make an informed decision.

“The Board of Supervisors expresses deep appreciation to Senator Emmett W. Hanger, Jr. (R, District 24) and Delegate John Avoli (R, 20th District) who carried the legislative efforts in the General Assembly for a new referendum,” stated Augusta County Board of Supervisors chair, Gerald Garber.

“We are pleased that Governor Youngkin was interested in learning more about the history of our past efforts to progress the courthouse project downtown,” added Board vice-chair, Butch Wells. “The Governor gained additional perspective on why we are at an impasse.”

On May 11, 2022, Wells, Delegate Avoli, and County Administrator Tim Fitzgerald met at the request of the Governor in his office in Richmond, Va., to answer questions surrounding the challenges facing the courthouse project.

A show cause order, referenced in the referendum’s text, states the county has to upgrade its court facilities, regardless of whether it’s in Staunton or Verona. Leaders can build from scratch in the city or the county, or they can renovate and expand their current courthouse.

Each instance will be financially spelled out on the ballot.

City leaders said the courthouse’s location is historic and it’s a big driver for their economy.

“We want to be able to preserve that history, not only for Staunton, but also for Augusta County,” said Oakes.

However, county leaders said the courthouse should stand alongside other county buildings.

“Just because it’s been there, is really not relevant. You need a place where people can actually get to, conduct business and go home,” said Augusta County Board of Supervisors Chair Gerald Garber.

Cost estimates will be complete in September.

For more information on the legislation, click here.

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