Augusta County has been studying the needs of its court systems for more than a decade. Current space needs, function and security are not being met at the Circuit Court, District Court, Juvenile & Domestic Relations court, or related court functions such as Commonwealth Attorney, Court Services Unit, or clerks offices.
In 2016, a campaign to consider building a courts complex at the Government Center in Verona
preceded a referendum on the November 2016 election ballot. The referendum failed with 67% of the voters not in favor. The courts complex included all three courts and related court functions.
Since 2016, the County has considered many options to maintaining the County seat (Circuit Courthouse) in Staunton, along with General District Court, Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, Commonwealth Attorney and court related functions.
On May 23, 2018, the Board of Supervisors was presented a Committee Report with recommendations to include:
- Demolition and rebuilding of a courts facility to include related functions at the current District Building location,
- Renovation of the 1901 Circuit Courthouse for office space,
- Relocation of the courts and related function in the District Courts Building to temporary space at Beverley Manor Elementary School (BME).
On September 12, 2018, the Board of Supervisors voted to enter into a contract with Moseley Architects that includes architecture and engineering services for the three tasks outlined above.
The District Courts Building (above) was built in 1953 and houses the Augusta General District, the combined Augusta County / City of Staunton Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, Commonwealth Attorney and Court Services Unit.
Work is being completed for approval of the site plan and construction plans for temporary courts space at BME. A renovation bid is anticipated in 2020.
Demolition of the current District Courts Building and construction of the new courts building and renovation of the 1901 courthouse is currently in the schematic design phase.
Total project estimated cost for the three tasks recommended above - $60 to $70 million
September 25, 2019:
Board of Supervisor voted 5-2 to approve the purchase agreement for property located at 111/113 South Augusta Street, Staunton.
May 20, 2019:
Staff and Moseley Architects presented to the Board:
- Conceptual and schematic design of Beverley Manor Elementary temporary courts
- The need for a public use overlay (PUO) at Beverley Manor Elementary
- Conceptual design for the new courthouse including historical requirements and height restrictions
September 12, 2018:
The Board voted 6-1 to negotiate and sign a contract with Moseley Architects for architectural and engineering services for services indicated below.
May 23, 2018:
Committee recommendations were presented to the Board of Supervisors for:
Demolition and rebuilding on the current General District Courts site
Renovation of the 1901 Circuit Courthouse to office space
Relocation of courts to Beverley Manor Elementary School (temporary space)
The Board of Supervisors voted 6-1 to advertise for a Request for Proposals for design services.
May 10, 2017:
The Board of Supervisors was presented with a plan to expand the Circuit Courthouse that would include room for General District Court, Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court and associated court functions. The plan would include acquiring property along Barrister's Row and closing of that street.
As a result, the project was determined not feasible as the City would not allow buildings located along Barrister's Row to be demolished.
Leading up to the referendum on November 8, 2016, town hall meetings at Buffalo Gap, Riverheads, Stuarts Draft, Woodrow Wilson and Fort Defiance high schools and at the Government Center were used as an opportunity to educate the public and allow citizens to ask questions. There were also additional meetings at churches, community centers, Staunton City Hall, and various community associations such as the Rotary, Ruritan and Lions Clubs. Tours of the 1901 Courthouse along with the Districts Courts Buildings were given on September 24 and October 12, 2016. Information was also available at the Government Center and events such as Sweet Dreams and the Augusta County Fair.
In addition, flyers were sent in the mail, articles placed in the Parks and Recreation Guide, in local newspapers, on the County's website and on Facebook.
According to VA Code, there is specific language required to be placed on the ballot for referendum. It includes the location and cost. No additional explanations can be given.
Required Ballot Statement per Code:
Shall the Courthouse of Augusta County be removed to the Augusta County Government Center Complex in Verona, Virginia, and shall the Board of Supervisors be permitted to spend $45,000,000.00 therefore?
Results of the referendum:
August 11, 2015:
Prior to the 2016 referendum, Augusta County and Staunton discussed consolidating courts. The City of Staunton hired Frazier and Associates to complete the study. The study indicated:
- Consolidation of Augusta and Staunton Courts.
- 30,167 square feet provided with utilization of three buildings in Staunton.
This option would require both Augusta County and Staunton to hold a referendum to consolidate. Both referendums would have to pass in order to complete the consolidation. Negotiations were not favorable to proceed.
July 10, 2015:
In a position paper from the Circuit Court Judge, it was determined that all County courts are insufficient and must be studied. Therefore, Augusta County hired Moseley Architects, through a Request for Proposals process, to complete a Space Needs Analysis & Conceptual Design for a New Courts Facility at the Government Center in Verona, Virginia. This study was completed for all three courts: Circuit, General District and Juvenile & Domestic Relations Courts.
Relevant Board of Supervisor's Minutes:
Board of Supervisor's Minutes October 28, 2015 - Augusta County / Staunton negotiations discussion.
Board of Supervisor's Minutes October 14, 2015 - Augusta County / Staunton negotiations discussion.
Board of Supervisor's Minutes April 8, 2015 - Consideration of the Architectural/Engineering firm.
Board of Supervisor's Minutes March 11, 2015 - Board of Supervisor's voted 6-0 (one absent), to proceed with the study phase and determine costs requested by the circuit Court Judge necessary for the November 3, 2016 referendum. (Architecture / Engineering firm through RFP)
Board of Supervisor's Minutes February 11, 2015 - Courthouse relocation discussion.
Board of Supervisor's Minutes January 28, 2015 - Board of Supervisors voted 7-0 to petitioning the Augusta County Circuit Court for issuance of a Writ of Election to remove he Augusta County Courthouse (County Seat).
In 2012 Frazier and Associates built upon the (Fentress) Study and completed an extensive feasibility study of the Augusta County Circuit Courthouse which includes:
- 23,991 square feet of renovated space and 3,886 square feet expansion.
- Cost was estimated to be $9,501,310 for a fall 2013 construction date.
- The study indicated the court temporary location, during construction was not included in the estimate.
In 2012 the (Fentress) Courthouse Needs Assessment and Space Program was completed. The study indicated:
- The lack of separate circulations systems for the Judge, prisoners, and public.
- Three improvement scenarios for the Circuit Courthouse.
- A fourth improvement scenario to include a new judicial complex which is the most cost-effective alternative.
The 2007 Dewberry Study was completed to determine needs for General District Court and Augusta County / Staunton combined Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court. The study indicated approximately 45,00 building gross square feet will be needed to provide space for now and in to the future. This included one General District sets and two Juvenile & Domestic Relations court sets were needed. A court set includes a courtroom, judge's chambers, holding areas, and waiting/interview rooms.
The study also includes expanding in the private parking deck to the rear of the current District Courts Building and County parking lot behind the District Courts Building.