Holding on to the past, preparing for the future

Published 11:36 am Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Southampton County, like the Commonwealth to which it belongs, is a place that is long on history. Many of the county’s residents are rightfully protective of the places that define its history. Perhaps no place is more emblematic of that rich history than the county’s historic courthouse.

In recent months, the Supreme Court of Virginia has indicated that, in many ways, the old courthouse is no longer up to snuff. Security issues and the lack of a modern fire alarm and sprinkler system have been cited as primary concerns. As a result, the county’s Board of Supervisors has endeavored to look into options for upgrading the county’s court facilies. One of the options being explored is the construction of an entirely new complex.

Not surprisingly, many residents are vehemently opposed to a major renovation of the historic structure, and want no parts whatsoever of a new courthouse. Historic preservation is a valid concern, perhaps even more so is the potential cost of renovation or new construction given the state of the county’s finances. What must be taken into account, however, is the fact that the county is not driving this movement. It is the state court system and the judges who oversee it.

Just as the county’s students and teachers deserve safe schools in which to spend their days, employees of the court system and the citizens who conduct business there deserve a safe and functional courthouse as well. A thorough review and analysis of the current courthouse’s safety and functionality, even if not required by the state, is the prudent thing to do.

We neither advocate for renovation or new construction, as there are still questions to be answered. We will wait for more information to become available before taking a position. We suggest that county residents do the same.