Committee recommends new courthouse site

Published 12:28 pm Saturday, July 15, 2017

Southampton County Administrator Michael Johnson confirmed on Friday afternoon that the Courthouse Planning Committee has voted to recommend that the Board of Supervisors proceeds with the referendum with the construction of a new courthouse. That site would be on Camp Parkway next to the Virginia State Police Station.

“On Wednesday they [the committee] directed me to forward the recommendation for the supervisors to proceed with the referendum,” said Johnson, who is also on that courthouse panel.

Other members include: Franklin City Manager Randy Martin; judges Robert Brewbaker Jr., W. Parker Councill and Carl E. Eason Jr.; Franklin Mayor Frank Rabil; Sheriff John Stutts; Courtland Mayor Danny Williams; Commonwealth’s Attorney Eric Cooke; and Clerk of Court Rick Francis.

The supervisors will consider the advice at its regular meeting on Monday, July 24, beginning at 7 p.m.

The issue of whether to build a new courthouse or renovate the existing one has been ongoing for months.

The building, which is located by the Nottoway River, has periodically undergone additions and renovations since construction in 1834. The facility is used by both Southampton County and City of Franklin, which reimburses the county for 30 percent of expenses.

During a meeting with architects and engineers this past April, Johnson pointed out that the courts complex has been showing its age of late. The HVAC system alone is 20-plus years and nearing the end of its effectiveness.

Shortcomings in security, such as minimal screening and lack of CCTV to monitor pedestrian movement have also been noted. Further, the Virginia Courthouse Facility Guidelines demand that,  “Judges should never be provided unsecured parking in the public parking area and judges’ parking spaces should never be identified.”

Should the county decide to build a courthouse at a new site not adjacent to the existing one, state code requires approval through a referendum.

On the ballot this November, voters will be asked: “Shall the courthouse be removed to …, and shall the Board of Supervisors be permitted to spend X amount of money therefor?” The choices are either yes or no.

Construction cost of the aforementioned site on Camp Parkway is estimated at $26.4M; the same would have gone for another site on Jerusalem Road.

Expansion and renovation of the existing complex could be at $25.92M.