Vote ‘No’ on Nov. 7 referendum

Published 10:12 am Wednesday, November 1, 2017

To the Editor:

After studying the courthouse writ of election brochure and attending an educational meeting on Oct. 17 in the Workforce Development Center, I don’t think it is necessary for the taxpaying citizens of Southampton County to spend $26,500,000 to adequately address the courthouse issue.

The matter has been put to the public as an either-or matter: $26,500,000 for a new offsite facility or $26,227,000 to refurbish the existing courthouse. These numbers are a major concern to all of the Southampton County citizens.

The following is an option I feel could save the county millions of dollars and also address present and future problems that are associated with each of the two proposals presently under consideration.

The proposal is relatively simple, and I hope that the Board of Supervisors will seriously consider this option before embarking on one of the two very expensive proposals presently on the table.

1. Buy the adjacent lot and house that sits on 2.8 acres of land that touches against the present courthouse parking lot.

2. Build a new suitable judge-friendly judicial facility on part of the existing parking lot and tie this new facility into the existing courthouse that could be made over and not totally razed.

It may be necessary to demolish part of the complex to achieve this, but I see no reason why the Commonwealth Attorney and Clerk of Court could not be housed in the same location they are presently in and function as they have in the past. The large cost of demolishing the whole structure and starting from scratch would be eliminated. With the possibility of making the new courthouse a two-story structure — and if two courtrooms were determined to be sufficient instead of the three that are presently proposed — more savings would occur.

The population for Franklin and Southampton has been essentially unchanged for the past 10 years and has probably decreased slightly. Southampton County and Franklin residents don’t want to spend their hard-earned tax dollars unnecessarily on what is projected to occur over the next 20 years. If the new courthouse were built on the present parking lot, the present judicial area would then be available on an as-needed basis for future administrative and sheriff needs.

The only new construction required with this proposal would be the judicial building with all safeguards required by the judges. The existing courthouse or most of it would remain functional just as it is today. If the new building requires 0.8 acres of land, the new parking lot would still be two acres larger than the existing one, and there would not be any need for parking across the road from the courthouse.

The 59.4-acre Camp Parkway site has far more land than the county would need in 100 years. The overall developed site cost for this tract is estimated to be $7,145,000, which is millions of dollars higher than similar costs would be at the present courthouse location. The earlier mentioned 2.8-acre lot that the county could buy is almost the same size that the present complex sits on. I’ve been told that the houses and land between the jail and the old Courtland Baptist Church could be purchased in the future if additional land was ever required for a new jail.

I can’t speak for all the citizens of Southampton County, but the overwhelming majority I’ve spoke to want the existing courthouse to be kept in service with modifications, especially if the above option is investigated by the Board of Supervisors and ends up being more economical than either of the two options presently being considered.

Following is a list of some of the reasons I feel that the people of Southampton County should vote ‘No’ to moving the courthouse to the Camp Parkway. The county should seriously consider building a new judicial building and refurbish the existing complex.

1. Possibly millions of dollars in savings

2. The jail, courthouse and the county administration would all be in the same proximity as they have been for years

3. The town of Courtland’s viability would not be jeopardized

4. Future expansion space for the jail is available if required

5. Prisoners would only have to be moved several hundred yards instead of miles

6. The courthouse parking issue would no longer be a concern

7. Southampton County would not be burdened with the problem of dealing with repurposing the existing courthouse

8. Every dollar saved on the courthouse project will lessen the tax shock on another big ticket item that has sort of been flying under the radar and will have to be addressed very shortly. It is estimated that five to seven million dollars will be required to repair the roofs of some of the county schools.

Vote “No” on the Nov. 7 referendum. Hope and pray the Board of Supervisors spend our hard-earned taxes as frugally and efficiently as possible.

Did I forget to say VOTE NO on the Nov. 7 referendum?

Larry Brown