Courthouse issue to finally be decided on ballot

Published 1:28 pm Saturday, November 4, 2017

After nearly two years of discussions, meetings and hearings, Southampton County and Franklin voters this Tuesday will finally get to decide whether or not to green-light a new courthouse, or instead renovate the existing building. Either of which will cost millions of dollars.

That decision will be made via the ballot referendum: “Shall the courthouse be removed to 30100 Camp Parkway, Courtland, Virginia, and shall the Board of Supervisors be permitted to spend $26,500,000, therefore?” The only answers voters may give are “Yes” or “No.” Should the majority say yes, then work soon formally begins for Moseley Architects to draw final plans. Expected completion would be in June 2020. Should the people say no, then the firm will concentrate on the renovations and any needed additions.

Opponents to a new courthouse cite not only costs but also taking the “heart” out of town. Proponents essentially say the existing building is too old for such a facelift. Health concerns of mold and dampness are cited.

There was once a “Reduced Scope” proposal of $7.5M, which was chiefly for security purposes. But in a letter from Judge Carl E. Eason Jr. to Johnson this past summer, he noted such plans didn’t provide for renovations of HV/AC, plumbing, electrical matters as well as accessibility for any disabled judges, witnesses, etc.

“The judges of the Circuit Court do not believe that the proposals … sufficiently address the existing problems of the courthouse, for the reasons out lined herein,” he wrote.

In August through October, Johnson also led advertised information sessions throughout the county and city, which has a 30 percent stake in the matter because of its permitted courthouse usage.