It is time to act on courthouse issue

Published 10:34 am Wednesday, December 13, 2017

To the Editor:

A great deal of time was spent discussing the courthouse issue at the Nov. 29 Board of Supervisors meeting. After listening to Tony Bell, a representative of Moseley Architects, discuss “Option 2,” it appears that this is a very expensive option that is not cost-effective, and strikes me as being a hodgepodge solution to the problem, which would not provide the long-term space needs for the county — as well as being in compliance with the Virginia Courthouse Facility Guidelines, the courts and constitutional officers. Bell estimated that this option would meet the county’s space needs for 20 years.

I may be oversimplifying the problem, but if a new freestanding building was built in the existing parking lot the above-mentioned requirements could be addressed for the next 40 to 50 years.

The longer the problem is discussed and more studies are conducted, the taxpayers of Southampton and Franklin will get less bang for their buck. If the 3.5 percent annual appreciation rate on the $13,500,000 estimate on the proposed Camp Parkway building made over a year ago has occurred, the cost for the building has increased by $472,500, increasing the cost of the building approximately $12 per square foot from $337 to $349.

I’ve spent a considerable amount of time studying this issue and feel that the longer this matter is discussed and studied, the more the ultimate cost of the courthouse will be to the taxpayers of Southampton County and Franklin.

The 3.5 percent annual appreciation building cost will continue and this number could be even greater if the economy continues to improve as it has in the past year.

One of the administrators of Southampton County I know and respect told me that government projects move slower than private initiatives because of government rules, regulations, protocol and bureaucracy.

I am suggesting that the Board of Supervisors spend no more money with Moseley Architects pertaining to “Option 2,” and that the $18,000 (potentially) awarded to Moseley at the Nov. 29 meeting be used exclusively for the conceptual design of a new freestanding courthouse in the existing parking lot containing the minimum amount of square footage required by involved parties. If the 40,000 square foot Camp Parkway building once proposed can be reduced by 10,000 square feet, a savings of approximately $3,500,000 would occur.

If the $400,000 of the $475,000 allocated for the Courtland parking option is used to buy the 2.8 acres Owens property, there would be $75,000 available for fill dirt to build the new facility. After the 1999 flood, Franklin rebuilt city hall on a much larger pile of fill dirt than would be needed or required for the Courtland courthouse to be built on.

The existing parking lot is “shovel ready” and over $7,000,000 cheaper than the Camp Parkway building site. The cost and time involved to investigate options across the street from the existing courthouse are time-consuming and not-cost effective.

The nearly $2,000,000 cost for temporary off-site and on-site facilities would also be eliminated.

I would like to suggest that as soon as the Timmons Group can come up with the minimum space requirement for a new courthouse that the board of supervisors take a page from private enterprise and give Mike Johnson the authority to address minor issues as they arise on the courthouse project without the board’s approval. This would allow some of the minor rules, regulations, protocols and bureaucracy normally associated with government projects to be circumvented. Obviously, precedence would be given to the board’s involvement on major items that may arise during the process, or if Mike feels the board’s involvement is required.

It is extremely important to get started on the courthouse project as soon as possible. If the economy continues to improve in the future as much as it has in the past year, it is quite possible the appreciation rate could go from 3.5 percent to 5 or 6 percent. The 3.5 percent increase on $13,500,00 ($472,000) would increase to $675,000 if the inflation or appreciation rate increased from 3.5 to 5 percent.

Larry Brown