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Questions and answers about the city courthouse

 Fredericksburg sheriff's Cpl. David Sullivan looks at peeling paint in the jury room of the 1852 portion of the city's landmark judicial center.
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Date published: 1/23/2011


Similar analyses of the city's general district and juvenile and domestic relations courts drove Moseley's recommendation that the city's court system would need significantly more space for a growing staff and judicial activities in the years to come.

In addition, courts officials have made the case that the current courts facilities have many safety shortcomings and are inadequate for the types of cases and criminals that the city faces today.

Council members met in closed session in October to review a report on the courts' security shortcomings.

Councilman Fred Howe asked Willis repeatedly at the work session if he would be open to interim improvements that could address the safety issues only. Willis basically said he wouldn't turn down new resources for the courts, but warned that he would rather see money put toward a long-term solution than a "Band-Aid."

;">Could Fredericksburg partner with another locality to build a courts complex?

In its 2007 report, Moseley Architects made clear that the growth in circuit court caseloads was not tied to Fredericksburg's relatively small population.

The firm's analyses consistently found that Fredericksburg's caseloads were substantially higher than those of other Virginia cities with similar populations.

"Fredericksburg is not an isolated city, but the hub of a rapidly growing region that includes Stafford, Spotsylvania, Caroline and King George Counties," the report states.

This is why the idea of joining with a neighboring county to build a joint courts facility has come up in this debate.

No one has started any serious talks toward that end yet, and Willis cautioned council members not to spend time on that option, because he didn't think it was plausible.

Multi-locality courts facilities do exist in Virginia, but are not very common.

;">Have they figured out where to build a new courthouse yet?

No. Over the years, at least half a dozen locations have come in and out of consideration.

The Moseley report back in 2007 recommended building courts around the current site of the general district court on Princess Anne Street.

Council members spent more than a year and more than $100,000 planning to put the courts at the site of the Princess Anne Street post office before rejecting that plan as too expensive, then spending $97,000 with a new consulting firm that recommended the same site that Moseley had pointed to.

Late last year, though, council members agreed to put out a request for court-building proposals from the private sector that doesn't specify a location.

;">Where do we go from here?

Proposals from potential court-building firms are due to City Hall by March 1. More than 25 firms were represented at an informational meeting city staff held in December on the request.

Once proposals come in, city staff plan to have presentations on those proposals before the council and the public.

Toward the end of March, city staff envision the council choosing a short list of firms to submit more detailed proposals, with the goal of selecting a final firm and building plan in July.

But expect debate on this issue to continue through the winter. As has happened in the past with this long-running project, plans could change.

Emily Battle: 540/374-5413
Email: ebattle@freelancestar.com

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