Return to story

PUBLIC WEIGHS IN ON COURTHOUSE PLANS

May 18, 2011 12:15 am

lo0518courthearingram5.jpg

Fredericksburg resident Rob Tanner makes comments about the design proposals. lo0518courthearingram4.jpg

Fredericksburg Councilwoman Bea Paolucci (foreground) listens to comments made at a hearing on court proposals. lo0518courthearingram1.jpg

Commonwealth's Attorney LaBravia Jenkins (at lectern) asks the council to include her office in plans for a new courthouse complex. lo0518courthearingram3.jpg

Former council member Joe Wilson was one of many who commented last night. lo0518courthearingram2.jpg

Former council member Matt Kelly said some in the decision process are wearing 'blinders.'

BY ROBYN SIDERSKY
BY ROBYN SIDERSKY

Fredericksburg's City Council heard a variety of opinions regarding a new courthouse for the city at last night's public hearing.

About 60 people turned out to listen to brief presentations on each of the proposals, and about a quarter of them expressed their opinions.

City Manager Beverly Cameron told the crowd the history of the courthouse project and went through each of the eight proposals for new court facilities.

Commonwealth's Attorney LaBravia Jenkins told the council not to forget her office when making a decision.

"I'm asking council without advocating for any one project to please consider the commonwealth attorney's office as a necessary part of the new court facility," she said.

She pointed out that only two of the proposals include her office.

Her office is on Prince Edward Street, which she said is an inconvenience because it's not near the courts and attorneys have issues with parking and physically carrying files when they need to go to court.

Mark Gardner, representing the Fredericksburg Area Bar Association, submitted a resolution adopted last month that requests the city build a new circuit courthouse.

The resolution says the current circuit court is "inadequate for the security of the patrons, bailiffs, employees and other individuals utilizing it."

Caroline Street resident Linda Retterer made a plea to the council that others echoed.

"I'd like to ask council to spend our tax money as if it were their own," she said.

Rob Tanner, who said he has 34 years of experience in architectural engineering and building concept design, said that while all the design teams are reputable, he was concerned about three issues that he felt weren't addressed: space, technology and sustainability.

He did, however, tell the council that the teams should be respected for providing free information. If one of them is not hired, the city should apologize, he said.

Former City Councilman Joe Wilson asked the council to take a regional approach to the courthouse problem and told members they are rushing into a decision.

"You've charged down the road to building a new courthouse, and it's premature," he said.

Caroline Street resident Steve Dlugos told the council he wants more options and more information presented before a decision is made.

He pointed out that the city has other things to consider for capital expenditures.

Former Councilman Matt Kelly said the council needs to consider the impact building a new courthouse will have on the rest of the city--not just the courts.

"It's almost like everybody has blinders on," he said.

Janine Stier of Browns Lane had similar comments.

"I want to see what this means in increased tax dollars and/or decreased services," she said.

She told the council what hasn't been talked about is what would be given up in order to build the new courthouse.

Others spoke about how they don't want the fire station moved from Princess Anne Street, which is the suggested site of many of the proposals.

Some said tearing down the Executive Plaza on Caroline Street would be ideal and tearing it down and putting a new courthouse there would kill two birds with one stone.

City staff and council members said they were pleased with the comments.

"It's a lot of what we expected to hear," Cameron said.

Having gone into the hearing with expectations for a small turnout, council members said they were happy city residents were engaged and interested enough to come.

"We're pleased at the quality and level of comments made," Councilman George Solley said.

Councilwoman Mary Katherine Greenlaw said she was pleased with the tone of the night and how carefully each person thought out his or her comments.

Councilman Fred Howe III, who has urged further study of the project, said he hopes the council will listen to the comments.

He said he was surprised there were few comments about the potential tax increase building a courthouse would cause, but said it's probably because numbers haven't been released yet.

The next step is for the City Council to discuss the issue at its work session May 24 and narrow down the eight proposals to a short list.

Robyn Sidersky 540/374-5413
Email: rsidersky@freelancestar.com





Copyright 2014 The Free Lance-Star Publishing Company.