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Augusta County prices two options for courthouse

Randi B. Hagi
County Administrator Timothy Fitzgerald presents the two options at Wednesday's press conference.

In November, Augusta County citizens will vote on whether to rebuild their courthouse currently located in Staunton, or build a new one in Verona. Now, there's a price tag for each option. WMRA's Randi B. Hagi reports.

The Augusta County Board of Supervisors announced in a press conference on Wednesday that it would cost more than $103 million to rebuild the courthouse in Staunton, and $80 million to build one in Verona. Staunton's higher cost is due in part to the demolition of the current general district courthouse that would be required before the rebuild, the difficulty of building in a confined city location, and the need for a temporary courthouse during construction.

County Administrator Timothy Fitzgerald noted that those costs include everything from construction to site work to furnishing the buildings.

TIMOTHY FITZGERALD: 2016's cost, you may remember, was $45 million. That was the construction cost only. This is a full project cost.

Randi B. Hagi
Gerald Garber is the chair of the Augusta County Board of Supervisors.

Back in 2016, a referendum asked residents whether the courthouse should be moved to Verona. Voters defeated it two to one, as the News Leader reported. But now, the board is under a court order to do something, because the current facilities are [quote] "insecure, out of repair, or otherwise pose a danger to … health, welfare, and safety."

Negotiations between Augusta County and Staunton City over renovating the existing circuit courthouse, which was built in 1901, have become increasingly hostile over the past six years. One attendee asked Board Chair Gerald Garber how they would go about getting permits approved if they went the Staunton route.

GERALD GARBER: I'm here to play nice today, so I won't even go there … that would be more difficult.

Either project will almost certainly increase taxes for county residents, although Garber said it's too early to say by how much.

The current real estate tax rate is 63 cents per $100 of assessed property value.

Randi B. Hagi first joined the WMRA team in 2019 as a freelance reporter. Her writing and photography have been featured in The Harrisonburg Citizen, where she previously served as the assistant editor; as well as The Mennonite; Mennonite World Review; and Eastern Mennonite University's Crossroads magazine.