ABINGDON, Va. — Just how much do you realize that Washington County needs a new courthouse?
That’s the $57,000 question.
Namely, that’s why the Washington Board of Supervisors voted at its May 28 meeting to pay $57,000 to a public relations firm, The Corporate Image, to conduct an educational campaign aimed at informing citizens just how crammed the quarters really are inside the historic Washington County Courthouse in Abingdon.
Officials like County Attorney Lucy Phillips and County Administrator Jason Berry say they want to get the word out.
And that means conducting town hall meetings in each of the seven precincts around the county.
Expect to come and hear about the outdated modes of the 1869 courthouse and learn the options to move elsewhere.
Then get out and vote.
The supervisors want a referendum on the next ballot in November, which could allow county leaders to move court operations elsewhere.
County leaders say they are hoping for a “yes” vote on whether the courthouse can be moved.
If they get a “no,” then all options are frozen except one: Leave the courthouse where it is and build onto it.
In fact, by state law, according to Phillips, if the vote is “no,” then county leaders are not allowed to put a question on this subject on ballots, as a referendum, for another 10 years.
And, in the meantime, it’s possible that state court officials could deem the current courthouse inadequate and order the county to remedy the situation — at whatever cost it deems necessary.
A renovation and expansion of the existing courthouse could still be done with a “yes” vote in November.
But the “yes,” county officials say, is also going to give the county a choice.
Among these: Build a new courthouse at a cost of $33 million, or renovate the old Kmart building near I-81’s Exit 17 and turn it into a courthouse at a cost of about $25 million.
The initial $57,000 decision — your tax money, paid with a transfer from the county’s contingency fund — is also aimed at collecting opinions.
What do you want to do with the courthouse?