ABINGDON, Va. — Mike Rush toured the existing Washington County Courthouse on a Tuesday afternoon in downtown Abingdon, talking about what might happen on Nov. 6.
That’s the day after the Nov. 5 election, when voters of Washington County are being asked on a referendum whether to spend $30 million to relocate the county court functions to Abingdon’s old Kmart at 300 Towne Centre Drive.
“If this gets defeated in the referendum, then what will happen is the courthouse renovation all of a sudden zooms to the top,” said Rush, 70, a member of the Washington County Board of Supervisors, representing Damascus and Green Cove in the eastern end of the county.
“The supervisors have nothing to gain for either solution to prevail,” Rush said. “So it’s not weighted — move the courthouse; don’t move the courthouse.”
If the referendum fails, that means the interior of the county courthouse could be ripped apart as county leaders seek to find solutions to the courthouse’s security issues and cramped conditions.
“We’ll go to work immediately on the courthouse — the courthouse renovation — that will meet the courthouse needs,” Rush said. “It can’t wait because we’re under some moral obligation at this point to not waste the six years of planning that’s happened so far. And we’re not without solutions. It’s not like, ‘Oh, gee. We don’t know what to do.’ The voters just have to decide we’re going to go do this or do that. And once they decide that, we’ll have a plan.”
By state law, if the circuit court moves, it has to be decided by voters.
Rush said, “I was interested in letting the voters weigh in on it, rather than the Board of Supervisors. The state law comes in when you decide you might move it, and then you have to have somewhere to move it.”
The Kmart is a site with about 89,000 square feet plus 350 parking spaces. As proposed by members of the Board of Supervisors and County Administrator Jason Berry, that building is just waiting to be renovated into a courthouse.
And what would happen to the old courthouse if the referendum passes?
Well, Rush said, “It’s a county building, so the county is responsible for finding a use for it. And I believe, specifically, the Board of Supervisors has to examine what county needs can be met in this building.”