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County opens $9M judicial center

The new Westmoreland County Judicial Center — a facility that has been in the planning stages for 25...

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Special meeting will focus on funding

The Circuit Court judge wants a new judicial center. The school division says it needs a new high school. Westmoreland subdivision residents want pavement on dusty dirt roads, and drivers throughout the county are worried about potholes that still haven’t been fixed.
The Westmoreland supervisors wonder where the money will come from in a time when new or higher taxes would impose an unwanted burden on residents who are already financially stressed.
These are themes that are likely to become discussion topics when the Westmoreland supervisors convene a special session at 6 p.m. this Wednesday evening in the A.T. Johnson auditorium.

According to the announcement issued on May 21 by County Administrator Norm Risavi, the special meeting has at least two purposes. Senator Richard Stuart and Dele-gate Albert Pollard will be on hand to discuss the Supervisors’ concerns about transportation funding.
The Board’s May 10 agenda included a public hearing on the county’s secondary road improvements six-year plan. State funding shortfalls caused high-ticket projects to be moved to the bottom of the priorities list, despite previous decades-long delays. Work on road paving projects has been similarly delayed as a result of the state government’s funding limitations.
On May 10 the county supervisors expressed their frustration and profound disappointment that money is not available to support essential road improvement projects.
District 2 Supervisor Russ Culver was the first to request a special meeting with Senator Stuart and Delegate Pollard. Culver expressed dismay that the bulk of VDOT’s money goes to the densely populated Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads areas “because we don’t have the votes.
“We need to have a meeting with our state lawmakers,” Culver said. “I hate to even talk about [our own transportation funding needs]. It has become ridiculous when we are told by VDOT that they can see no positive changes until 2050. It makes me despondent about the whole thing.”
“I agree with Mr. Culver,” Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman Darryl Fisher commented. “The lack of adequate funding for road improvements is a state problem and we need a funding stream to address transportation needs. Richmond is a lot like Washing-ton. We need to get something done. If we have to wait for them to just stack up the money, we may not live long enough to be around!”
The second segment of this Wednesday evening’s special meeting will also be about spending needs. Attention will focus on construction and other costs associated with a new court services complex. Rick Funk of dBF Associates Architects will deliver the report.
Discussions began in July 2006 and continued that December. DBF Associates was to be paid approximately $20,000 to complete an initial phase of the local government and county courts’ space needs assessment.
By the end of that year, the county school division had presented its need to construct a new high school. The consultant would evaluate the possibility of converting the existing high school for use as a judicial center or local government office complex.
In October 2009 Circuit Court Judge Harry Taliaferro asked the county to provide the courts with a new judicial center that would accommodate contemporary security considerations.
“The major security shortcomings resulting form holding court in the George D. English Building serve to highlight the obvious need for construction of a new court facility for Westmoreland County,” the judge’s October 8, 2009, letter advised the members of the board.
“In the rear of this building are the offices of the Treasurer, Commissioner of Revenue, Land Use Administration and County Administrator. The Circuit Court Clerk’s Office which houses court files and deed and land records is located some distance away in the old courthouse.
“The way prisoners must be handled is of major concern for both court security and public safety. When criminal cases are heard, prisoners must be transported form the Regional Jail in Warsaw on the day of trial, let out in the parking lot, brought in through the public entrance and walked through crowded public hallways to two small holding cells located just off the district courtroom.
“When prisoners are taken from the holding cells to the circuit courtroom, they again must be brought through public hallways through a side door directly opening into the courtroom.
“Our courtrooms are crowded on court days. Although people entering the English Building go through magnetometers and a security check at the front entrance, there are other ways of entering the English building where no security is in place.”
The correspondence notes how Westmoreland has lagged behind other jurisdictions in the judicial circuit with respect to correcting security problems and providing modern court accommodations.

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