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Cost shoots up for temporary courts facility / December 04, 2017
The Halifax County Board of Supervisors will meet tonight to pick up where they left off with the Courthouse Renovation Project — the first stage of which has grown considerably more expensive.

The cost of renovating temporary court space at the Mary Bethune Annex — better known as the industrial arts building when the Bethune office complex served as a school — has risen by nearly $650,000, according to County Administrator Jim Halasz.

Halasz, in his report to supervisors in advance of tonight’s meeting, noted the county had developed an estimate of $1.8 million for renovating the Bethune annex to serve as a fill-in court building while construction work is underway at the historic Courthouse Square.

The true cost of annex project will be $2,447,585, based on the bids that have come in, Halasz explained.

On the plus side, the county can draw on higher-than-expected tax revenues and 2014 state bond proceeds to cover a portion of the Annex project cost, Halasz said. The county also has $150,000 allocated in its capital fund for paving the Mary Bethune Complex parking lot, and that money can be used as well.

With this combined funding, the remaining amount to cover is $200,058.94, which Halasz is asking supervisors to draw from the capital improvement fund.

The request is the main spending item on the agenda for tonight’s meeting, which begins at 6:30 p.m. in Halifax.

The completion of temporary court facilities is only one aspect of a sprawling courthouse renovation plan, which includes the expansion and modernization of the Courthouse complex, both the original early 19th Century building and the rear wing addition built in the 1960s.

Estimates had pegged the overall cost of renovating the courthouse at around $17 million. That number was based on cost projections that at least in the case of the temporary court space, will prove too low.

The county’s plan for the Courthouse square does not yet include a fix for the dilapidated Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office building, which stands next to the main facility but is not physically connected to it. Halasz has previously pegged the cost of renovating that building around $2.5 million.

The additional dollars that Halasz has identified for the Bethune Annex include $119,037 from higher-than-expected Public Service Corporation tax revenues.

Another $170,903.28 is set aside in the capital fund for the relocation of offices, and that can be redirected to the temporary court building, Halasz said. The money comes from a Virginia Resources Authority bond, issued in 2014 and backed by a two-cent real estate tax increase that same year.

The last piece of available funding to cover the higher-than-estimated Bethune annex project cost is $150,000, earmarked for the paving of the Mary Bethune parking lot.

Once the Courthouse renovations are complete, the Circuit, General District and Juvenile and Domestic Relations courts will move out of the Bethune annex, which will be converted over to use by county staff.

In other agenda items tonight:

Supervisors will recognize and thank two colleagues for whom this will be their last meeting —ED-2 supervisor Tom West and ED-6 supervisor Larry Giordano.

The board is expected to schedule a meeting with the school board to discuss significant funding items that the schools may need over the coming year.

Supervisors will consider a change to the county’s Emergency Operation plan calling for a joint operation center to be located at the Southern Virginia Technology Park. Also, the plan calls for the county fairgrounds to serve as the distribution point for food, water, clothing and other supplies in the event of a major emergency.

Supervisors are being asked to support proposed legislation that would increase the speed limit on US 501 south of South Boston to the North Carolina State line from the current 55 mph to 60 mph.

Members will be asked to approve a FY2018 budget calendar that would begin with the first Budget and Finance committee meeting on Jan. 9 and end with the April 2 adoption of the budget for the coming fiscal year.

Supervisors are set to hear from a VDOT representative and make appointments to several agencies and boards.

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Does this surprise anyone? Why is there no outrage! We as citizens need to demand better of our public servants. I am sick an tired of them being treated like royalty, they are paid by our tax dollars and they work for the people, not the other way around. Why does the lot need to be repaved? Deal with it. I remember when they use to have district court in the gym years ago when they did something to the courthouse. This is totally unacceptable, but our "beloved" public servants did not fight this in court like they should have. Government will never make itself smaller, only the will of the people can do that and it appears that no one in Halifax county has a backbone to do this or if you do the pro-government people say you are a nut job and don't know what is going on in the real world.

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