Thursday, September 2, 2010

Is This Enough Or Should We Expect More?

Took my lunch break today to go through the Free Lance-Star archives from January 1, 2006 through today looking at all the stories on the Courts project. Thought it would be interesting to see the comments made by the members on the Council majority who support moving forward with new court facilities to see if one could get an insight into their thinking on the courts. Also to address the comment that has been made by some that we have had a public discussion for the past 4 years and need to move on. The Free Lance-Star is the forum for public information for the city so let's see if the majority has answered the questions put forward in my last post.

The Free Lance-Star has done a great job in covering the courts issue. While the comments from these Council members maybe sparse it does not reflect the number of stories written on the subject. Anyone following the discussions on the court in the paper should be well versed on the issue. What is lacking is any explanation from the Council on the impact this project will have on the city and city taxpayers.

I would point out that Mary Katherine Greenlaw has only been serving the past two years. I have also listed the dates of the stories should one want to go and read the entire story.

8/25/10--"We'll be talking more about this in public."

7/30/10--"The massing and scaling is unacceptable," Tomzak said of Howe's proposed addition. "The long-term goal is to eventually either trim down or remove the Executive Plaza. This would double it in size, and it would remain in perpetuity."

11/25/2009--"If something happens in that courthouse, with all the public discussion and the studies that have taken place, the city is going to have tremendous liability," he said.

1/27/20090--"The economy has really gone downhill, and we're going to have to pass some of these decisions on to other councils," Tomzak said.

12/10/2008--Fredericksburg Mayor Tom Tomzak said last night that Circuit Court judges have an indirect power to tax city residents.... "I don't like it any more than anybody else," Tomzak said.

12/3/2008--"I think if we don't do it now we will be ordered to do it," Tomzak said. "There is political cover in being ordered to do it. I just don't think it's the right thing to do."

8/3/2008--"The citizens of Fredericksburg are going to spend $60 million-plus on the courthouse, and they need 21st-century technology," Tomzak said.

12/12/2007--"We are between a rock and a hard place," Tomzak told Scott at a work session before last night's meeting. "We want to get as much cover as possible that this is not a discretionary move on the part of the council to spend all this taxpayer money."

Kerry Devine:
12/10/2008--"When we stop working toward the goal of a courthouse facility, that's when that order gets imposed," Devine said. "What's best for the city of Fredericksburg may be for Fredericksburg to stay in control of this project."

12/3/2008--"We're not rushing into this," she said. "By the time we get it built, one would hope we'd be in better financial shape."

12/12/2007-"As long as I keep hearing from the Keating group that we can move forward on that site, I think that gives me the assurances I need," said Vice Mayor Kerry Devine. "Had we been able to secure that earlier, I think we would have made this decision earlier."

12/9/2007--Still, Devine said, the focus of the Comprehensive Plan, JumpStart, the riverfront park and other initiatives has been "to really work with our downtown community and keep the focus downtown."

"I just think if we then say we're going to take this huge piece out of downtown, I just don't think they go hand in hand."

--Councilman George Solley said the city's capital improvement plan changes, and he doesn't think the $12 million renovation of Executive Plaza should be listed as a savings between the two, calling it misleading. "The CIP plan in the out years is a wish list. It's what we would do if we had the money."

1/28/2009--"The courts have legitimate needs. Whether the state requires us to or not, we need to address them," Councilman George Solley said. "The question is, where is the balance between the courts' needs and the city's ability to meet those needs. And I think we need to take a harder look at what that balance is."

1/14/2009--Councilman George Solley said that when council members made the decision last year to put the courts on the post office site, "We knew it was more expensive."..... He said to stop now, before anybody knows how the recession will work out, or even how much the courts will really cost, "would be based on an incomplete picture."

9/29/2008--"It's not just a nice-to-have thing. It's necessary to our economic health," Councilman George Solley said.

8/25/10--Councilwoman Mary Katherine Greenlaw said she doesn't think the Concept H figures can be presented as detailed or final numbers, since the Glave concept had not gone through a final design yet. Also, she pointed out the cost of renovating the square-footage in the General District Court building, a newer facility, would be different than the square-footage renovation costs to Circuit Court, making it difficult to make direct comparisons. "I don't find the estimates to be believable," Greenlaw said.

8/22/10--The reasons are compelling. The existing courts are no longer adequate in terms of space or security. Court case filings continue to grow and stress the staffing and space needs of the Circuit Court, General District Court, and Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court. However, the cost for a new facility is huge and the economy is in a serious recession. City staff and Council have struggled to find a way to address court needs in a fiscally responsible plan. We must provide safe, secure, and adequately sized facilities that meet the needs of the future while maintaining the architectural integrity of our historic city.

11/25/2009--"It's not a matter of whether or not the judge decides it's needed," Greenlaw said. "It's just simply needed."

1/27/2009--We have been proceeding thoughtfully all along," Greenlaw said. "Obviously, the economic situation is not improving."

9/29/2008--"This is an economic development project," Councilwoman Mary Katherine Greenlaw said. "People for years have lusted for that post office site. It needs to be redeveloped in a way that brings money into the city."

Are these public comments sufficient justification for the Council majority to move forward with the current court plan and have they adequately explained the project's impact on the city?

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