Taking a different approach

Published 1:01 pm Thursday, June 16, 2016

Are you as fed up with hearing about the new courthouse as I am? 

Are you tired of hearing the supervisors blame everyone else for this impending $14 million debacle? It’s the judges’, the architects’, the preservationists’ fault — they assign responsibility and blame everywhere but where it should lay — directly on the shoulders of certain supervisors and county officials who want to build an “imposing, majestic” monument to themselves.

With only one public entrance and no drop-off at the door, they don’t care that access to this building will be difficult for many, impossible for some. When asked how a mother with a stroller and toddlers or a person with reduced mobility would navigate the parking lot and stairs, the response was, “They’ll figure it out.”   

And don’t forget, the only way into the clerk’s office will be through the new courthouse’s entrance. If you have trouble accessing the new building, you won’t be able to get into the clerk’s.

Although county officials don’t care about the inconvenience to the public, there are local citizens who do care. They had professional landscape architects draw an alternative concept plan to address the problems — at no cost to the county. The plan makes no changes to the exterior or interior of the building, just improves the location, parking and access. It might even save, us, taxpayers money.

Alternative plan “C” eliminates the unnecessary skywalk connection to the clerk’s office, provides an arrival court for curbside drop-off at the public entrance, and increased handicapped and general parking on the entrance level. The terraced main parking lot will be more accessible, have more shade and require less fill. There are no narrow stairways to climb.

Money saved by eliminating the skywalk and using less fill should more than offset the cost of having the site plan redrawn based on Alternative “C.”

Historical and architectural experts and many citizens have asked the supervisors and county administrator to convene a meeting with all interested parties to consider this alternative plan. They have refused the meeting and refuse to consider the plan. Whose fault is that?

On Monday, June 20, at 7 p.m. at the administration building, the board of supervisors will hold a public hearing on the proposed $14 million budget for the new courthouse. 

That’s $14 million of your hard earned dollars being spent on a building you may have great difficulty even accessing.

The proposed start date is mid-July, so this will likely be the last opportunity for citizens to speak to the whole board about this project. 

Despite what they want you to believe, it is not too late to make a change. Come to the meeting and tell the supervisors you want them to consider Alternative plan “C.”  It’s a better plan from every aspect.

This new courthouse will be a legacy of all the citizens of Charlotte County. 

We owe it to future generations to get it right now and to not spend money recklessly. We know there are supervisors who understand this. There is still time for any of them to take a stand and make this right — be the hero.

We don’t want to be heroes; we just want a dignified, accessible building of which everyone can be proud.

Kathy Liston is an Aspen resident. She can be reached at westview@brookneal.net.