LTE: Expanded Courts Complex Would Cost Taxpayers Too Much
Mayor Kristen Umstattd discusses the possibility of a new courthouse complex in Leesburg and what it would cost taxpayers should the Board of Supervisors approve it.
To the Editor:
There have been recent discussions among members of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors to build a new county courthouse complex outside of downtown Leesburg on Sycolin Road. Duplicating an expanded courts complex from the ground up on Sycolin Road will cost county taxpayers over $100 million.
This proposition first came up several months ago in discussions between the board and the Leesburg Town Council. At that meeting, the Council, the public, and members of the media heard from a representative of the County Board that the failure of the Town Council to approve the permanent closing of Church Street between Market Street and North Street could result in the Board moving the courts out of town.
If the courts needed to expand significantly and if the board had no other options, the discussion might be understandable, but neither is the case. The county already has all the plans and Town Council approvals it needs to fully expand the courts and required parking adjacent to the existing courts complex on the old jail site at the intersection of Church, Edwards Ferry Road and Market Street.
The current courts complex could be joined to a new addition by an elevated walkway above Church Street or a tunnel beneath. Historical Church Street does not have to be permanently closed and barricaded for the courts to expand at the old jail location or another nearby location in the downtown, where other discussions for expansion between courts representatives and private landowners have been underway for months.
The Leesburg Town Council would be derelict in its duty to the current residents and businesses of the Historic District, as well as to Leesburg’s history, if it were to agree to permanently close historic Church Street.
It is hard to advocate that the board spend $100 million at a time when, based on this year’s General Assembly session, the state perceives and predicts a declining need to approve and fund additional judgeships in Loudoun. This unnecessary expenditure would be a huge blow to the taxpayers of the entire county.
It would be a renunciation of the board’s unified pledge to keep taxes low if the board were to spend that kind of money when, at a fraction of the cost, they can expand the courts and courthouse services in the downtown where the expansion has long been planned.
This $100 million expenditure would be unjustified even if it stood alone. But it could be on top of the $270 million that the board is seriously debating to build Phase II of the Metro Silver Line to Ashburn. And it would come at a time when county government is still struggling with massive debt service.
In this county, in this economy, spending over $100 million, abandoning a recently expanded multi-million-dollar courts complex and duplicating it from the ground up would not be a good use of taxpayer dollars. I believe the board is capable of understanding that.
Very sincerely yours,
Kristen Umstattd, Mayor, Town of Leesburg