ABINGDON, Va. — The Washington County Board of Supervisors deferred any more action on moving the county courthouse at its Tuesday meeting, due to the absence of two members.
County Administrator Jason Berry suggested delaying discussion on reviewing a possible purchase agreement of the former Kmart at the Towne Center — for use as a courthouse building — until its next meeting on June 25.
Prior to the meeting, Berry said he spoke to the Kiwanis Club in Abingdon earlier in the day and, after a presentation, noted that half the members favored the county courthouse being moved to the former Kmart.
A move is necessary, according to Berry, because the current courthouse is outdated, is too small and lacks available parking.
Options now being considered include moving to the Kmart, building a courthouse near Virginia Highlands Community College in Abingdon or adding on to the current courthouse.
Berry stressed that the current courthouse is not being torn down and that, if court operations are moved, he has heard suggestions that the courthouse be used for Abingdon town offices or a boutique hotel.
Efforts are now being made to stage town halls to educate “as many folks” as possible on the need to expand or move the county courthouse, said Saul Hernandez, chairman of the Board of Supervisors.
Because the board wants a referendum on the ballot in November, the public will decide what will happen prior to any move, Hernandez said.
“We absolutely have to have the input of the community,” Hernandez said. “We are forced to go down this path of the courthouse. We have no choice.”
County Attorney Lucy Phillips reminded the board that if a referendum is held and the public votes not to move the courthouse, state law would forbid holding another referendum on this subject for 10 years.
Also on Tuesday, in a presentation to the board, John Jeter, vice president and CEO of Johnson Memorial Hospital, addressed the issue of nursing shortages, saying nursing school enrollment is not growing fast enough.
Filling the nurse vacancies at JMH in Abingdon is now a top priority, he added.
In other business Tuesday, the board approved a resolution honoring retiring Emory & Henry College President Jake Schrum.