ABINGDON, Va. — Washington County’s Courthouse could relocate to the former Kmart near Exit 17 in Abingdon, according to one plan now under consideration.
Another idea: Build a new courthouse near the county offices, just off Exit 14.
Third option: Put an addition on the existing county courthouse, which has been standing since 1869 on Abingdon’s Main Street.
On Tuesday, the Washington County Board of Supervisors is slated to discuss the option of relocating the county courthouse at its regular meeting, starting at 6:30 p.m.
“Obviously, the courthouse is in the middle of town,” said County Administrator Jason Berry. “Potentially relocating the courthouse is a big deal.”
The board has considered many options to resolve the issues related to courthouse operations, Berry said.
Those issues include security deficiencies, overcrowding, limited physical room at the current location and the high expense of continued renovations, according to a release from Berry’s office.
Under state law, relocation of the courthouse requires a referendum, which could take place in November, Berry said.
The county now plans to hold town hall meetings in each election district to educate citizens on issues regarding the current facility and to seek citizen feedback on the potential relocation, Berry said.
For nearly six years, county officials have studied options related to relocating courts and offices out of the current courthouse, Berry said.
“It just doesn’t meet the current and future operational needs,” Berry said. “To say the least, it’s a chopped-up building the way it’s configured inside. ... It’s about 47,000 square feet in space.”
Yet a study in 2016, according to Berry, says the county needs about 88,000 square feet to accommodate county offices, courts, judge’s quarters and holding cells.
Berry said the vacant Kmart building has 89,000 square feet and is ideally located less than 2 miles from the current courthouse.
The plan to buy the Kmart would consume about $25 million — spending $5.25 million to acquire the property and another $20 million for renovations, Berry said.
By contrast, it would cost about $33 million to build a new courthouse building, Berry said.
The cheapest route — spending about $14 million to renovate the current courthouse — would still not give the county offices the space it needs and would not afford additional parking, Berry said.
One thing’s for sure: The courthouse isn’t going anywhere, even if the offices are relocated.
“It will not be torn down,” Berry said. “I want to make that very clear. It’s historic. We would not want to do anything to hurt the town.”