It’s easy to just spend money on courthouse

There are much better solutions than spending $30 million (with interest, $45 million) to reduce crowding at the Washington County Courthouse.

This issue came to light a few years ago, at which time Board of Supervisors member James Baker and Vernon Smith met to discuss alternatives. It’s certainly true that space is a problem, but most businesses would add a “second shift” before spending $45 million on a new building. Holding court 12 hours a day, instead of just eight, would add 50% more “space” — both for court and parking.

They suggested holding court from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and perhaps having evening hours reserved for inmates. They took this idea to the county attorney. She found this approach had been used elsewhere in Virginia; so it was certainly legal.

They then presented the idea to some of the courthouse committee members, but I guess spending money is just easier — especially if it’s someone else’s money — and then there’s that nice bronze plaque. Those members declined to pursue this option.

So, they presented it to the judge in charge of courthouse functions. He said they would use whatever appropriate space the county provided. They would “make it work” if that was the board’s wish.

So, I decided to go public and presented it to the news media. But the media decline to release it, since both were seeking reelection.

Are there additional costs for this approach? Yes, but trivial by comparison: extra utilities, security staff, and clerk time and a stronger entranceway (to fix the current courthouse “security problems”). Of course, a larger courthouse will have the same extra costs, plus a whole lot more!

Now I’m not saying that this approach is perfect, or even that it’s the best alternative. But often the best solutions require thought and effort, not just spending money.

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