Debate Magazine

Tonight's Work Session With Judge Willis

By Kelly058
A quick synopsis of tonight's Council work session with Judge Willis--
1. From Judge Willis--Those opposed to court construction at this time have a political agenda.
2. From Judge Willis--By state law Virginia jurisdictions must have their own court facilities so stop talking about regional solutions. Somebody needs to tell Prince William County/ Manassas/ Manassas Park and Frederick Co./Winchester and I think four other jurisdiction that they are breaking the law by having joint court facilities.
3. Mayor Tomzak thanked Judge Willis for clearing that up the fallacy of a regional approach. City staff did not saying anything. Not quite true. City Attorney Dooley acknowledged after the meeting was over that there are multi-jurisdictional court facilities in the state.
4. Councilwoman Greenlaw--The city has low taxes, is in good financial shape compared to most, interest rates are low, the city should get a cheaper bids now that the economy is in the tanks, so this would be a good time to move forward.
5. Councilwoman Devine--Building the court should be a city priority however she did acknowledge we are faced with the worst economy in a generation which may slow things down but she feels the Council is committed to building a new court facility.
6. Judge Willis--When questioned about the dire financial picture, other city priorities, and trying to maintain services, and whether he would consider some short term security fixes the answer was no. We must have new facilities. He is looking for Council to keep moving on the two year time line stating that the financial situation will improve.
7. Judge Willis--The Council has done its due diligence and needs to move forward with picking a new construction plan now and get the job done.
What was not asked or discussed:
1. Council has referred to the need for new court facilities as a, "moral obligation." How should the city's obligations to other city services such as public safety and education be described?
2. In the Moseley Report, put out before the economic downturn, staff stated that, "a cost of more than about $30 million for new court facilities is not affordable for the City at this time." What has changed in the city's financial picture which justifies spending more now?
3. Staff recommended back in 2006 building on the JDR site--Princess Anne Option C. Why did the Council majority support other options such as the post office, or even the current plan, which exceeded the staff budget recommendations?
4. How will moving forward with the court facilities as planned will affect the City's bond rating?
5. Will moving forward with the court project as currently planned have a negative impact on City priorities and city services?
6. How will the added debt service for the courts affect city capital projects in the future?
7. Staff has said that a tax increase will be required to move forward with the courts. Staff is also recommending tax increases for employee salaries and we can expect the same from the schools. How much of an increase are we looking at for the courts as well as to cover other city priorities?
8. Residential property values have continued to drop and we are facing a significant drop in commercial real estate values when we do the next assessment. The real estate tax rate will have to be increased to just to have revenues break even. How has this been factored in to the decision to move forward with increasing city debt for the courts?
9. Have any other groups outside staff, judges and consultants been contacted about the scope and needs of the courts?
10. How will technology play into the future court needs?
11. When will there be a public presentation to city residents giving them an opportunity to comment as well as receiving an explanation regarding the costs and impact of this project on city priorities and services? They are going to have to pay for it.
I know you have heard this all before but these questions still remain unanswered.
What questions would you like to see answered regarding new Court Facilities?

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