Monday, April 02, 2007

County considers moving its offices

Botetourt County officials propose leaving Fincastle for bigger, better facilities.
Jay Conley

As the county seat of Botetourt County, Fincastle has long been home to the county's government offices.

But with the need for more county administrative office space growing, local government officials could decide over the next year whether a modern facility built outside the town would better meet the needs of employees and residents.

Specifically, the rolling landscape at the Botetourt Center at Greenfield is being eyed as a more suitable site for a county administration facility.

"This is something that's been discussed for a number of years," Fincastle Mayor Scott Critzer said of the proposed move.

Located off U.S. 220 in Daleville just a few miles from Fincastle, the Greenfield business park offers enough parking and building space for a state-of-the-art facility that could serve the county's future customer service and technological needs. That was the conclusion of a study of office space alternatives presented at a strategic planning work session for county officials last week.

"From the customer viewpoint, Greenfield makes sense," Botetourt County Administrator Jerry Burgess told members of the Botetourt County Board of Supervisors during the work session. Offices to be located there would include the county administrator's, as well as those of the treasurer, commissioner of the revenue, voter registrar, and planning and zoning.

The general district and circuit court facilities, including the circuit court clerk's office and commonwealth's attorney's office, would remain in Fincastle.

The study outlines three alternatives for relieving cramped office conditions in Fincastle.

The first two alternatives would renovate office space within the Old District Courthouse on Main Street and add a 12,000-square-foot annex in the space where the jail building is now. Office space in the Clark Office Building would be vacated, and the jail would be demolished once the sheriff's office, jail, magistrate's office, emergency services and E-911 office move this fall into the new public safety facility that is being completed two blocks away from the old courthouse.

The renovation work and new construction could be completed in a year following approval of the supervisors. About $350,000 in interim renovations to the old courthouse and circuit courthouse are included in the county's proposed 2007-08 budget. That work includes office renovations to both facilities and a new roof for the old courthouse.

The two plans differ mainly on the timeline for building the annex. While the first plan calls for the annex to be built within the next year, under the second plan, the new facility would be delayed by four or five years.

Building costs are projected at about $3.1 million for the first plan. Delaying construction of the annex building would drive up the costs of the second plan to about $3.6 million, according to the study.

The study, however, notes that neither plan would be a long-term solution for the county's office space needs. Keeping the administrative offices in Fincastle would fail to address long-term parking needs and continue the use of older buildings that "are neither compatible with current technology nor flexible to accommodate emerging and future technologies," the study concludes.

Those findings seem to support a third building option explored by the committee, a $7 million plan to complete minor renovations to the courthouse facility while a 30,000-square-foot administration building is constructed at Greenfield.

Such a facility would meet the county's long-term office space needs, parking needs and technology needs, as well as be a more readily accessible location for county residents.

"When we really look at this long term, 20 years out ... I think we've got to seriously give this some consideration," said Amsterdam District Supervisor Steve Clinton, who served on the study committee. "We've got to look to the future here and not the immediate present."

Buchanan District Supervisor Terry Austin, who also served on the committee, agreed.

"It's something we've all got to ponder before we invest too heavily in the future in Fincastle," he said.

Burgess said along with parking, such a new facility would also be handicapped-accessible, which the historic buildings in Fincastle are lacking.

County officials were quick to note that feature during the work session and that more space within the courthouse would be available for the circuit court clerk's office and commonwealth attorney's office.

Critzer sees the potential move as an opportunity for the county and town to work together.

"Perhaps they can lend us some of their expertise in what are some alternative uses that can be made for some of these properties, and how might we be successful in dealing with that," he said.

Both Critzer and county officials said the exodus of county offices from Fincastle could free up the town to develop more restaurant and retail opportunities in the Main Street area.

"I think they realize that such a large presence in a small community has created a situation where sometimes we can't have revenue-producing opportunities because there simply is no place to put them," Critzer said. "If the space were available, if the access were available, if the parking were available, there's some wonderful opportunities here."

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