Prince William County residents will vote Tuesday on a bond referendum to finance construction of a new courthouse complex in Manassas. If approved, the $6.9 million in bonds will be supplemented with funds from the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park, bringing the total cost of the project to $9.5 million.
For years, Prince William residents, judges and court officials have complained of shoddy, broken down and hazardous facilities, facilities that General District Court administrator Linda Sudduth recently described as "a zoo."
Courtrooms and support facilities or the Prince William courts currently are located in nine separate buildings. The General District Court building, constructed in 1893, was condemned by Prince William fire officials years ago. The floor of that building is supported by three temporary floor jacks in the basement.
To correct fire code violations there, the county recently spent nearly $10,000 to install an outside emergency fire escape and enclose a boiler in the basement that stood next to stacks of court records.
The Circuit Court has two courtrooms in a temporary building nearby, and a third in a former elementary school cafeteria across the street.
The Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court is housed in the 55-year-old Bennett School Annex, which has also been condemned. The former school has no fire stops in the walls, and has been determined to be such a "fire trap" that Manassas Fire Marshal Don Fullem recently notified county fire officials that smoking must be prohibited in the entire building.
Though the county spent an estimated $150,000 on renovations in 1980, county general services chief Randol Fones said that all those expendatures offered only temporary solutions. "It's a question of how much money you sink into these buildings," he said.