Two Councilmen Vote Against Budget To Protest Courthouse
Councilman Fred Howe and Brad Ellis voted against the first reading of the budget tonight as a protest to the $35 million in bonds issued for the courthouse project planned for Princess Anne Street.
Councilmen Fred Howe and Brad Ellis can't wait for July to get here when Matt Kelly returns to City Council to form a majority that will try to halt Fredericksburg's pricey courthouse project downtown.
During tonight's first reading of the fiscal year 2013 $78.6 million budget, Howe and Ellis voted "no" as a way to protest the $35 million in bonds issued for the courthouse project that is planned for Princess Anne Street.
Howe, Ellis, Kelly and Councilwoman Bea Paolucci have already said that once the new council is in place in July, they will try to halt the courthouse project and re-examine its scope. Howe, Ellis and Paolucci were the three who voted against the courthouse project last year, but they were one member short of a majority.
Howe said as he left City Hall after the hour-long meeting that he voted "no" specifically because the city manager's budget pays the first year of the court debt using projected revenues, which makes him uncomfortable because the revenues may not come in as expected.
Ellis said the city could build the entire Riverfront Park and redevelop the other side of Sophia Street and improve an entranceway to the city for a fraction of the cost of the courthouse project.
"I hope we can halt that design and go back to some of our original requirements we talked about for years," he said. "I think a parking deck needs to be included. I think Renwick has to be a part of the solution. If we have to spend every single dollar, let's get the biggest bang for our buck and let's do it right and make sure we have a parking garage and Renwick is a part of the solution."
Ellis said judges can share courtrooms like in Richmond and the courthouse design can be scaled down
"It just comes down to opportunity costs," he said.
City Council also voted 6-1 on the first reading to hire a zoning inspector who will work on enforcing city ordinances that relate to rentals. The cost of the position is $52,278. Councilman George Solley voted against the motion.
City Council also on first reading adopted a 74 cent per $100 of assessed value real estate tax rate, which ends up being a tax increase for about 30 percent of city residents. Some medical and other commercial buildings took a huge hit with the reassessments.
The final vote on the budget and these other items will be on May 22.