Preserving courthouse a complex, expensive job

By Heather Michon

The 1830 historic courthouse in the Village of Palmyra is widely hailed by historians as one of the finest examples of Greek Revival architecture in the country. But after almost 200 years of near-continuous use, the building is showing the inevitable signs of wear. And as the Board of Supervisors learned at its meeting on Wednesday night (Dec. 7), preserving it for future generations isn’t going to be quick or cheap.

Representatives from the Fluvanna County Historical Society shared the results of a professional survey conducted by John Milner Associates Preservation (JMAP) earlier this year.

The highly technical historic structures report found that the building – no longer used as a courthouse –  needs extensive renovations to the columns, the roof, and some of the masonry. Windows and doors need to be refurbished. The entire building needs a paint job and some interior and exterior features need to be restored.   

In total, the renovation could take three to five years and cost an estimated $1.5 million. “Given the highly volatile construction market, these costs should be considered as the starting point for funding targets,” the report states. 

For the historical community, it’s a commitment worth making.

“It’s almost a symbol of the county,” said Marvin Moss, president of the Fluvanna County Historical Society. “It is one of the most perfectly preserved both on the outside and the inside of all the courthouses of this era, and that’s a tribute to the care the people in Fluvanna County have had for this building for almost two centuries.”  

Moss said the organization would work to come up with the funding to get the job done. He noted that the historical society has raised almost $2 million dollars for various projects over the past many years. 

The lengthy presentation was designed to be informational, and the supervisors were not required to take any action at this point in the process. However, they indicated they were fully behind the project moving forward. 

County Attorney

After 37 years as county attorney, Fred Payne has informed the supervisors that he will be stepping down on or before April 30. 

Payne first started working with the county in the 1970s and has been appointed county attorney continuously since the mid-1980s.

The county currently pays around $30,000 a month in legal fees to Payne and his associates at his Charlottesville law firm, Payne & Hodous LLP. Rather than contract with a different firm, the county intends to create an in-house county attorney’s office consisting of an attorney, a deputy attorney, and a paralegal. 

County Administrator Eric Dahl estimates the total cost of the new office at $344,000. This would include a salary of around $147,000 for the lead county attorney and $108,000 for the deputy position. The new department would likely be housed in the office formerly occupied by the county registrar.

Supervisors approved the job description for the county attorney position by a vote of 5-0.  

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